San Andreas review: Dwayne Johnson's the saving grace of this disaster

The Rock is out on a mission to rescue his family as a devastating earthquake strikes California. Only the film’s story is marred by fault lines and tectonic shifts. It is only Dwayne Johnson and the special effects which manage to rise above all that pointless mayhem.
Updated on May 29, 2015 09:45 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByJyoti Sharma Bawa, New Delhi

San Andreas
Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Guigino, Paul Giamatti, Archie Punjabi
Rating: 2/5

In Dwayne Johnson, we believe. When The Rock tells a dazed Michelle Rodriguez in Fast and Furious 7 that he’s the cavalry, we believe him. When he decimates armies upon armies single-handed in Hercules, we believe him. The wrestler-turned-actor brings a unique blend of family man image and mutant biceps to every film he does and San Andreas is no different.

The Dwayne Johnson-starrer San Andreas has been directed by Brad Peyton

In fact, this disaster flick avoids being a complete disaster and a cliche thanks to Johnson’s star turn and mind-boggling, highly detailed special effects. Buildings topple as if made of Lego blocks, skyscrapers rip from the middle, a ship crashes into the Golden Gate bridge and a Tsunami wave washes away almost all of San Francisco -- all brought to you by CGI maestros in vivid detail.

And there we are finished with all the good things about this Brad Peyton directed film. Which brings us to what makes this summer extravaganza so ridden with fault lines, but first taking a stab at the story -- Ray (Johnson) is a search and rescue pilot with Los Angeles Fire Department whom we see saving a damsel in distress in the opening scene of the film. The derring-do hero’s personal life is in shambles though. His wife Emma (Carla Guigino) is divorcing him and moving in with her rich boyfriend whom we are sure we will find as the villain of the piece pretty soon.

Dwayne Johnson is out to save his estranged daughter played by Alexandra Daddario as a series of massive earthquakes strike California

Ray and Emma’s daughter Blake (Alexandra Doddario) is going to be dropped off at college in San Francisco by the said boyfriend. Only Caltech scientist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) can read the activity of tectonic plates and forecasts the Big One is about to strike them all, exactly two minutes before it does strike. Blake is caught in a car as a beam falls on it and mom’s shifty boyfriend runs away leaving her there.

Had it been not for the sweet boy from across the Atlantic Ben (Hugo Johnstone Burt) and his younger brother Ollie (Art Parkinson), she would have been dead. Meanwhile, Emma meets shifty boyfriend’s sister (Kylie Minogue) who is in a blibk-and-you-miss-it appearance in the film so that the director can make her fall off a side door into an abyss below as the quake strikes.

The film shows skyscrapers topple like Jenga towers and massive tidal waves sweep through San Francisco Bay

That’s when Johnson comes to the rescue of his family -- on a helicopter, a small plane, a car and a speedboat at various stages. In the middle of all this, Giamatti’s Lawrence keeps on popping up, warning a reporter (Archie Punjabi) that there is one even bigger quake on its way. That’s when he is not hiding under a table.

With all that mayhem, you would think that there is a lot to engross the audience. You would be wrong. Hell, there are weather channels which can create more drama than all of this so-called summer blockbuster put together. When the Nepal Earthquake took place a month before the release of San Andreas, the production house went in a huddle debating how to market this film. They needn’t have bothered -- there is nothing even remotely moving about this disaster flick. It is not even realistic -- some of the plot twists are simply laughable.

Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged couple in San Andreas

The characters, other than Johnson, are all cardboard. Despite a good cast, the one-dimensional script, the guffaw-worthy dialogues and cheesy plot devices ensure that you end up laughing at the wrong places. There is no tension, no sense of impending doom that should be the calling card of any disaster film. What’s more, you don’t even care what happens to the lead characters as the film invests little in building audience’s relationship with them.

In fact, there are times when you actually miss Roland Emmerich (2012, Independence Day) and his wizardry of making mayhem so plausible and convincing. This particular disaster film is in shambles and it seems even The Rock cannot rescue it.

The author can be reached on Twitter: @JSB17

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