Friday, November 13, 2015

San Andreas

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Please let the sequel be called Comic Sans Andreas.

San Andreas - 3 out of 5

There was a time when disaster films were all the rage—possibly during a time when people actually used the phrase “all the rage.”  Since that majestic time in days gone by, the disaster film has sorta become the laughing stock of the movie world.  Sometimes, when they are combined in other genres like science fiction, you can make a popcorn disaster film that is a lot of fun to watch; think Independence Day.  Other times you get disaster films that are just…um…laughable; think The Day After Tomorrow or 2012.  And then you get a disaster film that feels like it will be laughable but they put The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock in it and you have a decent and fairly fun and exciting disaster feature called San Andreas.

"If this fault line smells what I'm cooking."

An earthquake just happened but they had to stop
to watch two dogs fighting over the remains
of a homeless guy who died.
A Caltech seismologist Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) is testing a model for predicting earthquakes and discovers that the San Andreas Fault (oh, that’s how they got the name) is shifting like a mofo and all hell is about to break loose in the most scientifically inaccurate but cinematically climatic fashion.  When Mother Nature gets her whole lotta shakin’ going on, an LA Fire Department Air Rescue pilot named Ray (Dwayne “The People’s Champion” Johnson) finds that his family is stuck in the growing destruction.  Hoping to lay the smack down on the ‘quake and possible hit it with the Rock Bottom or the People’s Elbow, Ray sets out to save his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), before the entire state of California is leveled and sent packing into the ocean.

"This earthquake is due to Starbucks' denial of Christ and their red cups!"

When I sit down to watch films like this one, I’m not expecting intricate dialogue, rich characters or complex narratives.  That would be silly.  When I start up a film like San Andreas, I want epic scenes of destruction and characters that are just developed enough to make me care for them.  For what the film is trying to be, this movie isn’t too bad, fairly exciting and fun and with its moments of tension.

Hey, Kylie Minoque is in the film...I won't spoil for how short of a time though.

"Tell the Titanic that I've always loved her!"
Like I stated, the characters in this film aren’t that developed or that deep and are just developed enough to care about them.  It’s doesn’t hurt that the cast of Johnson, Gugino and Daddario are pretty decent in their roles, either.  The story also introduces some characters who team with Blake to try and rendezvous with her father and this introduction offers up a nice development in the story; one that turns the usual damsel in distress plot thread on its ear.  Before the quake hits, Blake meets a young man named Ben (Hugo Johnstone) and his brother Ollie (Art Parkinson) and usually this development in a film would mean that Ben is around to make sure Blake doesn’t get killed and is here to protect her and see her reunite with her dad.  Sure, Ben does the initial rescue after the boyfriend of Blake’s mom (played by Ioan Gruffudd) deserts her; however, after this point, Blake is in charge and she leads the team to safety.  It was actually really refreshing to see the film intentionally not go the cliché route—especially considering that a film like this is cemented firmly in a foundation of formulaic sequences and a routine story.

It's really unsettling to realize that The Rock was hitting A LOT of bodies
as he piloted that boat through the flooded city.

Visually, the film looks cool and there’s a lot of disaster spectacle going on:  Tons of skyscrapers collapsing, a tsunami, fires and a whole lot of shit hitting the fan around every corner.  Sure, we get the cheap and easy sequences where you think the main characters are in peril and they pull through but the director really set up these sequences successfully and if made you feel, even for a millisecond, like they really won’t pull through.  These visuals also result in a CG smorgasbord to create this orgy of destruction but, in the end, the CG is pretty good.  There are moments when it didn’t look the best but, overall, the computer effects were effective in creating the reality of LA crumbling down.

If Carla Gugino is trapped in a earthquake-destroyed city, we move heaven
and hell to get her back.  She's too precious to us to lose.

On the negative side, the story is very formulaic and not much different from other disaster films.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the cast, locale and minor plot points, it’s nearly indistinguishable from other films of this ilk.  Additionally, the story laughably, and in a grossly over-the-top way, vilifies the character of Daniel Riddick; Ioan Gruffudd’s character.  Obviously, the story wants you to dislike him because he’s the new boyfriend of The Rock’s ex-wife and you want the story to get them back together but the entire production is going laughably out of its way to make him a complete and utter piece of shit.  He abandons his girlfriend’s daughter and pushes innocent people out of the way and into the path of destruction…also, he’s rich, so take that 1 percenters!  This wouldn’t have been an issue if the story didn't introduce him as a fairly decent person and if their turn to make him someone you want to see die by either being swallowed by shifting tectonic plates or falling towers wasn’t so ridiculously over-the-top.

I'm assuming the reason they were so hard on Gruffudd's character was, at the time,
he was in the bad Fantastic Four film.  A status that has since been changed
to the adequate Fantastic Four film.

As far as disaster movies go, San Andreas is fairly entertaining.  It does suffer from a story that feels like it was crafted thanks to the powers of a disaster movie generator and the plot’s treatment of Daniel feels petty—not to mention that, like all disaster films, if you think too long about what is happening, you have to come to terms with the fact you are watching thousands upon thousands of innocent people dying and are made to care about only a small handful of these people—but despite this, the film does have some wicked visuals, has a great cast and does a fantastic job of creating scenes that made my palms sweat and put me on the edge of my seat.

Wait!  Colton Haynes was in this film?!?  Get back to Starling City...I miss you on Arrow.

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