Now, people who know me well know that I have a soft spot for disaster movies. I want to see that tidal wave destroy a major coastal city! I want to see famous landmarks topple, blow up, or crack in half! I want to see the earth open up and swallow token ethnic characters! I want to see things BURN! The great thing is that San Andreas promises and delivers ALL of these things!
Our hero is Dwayne Johnson playing a Los Angeles rescue pilot named Doug. Actually, later his name is not Doug, but it is Ray, which kind of fits better but made me want to clean out my ears because apparently I was hearing things. RAY is an earnest father of a college-aged daughter named Blake (Alexandra Daddario) and is the estranged almost-ex-husband of a hot, age-appropriate woman named Emma, played by hot, age appropriate Carla Gugino. Ray and Emma are in the midst of a divorce. Emma's new man Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) is a businessman-douche. And Ray doesn't really want to talk about any of it, much less about the unspeakable death of their other daughter.
BUT! When the world starts to end, you are most certain that:
- Daughter Blake and/or almost-ex-wife Emma will be in peril;
- New man Daniel will prove his douchiness and earn a well-deserved demise;
- Ray will have to save everybody; and
- The family will be all together at the end with the promise of a new start.
This does not give anything away! That is really all you need for a formula plot, because in the meantime, the San Andreas fault, which conveniently stretches from the urban areas of Los Angeles to San Francisco, splits wide open and causes southern California to SNAP OFF AND FLOAT AWAY!
Actually not quite, but almost! And an extra spin is that this time a scientist (aka Paul Giamatti, removing his glasses earnestly whenever he has to proclaim something) actually predicts the whole thing!
It is very very easy for a disaster movie to be a complete stink bomb (see 2012). But if you put an appealing actor with such astonishingly huge biceps front and center (my god, Johnson's biceps were actually oiled for a scene where he was piloting a small plane!!!), well it raises the game. It takes no stretch of the imagination to think that Dwayne Johnson will rescue all of us. That leaves the rest of our imagination to be filled with the special-effects carnage and mayhem that people like me love so much in movies like this.
The most intriguingly-titled extra called "San Andreas: The Real Fault Line" turns out to be a lie... it is all about the movie, not about the fault that will one day swallow California (damn!). In the extras we DO find out that director Brad Peyton and behind-the-scenes folks did their best to offer realism vs. green screen whenever possible (for instance, building a cliffside with a dangling car for the opening scene, and creating a full-size several-story set for the sinking skyscraper scene, which was actually sunk into water... scary!). Additional special features include commentary with the director, a look at the scoring, deleted scenes (that offer absolutely nothing), a gag reel, and stunt reel.