Review: SAN ANDREAS (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Review: SAN ANDREAS (2015)

SAN ANDREAS triumphs with spectacular visual effects and rousing action set-pieces, but does little to make the story worthwhile.

When comes to staging epic destruction set-piece in a big budget disaster movie, nobody does it better than Roland Emmerich (THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, 2012). After all, his name is often synonymous with that particular genre. So, it's kind of odd when I first learned that SAN ANDREAS wasn't directed by the king of Hollywood disaster movies himself, but rather someone else instead. If you've seen all the heavily-promoted trailers and clips from the internet, you'll probably know what I mean here. Now, that "someone else" happens to be Brad Peyton, whose previous directing credits weren't disaster genre, but more onto family-friendly adventures: CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE (2010) and JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (2012). At the first glance, I admit I was skeptical of seeing his name attached to a large-scale disaster picture like SAN ANDREAS. The good news is, Peyton manages to prove his worth as a first-rate visual stylist for tackling such genre. But as a storyteller, not so much.


When a massive earthquake hits California, Los Angeles Fire Department search-and-rescue helicopter pilot Chief Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) and his ex-wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) attempt to journey from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario).

Visually speaking, the US$100-million budget is clearly well-spent in the technical department. With the help of cinematographer Steve Yedlin as well as a team of special effects crew headlined by Colin and Greg Strause, Brad Peyton gets to play around with lots of creative camerawork that makes the action set pieces such an exhilarating cinematic experience. The special effects, ranging from the gigantic earthquake to a series of aftershocks that rocked the entire California, are both epic and stunning. No doubt this is one effect-laden blockbuster that looks particularly great if you choose to watch SAN ANDREAS in IMAX 3D.

With a hulking frame and cool macho swagger, Dwayne Johnson is perfectly typecast as a charismatic action hero as always. But beneath his tough-guy exterior, it's also nice to see him stretching his acting muscle to play a loving father who cares a lot for his daughter, Blake. As for the supporting cast, Paul Giamatti is adequate enough as the nerdy scientist who discovers the earthquake situation. Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson are both wonderful as siblings Ben and Ollie, while Alexandra Daddario gives a standout performance as the resourceful Blake.

The heart-pounding opening scene that begins with a panicked teen (Morgan Griffin) trapped inside the vehicle hanging on a cliff and follows by a daring helicopter rescue; the amazing long tracking shot from outside the window and penetrates through a rooftop restaurant as Emma tries to find her way out while the building begins to crumble; and the thrilling set piece where Ray tries to maneuver the speedboat against the tsunami waves.
Despite enlisting Carlton Cuse -- a TV veteran who penned some of the popular series such as Bates Motel, The Strain and Lost -- for the screenplay, banality is everywhere without an ounce of imagination. Even the story's attempt to inject a few emotional depth related to Ray and his family feels hollow and limited. For instance, there's a quiet scene involving Ray and Emma reflecting on their past while sitting in the small airplane before takeoff. Instead of strong character moment together, the scene ends up being long-winded that doesn't add much to strengthen the screenplay any better.

Another disappointment here is the obvious lack of strong finish during the final hour of the movie. It's like as if the director has exhausted all his ideas earlier in the movie that the tension fails to sustain long enough to last until the end.

As Ray's ex-wife, Carla Gugino is practically the most annoying character in the movie, who should be given a special award for spending much of her dialogues crying out "Oh my God!" in numerous occasions.


As a strictly popcorn entertainment, SAN ANDREAS succeeds admirably in this criteria alone. But too bad the rest of the movie could have done better if the filmmakers put more effort to the otherwise generic storytelling approach.

* This review is written courtesy from Warner Bros Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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