First the bad news: The state of California does not break free from America and disappear into the Pacific Ocean in the new movie San Andreas. While on most days it seems like the policies of Governor Jerry Brown are intent on breaking free from the basic laws of economics, demography, planning and human behaviour, forcing a once-prosperous state into basket case status, California looks mostly intact when the credits roll on Brad Peyton’s film.
Whether that will be the case after another Democrat holds office in Sacramento remains to be seen.
The good news is that the monster mega earthquake from which San Andreas gets its title and its storyline isn’t attributed to anything more than the mere organic malevolence of nature – a fantastically lethal and destructive geographical event that’s really nothing more than a tectonic shrug; a long-overdue correction in the eons-long shoulder-to-shoulder progress of land masses.
Amazingly enough, the earth between San Francisco and L.A. didn’t move because of melting arctic ice, greenhouse gases or fracking. By this standard, San Andreas is the most scientifically accurate film Hollywood has made since Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Chief Gaines, a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue helicopter pilot whose off-handed heroism doesn’t seem to have prevented his wife (Carla Gugino) from divorcing him and moving in with a smug rich jerk (Ioan Gruffudd) who forgets to build a skyscraper with a foundation. Learning that his wife is shacking up with a real estate developer and taking their daughter with her is only the start of his bad day; things really go south after the Hoover Dam collapses.
One day someone will find a grand, unifying theory to explain why Hollywood feels compelled to lay waste to the symbols of human achievement, technology, urbanism and national prestige at least twice every summer, broken and crushed by rampaging aliens, giant fauna and battling superheroes.
Digital technology has certainly made the destruction far more awesome and realistic than it did when cardboard skyscrapers were being knocked over and torched in films like Earthquake and In Old Chicago, but after you’ve watched Washington D.C. or the Empire State Building shattered for the twentieth time since you caught The Giant Claw on late night television when you were home sick with mumps, it can all get a bit tiresome.
Paul Giamatti gets to fill us in on how bad things will get in San Andreas, ably playing the role of Science Man and staring aghast at his laptop as it makes terrifying graphs. While he gets all the good lines, Johnson and Gugino do an Amazing Race-style tour of the destruction on the ground, chasing the tremors up the coast from Hollywood to the Golden Gate Bridge, repairing their broken marriage on the way as soon as Johnson utters the line “Let’s go get our daughter.”
The script is frankly mediocre and the mayhem as easy to anticipate as each plot development, but that’s really just a function of films like San Andreas being nothing more than b-pictures from the ‘70s made with modern summer tentpole movie budgets. You might cringe whenever an actor opens their mouth, but it’s still pretty amazing to watch downtown L.A. (yes, there is such a thing) collapse like a game of Jenga that’s gone on too long.
Follow The Megaphone on Twitter.
JOIN TheRebel.media for more news and commentary you won’t find anywhere else.