Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario star in the new disaster flick San Andreas which follows a family’s struggle to find each other when the largest earthquake ever recorded hits California. Not knowing much about this film, the trailer looked decent and it had potential. Although some disaster films can be cheesy and cliché, it’s possible to make an excellent one full with tension and amazing special effects, for example The Day after Tomorrow. This film, however, is not one of those.
For San Andreas it’s expected there will be a few cheesy lines due to the actor choices such as Dwayne Johnson, known for his fighter turned actor transition and his roles in family friendly films such as 2007’s The Game Plan and 2010’s Tooth Fairy. In every disaster film, there will be some lines that are meant either as comic relief, simply to relieve the tension after some of the more nail biting scenes (such as the end line ‘no more pull ups’ in 2012). However this film unfortunately uses these supposedly comical lines one too many and it undermines the seriousness of the excellent special effects, which construct a very possible disaster that has killed thousands of Americans.
At first, it’s possible to see past a few cheesy clichés of disaster movies and see potential in the storyline and effects; however this potential to be an original and serious film in its own right seems to crumble like the ground beneath the actors themselves. To begin with, there is a scientist who knew all along the quake was going to happen, tick that off your cliché list. Next, there’s a broken family unit that are thankfully brought together by the disaster, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson can finally talk about his feelings to his separated partner and daughter. And finally, of course, there’s that tension building moment whereby one of the main characters almost dies and, as everyone has lost hope, they gasp for air, and are saved. This is one of the few times in a film I have wished they would kill off the main character just for some shock value in this completely predictable and almost farcical film.
The last scene is the most cliché and cringe-worthy moment however, despite the fact I’m sure it’s not intended that way. Ray’s wife (Gugino) looks up at him as they look at the crumbled state of California and she says ‘what now?’ In which Ray (Johnson) replies- as the camera pans to an American flag waving over the golden gate bridge- ‘we rebuild’. If that isn’t the most patriotic American line in film history I don’t know what is.
Despite its huge acting and script flaws, along with some seriously overused clichés, the film is entertaining and thrilling to watch visually, with some incredible scenes of falling buildings, tsunamis and the earth breaking all around them. Sadly, these visual effects can only go so far to save a predictable film riddled with cringe inducing scenes.