SanAndreas4butactually1Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the World Premiere of San Andreas in Leicester Square. I was even more fortunate to have taken a part in a World Record Selfie Attempt which put me in very close proximity with the star of the film, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. An icon of my youth, getting a picture with the main man himself made me ecstatic, and made the event that much more special. There is an infectious energy at events like these, and it did a great deal to boost anticipation in a film that I did not give much thought to otherwise. I will forever be grateful for the experience, the whole night was a blast, but it is a shame to say that, while not without a certain degree of entertainment value, the film itself is perhaps the most un-original blockbuster so far this season, taking you on a trip that you’ve been on a dozen times before.

Johnson plays LAFD Helicopter Pilot Ray Gaines, who is currently finalising his divorce from his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino), a marriage which has deteriorated ever since the loss of one of their daughters in a rafting accident. Their other daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddrio), is soon set to start college, and sets out to San Francisco before making the big move. However, soon destructive and powerful earthquakes begin to lay waste to the West Coast,SanAndreas2 as the San Andreas fault looks set to change the face of California. With their daughter alone in San Francisco, Ray and Emma head to the city to find her, all the while doing their best to survive the biggest Earthquake in history.

Disaster movies have been around for a good long while, and they provide a strange catharsis, witnessing destruction at such a large scale and being grateful that all we are doing is witnessing cinematic spectacle. San Andreas has come at an unfortunate time, as it is asking us to seek entertainment value from witnessing movie stars face a devastating earthquake, all while recent images from the tragedy in Nepal remain prevalent in the public eye. It’s an unfortunate coincidence, and while the film does treat the disastrous effects of the earthquake seriously, it is still a big ask to invite audiences to seek entertainment value  in this kind of destruction. The effects are rendered well, and there’s still the occasional Emmerich-esque thrill, but there is just all a bit too much (about three separate earthquakes happen, along with a tsunami) for it to truly sit comfortably.

In regards to characterisation, this plays incredibly close to the rule-book, amounting in an incredibly cheesy set-up of a crumbling marriage and a deceased daughter. Scenes are played very sincerely but strike a tone which only provokes giggling at how poe-faced everything is delivered. Some of the one-liners do land quite well and help SanAndreas3establish the tone as a more old-fashioned disaster flick that is aiming to deliver a piece of silly escapism. It just seems odd that some of the scenes are often followed with a seemingly very un-aware and serious tone, leading to some unintentionally hilarious moments.

Dwayne Johnson is a performer who relies on his natural charisma, rather than finely tuned acting, and that does show in the more emotional beats of this movie. It is a shame that Johnson’s character of Ray is so serious, as the character does not allow for Johnson to wisecrack all that much, which is a waste of his very impressive comic abilities. No one else fairs much better in the cast, with Daddario being the only one who resonates all that much as she looks to fend for herself in San Francisco, along with two annoying British tourists.

Ultimately, San Andreas provides nothing new to the disaster genre, retreading a path that has been well-worn, as SanAndreas1the work of Roland Emmerich casting a long shadow over this, with San Andreas never quite embracing the same spirit of silliness that Emmerich does so well. San Andreas is very much a blockbuster that I can imagine will disappear very quickly in a summer that contains many more much anticipated titles, and simply because it has very little to offer as a disaster movie. This is the movie equivalent of that late night kebab you ordered drunk one night, remembering that you had enjoyed others like it before, but then as you sit down to eat it, you realise it’s a kebab, the same as any other kebab, and that it holds little to no nutritional value.

2/5- San Andreas has destruction by the truck-load, but an un-even tone and lazy characterisation mark this one as a ‘been there, done that, bought the t-shirt’ kind of affair.