Whenever you hear about a disaster film, you automatically know that it will be all about special effects and zero plot developments and characterization. San Andreas lives up to that expectations very highly. However, where it lacks in a structured plot development, it makes up for it with its astounding special effects.
Ray works with the LAFD department, precisely helicopter rescue. He is a fresh divorcee and plans to take his daughter Blake on a trip to San Francisco. Ray’s wife, Emma, has a new boyfriend Daniel Riddick, a wealthy man in a suit who designs buildings. We have the scientist/seismologist Mr. Lawrence who is at the Hoover Dam with his co-worker Dr. Kim. The first earthquake strikes at richter scale 9.1, which is massive! The first landmark to go is Hoover Dam, followed by the Hollywood sign on the hills. Ray rescues Emma from atop one of the building, while Blake is ditched by her new step father to be and is rescued by two brothers, Ben and Ollie. Upon Ray’s instructions, Blake is to get to higher ground where her father will rescue her. In the meantime, Mr. Lawrence, the seismologist, has cracked the code on earthquake prediction, and through the help of a reporter, hacks into the media outlet and broadcasts the message to the people of San Francisco to evacuate. Another earthquake strikes, on a scale of 9.6, the biggest ever recorded in history. This brings more destruction, with a massive tsunami that eats up the Golden Gate Bridge. More buildings fall, more people are dead and Ray finally rescues his daughter, along with Ben and Ollie (Ben and Blake have developed an affection for each other at this time and Ray and Emma have got back together!) and their family is complete, and the camera pans away from the scene with a very strategically placed American flag.
Granted, a movie like this will have cheesy dialogue and quick dim witted humor. When asked why he doesn’t have any children, Riddick, the building designer, pulls out a brochure of buildings he’s made and explains to Blake, “I don’t have time to raise kids because I am busy raising buildings.” I mean, I don’t get how such a cheesy line could get into the script. In another scene, Emma is all in love with her new boyfriend and when she discovers how he abandoned her daughter in a quick call of judgment ditches him. Where has your love gone sweety? The movie also makes it obvious that the earthquake, with all its shaking, represents the state of relationship between Ray and his estranged wife Emma. When the earthquake has settled down with all its aftershocks, so has their relationship.
Now, onto the good stuff. The special effects. What a stunning display of destruction. The earth plates bobbing up and down, the buildings falling into each other, the crazy tsunami throwing around cruise ships and tanker ships (in a weird homage to Titanic!) The Golden Gate Bridge is destroyed, the airport is in ruins, fault line splits the earth and all our principal characters survive. Like all disaster movies, this one is purely watchable for the special effects.
It was interesting to see the cast of international actors in the movie, some who survive and some who dont. Mr. Riddick is played by Ioan Gruffudd (Welsh) who is killed eventually because he is the evil one. His sister is played by Kylie Minogue (Australian), who is also killed immediately. Dr. Kim is played by Will Yun Lee (Korean), who is killed at the Hoover Dam. Then we have Ben and Ollie (British) playing brothers. Then we have Archie Panjabi (British-Indian) playing the reporter, happily hiding under tables with Lawrence. Finally we have Alexi (Eastern European), who is on the Lawrence’s team. Having said this, the cast was definitely B-grade trying their best to make do with the script they’ve been given to work with.
The poster tagline asks: Where will you be? Who will you be with? Clearly, Ray the Rock will be with his family all safe and sound.
On a side note, I couldn’t help but think of the recent earthquake in Nepal. It’s a horrible natural disaster and clearly an act of God. The humanitarian crisis that follows such intense earthquakes are often heart wrenching.
1.5 out of 5 (1 for special effects, 0.5 for Archie Panjabi who I like!)