Epicly, awesomely bad6/3/2015
A couple weeks ago, I reviewed “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Honestly, though, I do not feel like I explained the situation fully enough: That film is one of the best I have ever seen. Now, we turn our eyes to “San Andreas,” the new disaster porn film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In many ways, “San Andreas” is the anti-“Mad Max,” in that it is every bit as terrible as “Mad Max” is amazing. Where “Mad Max” is multi-layered, nuanced and surprisingly intelligent, “San Andreas” is laughably, astoundingly dumb. And yet, both movies entertained the ever-loving pants off of me.
There are now two ways to go about the summer blockbuster. Christopher Nolan first showed us that action films can be big and smart and gorgeous, and George Miller has taken that concept and amplified it in every way. Meanwhile, everyone from Jerry Bruckheimer to Roland Emmerich continue to show us that summer films are also frequently big, loud and stupid because this America, and that’s how you pay the bills. And in that regard, “San Andreas” director Brad Peyton — whose first feature credit is “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” — has delivered his magnum opus.
“San Andreas” opens by introducing us to The Rock. Here, he’s Chief Ray Gaines, leader of a rescue helicopter team in Los Angeles. The film makes a big point of telling you that this team is made up of guys who have been together since they all did two tours in Afghanistan. It is obviously important to drive home that sense of camaraderie because, after the opening rescue scene, you literally never see this band of brothers again.
Then the film introduces you to The Rock’s ridiculously good-looking ex-wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), his obscenely attractive daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), and Emma’s new male-friend, Daniel (who cares?). We do not get to dive too deeply into the family interactions, though, because soon Daniel is off taking Blake to college in Seattle, by way of San Francisco for a business meeting first. But not much business gets done on this day because suddenly — earthquake! Holy crap, giant earthquake everywhere!
San Francisco is in bad shape, and it is only going to get worse. But Blake (who is trapped in a parking garage) manages to get a call off to The Rock before cell service cuts out. So The Rock knows that he has to fly his (apparently now stolen) LAFD rescue helicopter to San Francisco to find her.
After stopping long enough to rescue his ex-wife first (but not before we are forced to watch Kylie Minogue die — a tragedy in its own right), the pair take off together to find Blake. High jinks ensue in the way of helicopter crashes, stolen cars, stolen airplanes and stolen boats. The Rock does a lot of looting in the name of finding his kid.
He finds her, of course (spoiler alert?), and the ending is one of the most sensationally ridiculous things I have ever seen on film. But again, here’s the thing: All of this hilariously stupid stuff is astoundingly entertaining. It is, in every way you can possibly quantify such things, a terrible film. The acting is stiff, the writing is third-grade level, the plot is ham-fisted and trite, and the ending resolves absolutely nothing. But “San Andreas” keeps your eyes riveted to the screen for two entire hours, and you come out the other end amped with adrenaline.
“Mad Max” was an awesome film. “San Andreas” is an awesome film in exactly the opposite ways. CV