Dwayne Johnson, Carla Guigino, San Andreas

Movie Review: San Andreas (2015) *Old School Disaster….Film*

San Andreas, Dwayne Johnson
I’m not proud of this, but I have a deep, deep commitment to seeing every film in the theater in which Los Angeles is destroyed, eaten, flattened, devastated, invaded by aliens or burned.  As a former Southern California resident (not native), I find it tremendously cathartic to watch areas where I spent collective days of my life stuck in traffic or damned to “I MISSED MY EXIT” hell.  All of this explains why I was at the first Friday morning showing of Dwayne Johnson’s new disaster film: San Andreas.San Andreas
he disaster movie genre suffered a bit of a market crash after we ran out of creative ways to revel in the destruction of the earth, but it had a solid run of a decade’s worth of crappy films kicked off by Independence Day.  San Andreas is very much a boilerplate disaster film; not so much in that run  that followed films like ID4 and Twister, but hearkening back to the previous wave of disaster films in the 1970’s like The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure.


I think, at this point, Dwayne Johnson has done enough acting and has become a talented enough screen presence that I’m going to stop referring to him as The Rock.  This is Johnson’s movie start to finish and he does a very capable job in leading man status.  He’s not bombastic or over-the-top; he’s a family man and a rescue specialist for the LAFD and just very good at his job.  Johnson, unlike most professional wrestlers who try to make the jump to movie star, has actual acting talent (particularly fantastic comedic timing for which he hasn’t found the right vehicle beyond playing Agent Hobbs in the Fast & Furious series).  He’s supported by Carla Gugino, who I don’t think I’ve seen since Watchmen, and Paul Giamatti, who is picking up a paycheck.


As per the disaster movie norm, there’s not a lot to the plot of the film.  The MacGuffin is Johnson’s daughter who is trapped in San Francisco during a series of disastrous earthquakes that cripple Nevada and California (though lives are saved and dramatic tension is heightened by the convenience that Caltech seismologist Paul Giamatti has cracked the whole “predicting earthquakes is tricky” issue just in time for things to start falling to hell).


All in all, this is a very average movie and another that is destined to be on Netfilx in a few months, but it could be positioned to exceed expectations.  With Avengers 2 and Mad Max 4 fading after weeks of release and Tomorrowland bombing, San Andreas has a chance to grab a lot more attention than I would have thought.  The film had a modest (for a disaster summer blockbuster) $100 million budget so it could end up being a sleeper hit.  That would give Johnson his second success in three months and maybe pave the way for him to finally get a great script that shows what he can do as a comic actor (watch him guest host Saturday Night Live if you don’t believe me).

8 thoughts on “Movie Review: San Andreas (2015) *Old School Disaster….Film*”

  1. Did you ever see Kentucky Fried Movie by the Zucker brothers? It contains the best disaster movie spoof I’ve ever seen. At one point during this fake trailer an announcer starts rattling off the names of the stars, and then in the middle of it all he says, “And Donald Sutherland as the Clumsy Waiter.” And you see this waiter doing a pratfall. Then, throughout the rest of the trailer, in the midst of all the disaster footage, it keeps cutting back to the waiter, falling face first into cakes, ect.

    I used to like Stephen Segal, but I never felt comfortable admitting it. Johnson is the first actor of his kind since Arnold who is an unqualified pleasure instead of a guilty one. Also, Giamatti has been known to elevate questionable films like Lady in the Water and Shoot ‘Em Up. Is he having fun here, or does he just seem depressed?


    1. Depressed. He’s a depressed seismologist, but in his defense….he did discover how to predict earthquakes like about 12 hours too late to save millions of lives lol.


  2. LOL I totally love disaster porn. When I first visited L.A., I got a *major* kick from seeing the US Bank tower because I recognised it from ID4.

    (Years later I got a kick out of visiting the beach at Malibu because Tony Stark lived on the cliffs. Only in real life his house is invisible.)

    I saw Battle L.A. before I actually moved here. Now I need to find the time to watch it again because I remember the aliens landing at Santa Monica beach and – damnit, I feel like Elf – I’ve been there!!! LOL

    I want to see it again because I want to see if the 101 or the 405 is worth fighting over or whether the marines just shrug their shoulders and say “meh. Fuck it. You can keep those.”

    Likewise, I want to see San Andreas just because I want to see the places I now know get destroyed. I’m especially hoping to see the Burbank Blvd exit of the 405 disappear into the ground. If I could ever see that in a movie, I’d die a happy man.


  3. Ok, I’m a prophet. This opened huge (for its expectations) with $51.8 million and Tomorrowland fell to $13 million in its second week. I think Disney’s canceling of Tron 3 has everything to do with this and there’s an online petition going around I encourage everyone to sign at: https://www.change.org/p/walt-disney-revive-tron-3. Disney’s not going to take Tomorrowland out on Brad Bird or George Clooney; they’re going to get trigger shy about being big in the future with their own stuff. They need to suck it up, learn their lesson from their mistakes with both this and The Lone Ranger and get someone to run their own live action department as effectively as Kevin Feige runs Marvel and Kathleen Kennedy runs Star Wars. For Dwayne Johnson, this elevates him to bankable star and hopefully he’ll get some better scripts.


    1. The original Tron is an amazing and amazingly bizarre motion picture, and while I wasn’t that impressed with Legacy I was highly impressed that Disney was investing in Tron.

      The problem with John Carter was that it had the worst marketing campaign in history, that just expected people to know about John Carter. The problem with the Lone Ranger was… well, let me count the ways. If I had to choose one: it was a film targeting families over a holiday weekend, yet it was filled with extremely ugly violence and gore. When it was implied that the villain had cut off the leg of Helena Bonham Carter’s character so that she could not dance, I was flabbergasted. And the problem with Tomorrowland was that it had the worst marketing campaign in history. Also, you say it was terrible, and I believe you.

      The problem is not originality! The problem is that they are investing in the wrong original movies! And they’re not even really original movies! For some reason The Lone Ranger counts now!


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