Written by Christian James Haight
In this day in age, it’s very hard to come across a disaster movie that’s been done correctly. The last one was made over a decade ago, 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow.” At that time, it provided great special effects and a character plot-line that really worked for audiences. Last year, “Into the Storm” was a disaster movie that provided an example for directors of exactly what not to do in this genre.
Similar to horror movies, it’s hard to make a great disaster movie because so many are made that at this point audiences feel like they’re watching the same thing over and over again. With this year’s disaster movie, titled “San Andreas,” Director Brad Peyton knew the ingredients that are needed in order to create a disaster movie that audiences can enjoy. Peyton knew what kind of movie this was meant to be, focusing on the destruction and to be very careful with the character direction.
Starting off with Ray, played by Dwayne Johnson, a helicopter-rescue pilot working for the fire department within the city of Los Angeles, on a mission to rescue a young girl who drove over a cliff. Placing his own life in danger in order to save her life and the life of one of his team members, Ray’s character is given the spotlight of a hero right from the start. He knows what to do in catastrophic situations, which makes him the perfect man to be with during the worst earth quake to not only hit California, but the entire planet.
As Ray goes about saving the lives the of innocent people, a scientist by the name of Lawrence, played by Paul Giamatti, discovers a way to predict earthquakes using a calculation through patterns shown before an earthquake. While this prediction system probably isn’t the most accurate, and a lot of fallacies are probably used to explain it, it works for the movie. Allowing them to explain how they know an earth quake is coming before it actually hits.
The characters of Lawrence and the others working with him are important to the movie, they give an explanation to how the earthquakes are occurring, as well as why they’re so bad. Although, there is never given a clear connection between Ray and Lawrence, while this is a realistic approach, it takes away from the over-all plot of Ray trying to reconnect with his family during the major earthquakes. Bringing the two groups together, even if it wasn’t until the end, would have really brought the entire plot together.
It is fair to mention that there are a lot of cheesy moments throughout the film. While a cliché scene here and there is okay for this particular genre, it gets to a point where audiences know what a character will say ahead of time due to the cheesiness of the scene. Typically they do not take away from the plot of the movie, but the way that they are spoken can come off as a little humorous, which isn’t a goal that the writers should have in mind during such moments such as these.
Before the earthquake hit, audiences were given an inside look into the personal life of Ray. His daughter, Blake, played by Alexandra Daddario was leaving for college and his wife, Emma, played by Carla Guigino, was divorcing him for a rich architect. Peyton did a very good job with the direction used to reveal Ray’s personal life, it gave the information in a way that won’t make audiences feel forced to care for him, but instead will genuinely like him. This is an example of something that many disaster movies get wrong and try to force their audiences to care about the characters. When audiences feel that they’re being forced, they only think of the characters as a work of fiction, ultimately keeping them from caring about the characters on screen. When it’s done right, like Peyton has done, audiences see the characters as an everyday person, so when he’s put in danger, the audience legitimately fears for their life. This is a very important ingredient within a disaster movie, because without it the audience does not care about a character when they’re put in harmful situations.
As the hurricanes begin, Ray and his family are separated. Placing him in the position of doing what he does every day, only instead of a stranger’s life being at risk, it’s the people he loves dearly. Some of the most interesting scenes within the movie are when Ray is flying the helicopter. While audiences feel they’ve probably seen everything that could take place in a disaster movie, “San Andreas” offers some really cool and very dangerous helicopter maneuvers. It also allows Ray’s character to see the destruction to San Andreas from the sky, which gives audiences a better look at the falling sky scrapers and the movement of the ground.
Dwayne Johnson did a great job in this movie. He typically sticks to action roles, so “San Andreas” is right up his alley, but he offers a little more in this role with an emotional background. Throughout the movie there are moments where Ray’s character stays strong, but with Johnson’s well-done performance audiences can see that despite his tough-outer-shell, he is hurting on the inside.
In the end, “San Andreas” knew exactly what it was, a disaster movie. With some heavy use of CGI that looked realistic, it was able to give an audience what they paid to see, as well as a group of characters that could be cared for. If audiences step into the theater expecting to see anything but that, they will be let down. While it may not compare to some past time classics, “San Andreas” is easily the best disaster movie since ‘The Day After Tomorrow.”
- Director: Brad Peyton
- Writer: Carlton Cuse, Andre Fabrizio, Jeremy Passmore
- Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Paul Giamatti
- Genre: Action and Adventure, thiller
- Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
Pros:Great visual effects; lovable characters.
Cons: Lawrence’s character seemed out of place; very cheesy moments.
RECENT MOVIE POST