Review: San Andreas

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My girlfriend’s family lives in both Los Angeles and slightly to the east of the Bay area. Living in California is in my future. Therefore, I felt it was incumbent upon me to take a look at the potential of my someday environment.

Oh my.

San Andreas rightfully earns the title: Summer blockbuster. It’s the next generation version of past disaster movies like The Towering Inferno and Earthquake from the early 70s. The movie is a bit plot-lite and centers on a family with issues trying to survive everything nature can throw at them. Paul Giamatti plays the role of the scientist who lets the audience know exactly what earthquakes are all about. This could have been a dull role, but Giamatti, as always, makes it interesting – he could make the reading of an aspirin bottle interesting;  Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, and Alexandra Daddario round out the central protagonists. If you’re familiar with disaster movies, you’ll recognize all the elements of the genre: a guy you think is good, but isn’t, someone who dies to up the stakes, escalation of tension at every turn as nothing goes right, burgeoning love interests that are fused by adversity, and a force that makes human effort seem impotent – another example that nature can be an untamed beast. You see true character revealed whether it’s in the form of bravery or cowardice. What doesn’t come our way, even though a rudimentary attempt is made, is the kind of emotional investment that grabs you as in movies past. Whose heart wasn’t broken when Fred Astaire’s character in Inferno loses his new love as she falls from a crumbling elevator, or when Shelley Winters dies in The Poseidon Adventure – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. For all of that, you do root for the characters just because the movie is fun and everyone is attractive.

The true star of the film is the special and visual effects. Simply put, they are stunning, and in my opinion they raise the bar for others to follow. The details of the devastation are micro-managed to the finest level. I scrolled down the list of people, who contributed to this part of the movie, and I scrolled, and I scrolled, and I scrolled. It’s one thing to demolish a building for a movie, to demolish a whole city brick-by-brick and window pane-by-window pane must have taken Herculean patience and the focus of an electron microscope.

It’s a must see for the big screen, the lack of emotional depth non-withstanding, you will enjoy this film: a total B+.

Oh yeah, about that move? I think I’ll be looking for something suburban when I get there.