Review: 'San Andreas' is a Clear Indication the Disaster Movie is Dead

May 29, 2015

San Andreas Review

The ground shakes. Buildings fall. Hope rises. The crowd falls asleep… That's about where we're at with disaster movies and have been under this same model since the aliens invaded on Independence Day nearly 20 years ago. Sure, gimmicks like found footage and the glorious discovery of 3D (Thanks, Cameron) have given disaster movies a glossy, new coat, but it's the same gears moving it all forward underneath. Did you really think San Andreas, the latest, disaster flick from Warner Bros, would shake things up? Don't let the assumed size of the film's title fool you. San Andreas keeps it right at that level we've all grown tired of.

The various cliches you will find throughout this big-budget blockbuster are the heroes of our story, this time a Los Angeles fire and rescue pilot played by Dwayne "Still The Rock To Me, Dammit" Johnson, going through hellfire and destruction to find his daughter, played here by Alexandra Daddario. Carla Gugino plays the part of the estranged–or is she?–wife of our hero, Ioan Gruffudd as the douchey new guy in her life. These are the recognizable players going through the epic devastation of our disaster porn. Filling in the gaps to catch the audience up on just what in the hell is going on with all the shaking and the screaming is our resident "-ologist", played here by Paul Giamatti.

So you know right from that paragraph alone San Andreas has the acting muscle to carry whatever lazy, hackneyed drama they've got going on under the film's hood. It's no shocker that a film of this sub-genre is lacking in the story department, not that that's any excuse, but San Andreas' screenplay, written by Carlton Cuse from a story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore, may still shock you.

San Andreas

The basic premise seems perfect for a ginormous-budgeted epic that would fit right in here in the summer months. We've all heard the stories that when the San Andreas Fault goes Las Vegas will become beachfront property. It's just amazing the size of the film's bag of cliches would rival the fault line itself. Screenwriter Carlton Cuse, who you may remember as Damon Lindelof's writing buddy for the bulk of "Lost", doesn't shy away from using any cliche he can find in the book. This goes for characters, situations, and even dialogue. If it made any sense at all, Giamatti would have explained at some point how the San Andreas Fault was responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs.

The human drama suffers from all this familiarity, especially when there are so few players with which to work. There are no subplots about secondary characters, at least none that go anywhere. Giamatti's scenes are entirely disconnected from Johnson's family adventure aside from the central premise. Disaster movies, at their core, are about the randomness of events when it comes to natural disasters and how they make everyday drama pale by comparison. With San Andreas, there's no genuine drama to be had at any turn.

It doesn't matter how many skyscrapers collapsing, fissures in the Earth, or exploding twisters of debris the film's budget can buy. Director Brad Peyton seems to determined to rival Roland Emmerich for mass of destruction. Still, his effects and camera work within and around them are nothing new. How many times have we seen Los Angeles get destroyed on film? How many times have we seen the same for San Francisco, where San Andreas' second half moves? With a natural event that is sure to touch the lives of every man, woman, and child on the continent, you would think there would be room to see something new brought to the disaster movie table. You would be wrong.

San Andreas

In the foreground of all that destruction going on, the actors seem to be on autopilot, as well. Johnson has a natural charm that makes you want to follow him anywhere, a genuine empathy that makes you want to give him a hug whenever he's down. In San Andreas, none of that is absent, and Peyton utilizes every emotion in Johnson's playbook to keep the emotion of the film somewhat alive. It's heartbeat stops a lot, but, somehow, Johnson manages to get it ticking again.

He's the only element of the film worth crediting, and you begin to wonder if the disaster movie has truly died a death. At this point, San Andreas seems to be the only one left in town when it comes to the sub-genre, but all of that might change next summer when Emmerich graces us with the long-gestating Independence Day 2. Like most sub-genres, the disaster movie will come in cycles, grow cold, then get hot again. San Andreas is a clear mark that the disaster movie, in its current form, has gone as far as it can go, and, if it wasn't dead already, this film sure killed it.

