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San Andreas: Faulty but Fun


Image: Warner Bros

After toppling into the ocean in 2012 and being trashed by dinosaurs in Godzilla, California picks itself up and comes back for more pounding in San Andreas.

The main focus here is on LA-based helicopter-rescue pilot Ray (Dwayne Johnson) and his broken family. His ex-wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) is about to move in with wealthy new boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd); while their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) is miffed because Ray has to answer an emergency call-out and can’t take her to San Francisco as promised. So Daniel, who has made his squllions in property development, offers to fly her there in his private jet.

Meanwhile, there’s good news from Professor Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) and his seismology team at CalTech: they have worked out a way to predict earthquakes. The bad news is that the prediction seems to give only a two-minute warning, which isn’t helpful when the tectonic plates start shifting.

Of course, any film starring Dwayne Johnson is always going to be fueled with testosterone, and San Andreas has a full tank. The women (young and beautiful, almost without exception) are mainly there to scream and be rescued, though at least Emma and Blake manage to prove they can think and plan. There’s a lone female on Hayes’s team, a reporter getting the story out there, but otherwise that’s pretty much it for the nods to feminism.

By the time Emma is clawing her way to the roof of a collapsing hotel to await rescue by Ray, disaster-movie veterans will already have a pretty good idea of who will survive to the end of the film; but still, getting there is a terrific ride. The SFX people have exceeded themselves; the action is compelling and, best of all, no one does anything that they would not know how to do. Blake is rescued from a car by Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), a young man who has been introduced as an engineer, and it’s those skills he uses to prevent her from being crushed. Blake has been instructed by the father in how to cope with loss of mobile phone signals, and told what sorts of helpful goodies might be found in a Fire and Rescue truck. There’s even time along the way for some quiet scenes between Ray and Emma, where they finally manage to talk together about their other daughter, who drowned in a tragic accident some years earlier. Tiny vignettes amid the chaos – an elderly couple in a last embrace, a younger couple finding each other in the aftermath – sketch in the wider human picture.

But, though we’re given people to empathise with and root for (or hiss at), San Andreas, like any disaster movie, is never really about the human drama. Its aim is to provide spectacle, thrills, anguish, drama, relief – even a few laughs – and it delivers all of these on an epic scale.

Is it flawed? Yes. Clichéd? Of course. Enjoyable? Absolutely!


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