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But the love for superheroes goes on. Quiet down, nerd.

lol on May 29, 2015


It's not made for intelligent people but for the masses who want two hours of destruction! And by the way the marvel movies and superman movies with there 'I destroy' everything on my path is also wearing out! I noticed it by watching age of Ultron by myself, there are to much movies like Godzilla, transformers, the avengers etc ThIs Gimmick Is gone. Today I watched the little movie 71' and it's a beautiful movie... So it can be done

ari smulders on May 29, 2015


At least Marvel is setting up their universe to deal with all the destruction that the heroes and villains are doing lol.

theslayer5150 on May 29, 2015


what does that even mean?

dr pepper on Jun 1, 2015


I think intelligent people are sometimes drawn to mindless disaster movies, simply for the escapism it provides.

Steven on May 30, 2015


Exactly it works for me too!!

ari smulders on May 30, 2015


Oh, that message wasnt clear back when they made 2012 in 2009?! Dumb!

Rock n Rollllll on May 29, 2015


Still think I will have fun with the movie.

Brian Sleider on May 29, 2015


Me too. I know people get fed up with bubble gum action movies, but there is a place for them. They provide escape from everyday life.

DAVIDPD on May 29, 2015


I thought this was already decided? disaster movies are bad. which is mostly why the new Superman was terrible. it was a thinly veiled disaster porno. the Rock can promote this like it's new and's been done before, the only difference is the VFX might look better this time around. and to the ones comparing disaster movies outright to the amount of comic movies; at least comic movies have different characters and storylines....disaster movies start and end the exact same way. they are some of the lowliest movies out there. Uwe Boll should be making them.

ColtNoir on May 29, 2015


Man of Steel wasn't at all a disaster movie. It had as much destruction as any other superhero movie mostly near the end of the film. Although the plot was weak compared to something like Guardians, the action was one of the best of any action movie, tense and thrilling. And that soundtrack, damn. One of the best in recent memory. The trailer for Batman v. Superman looks great too.

Anon YMouse on Jun 1, 2015


lol, sure.

ColtNoir on Jun 1, 2015


Disaster movies are not dead, they are just away.

DAVIDPD on May 29, 2015


Batman & Robin is a clear sign that the superhero movie is dead.

Nick Perkins on May 29, 2015


I went to see this piece of crap (not complaining cause I knew what I was getting into) with a good friend and we had a blast picking apart the movie. Calling out who was gonna die. All the stupidity around how the story just falls apart. All the predictability right to the very last shot. Most of the CGI looked brutal and so fake it was funny as hell. I went to see this in an Ultra AVX theatre (Canada) that had these two rows of immersive seats in front of me. These seats are rumble seats and interact with the action in the movie.The whole fucking theatre was rumbling when the earth quakes hit and the buildings start to fall. kinda cool and really annoying at the same time. Overall shit ass movie. The only nice thing to look at on screen was Carla Gugino and the girl who plays the daughter. Both smoking hot. 🙂

jimfromtoto on May 29, 2015


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ElenaJDisanto on May 30, 2015


What, where you expecting Macbeth here? It is what it is, and it delivered more or less. Was it entertaining, sure.

Wayne on May 30, 2015


If you knew that before hand wouldn't it havev been a better use of yourbmoney by giving the tickets to s couple of kids since that's age the movie was intended for? Sounds like you are in desperate need of a life .... Or girlfriend.

Jason on May 30, 2015


Dead? Seriously, who the fuck writes these articles? It's made $53 million opening domestic weekend - and its already made $23 million foreign. Hardly dead.

Trey Wilson on May 31, 2015


Shut up, Jeremy. Stick to writing reviews for movies we don't care about. You obviously don't have the eye or appreciation for these types of movies.

Tortollo on May 31, 2015


Then why do U visit their site ?

Tester on Jun 1, 2015


I loved this movie, best earthquake movie eva.

Austin on Aug 18, 2015

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