Monday, April 18, 2016

San Andreas

I’d first learned about the San Andreas Fault in California way back in 1978 when it was introduced as a plot device in Superman as Lex Luthor talked, at length, about what could theoretically happen if a missile were to detonate on a precise point of the fault.  When giving a definition of the fault, Christopher Reeve, as The Man of Steel, said it best: “It’s the joining together of two land masses.  The fault is unstable and shifting, which is why you get earthquakes in California from time to time.”  Living here, myself, I know it all to be too true.

I’ve felt many earthquakes in my time here and was living in Santa Clara when the Loma Prieta quake hit in 1989, not only interrupting the World Series as the Oakland Athletics were destroying—and continued to destroy in a four-game sweep—the San Francisco Giants, but interrupting life within the Bay Area.  Although most of the media coverage was on San Francisco and Oakland (due to the damage of the buildings and structures), the epicenter of the earthquake was only 18 miles away from where I’d lived.  So, seeing any movie about this subject matter really gives me a little bit of unease, which is what I’d felt when seeing the advertisements for San Andreas.

I’ve got to say, when first witnessing the trailers and TV spots, what came to mind, instantly, was the film, 2012.  The similarities are there—not only in the trailers, but the whole movie as well—so you can’t help but make that association.  However, seeing that the film had an adequate leading man right for this action piece, I’d started to think this film had a chance to be head and shoulders above that Roland Emmerich disaster flick.

Now, before getting into my thoughts of this flick, here’s a quick summary of the story.

In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot, Ray Gaines (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), makes a dangerous journey with his ex-wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), across the state in order to rescue his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario).

It was pretty obvious what most of this film was going to feature before I’d even watched it—I knew it was going to be a big disaster flick, with buildings falling, tidal waves jetting, crevices opening, cars crashing, people running…just complete chaos…so I knew I shouldn’t have gone into this movie
expecting a magnum opus.  See, if you go into the movie with your brain turned off, you’ll have a lot of fun with it.  With all the movies I’ve seen in my life—especially the crazy, yet great, movies of the 1980s—I’m pretty much a connoisseur of suspending disbelief before heading into a movie.  If you go into this with the desire to see accurate accounts of catastrophes or needing to have logical scenarios explained within the narrative, you won’t enjoy yourself.

I’m of the mind that if they want to show helicopters moving unrealistically in order to save someone from a car teetering over a cliff’s edge or having a boat just barely getting over the crest of a near 90 degree wave, I’ll be at the edge of my seat, chomping away at my popcorn with a big smile on my face.  I’ll even accept the gobbledygook and technobabble some scientific expert (Paul Giamatti as Dr. Lawrence Hayes) will spout out to explain how the earthquakes travel from Las Vegas through Southern California all the way up north to the Bay Area (yes, all that is given within the story’s exposition).  Just as I was enthusiastic about people outrunning freezing temps in The Day After Tomorrow, I was just as excited to see The Rock swerving in and out of the paths of falling buildings with his chopper.

So, yes, the plot is pretty threadbare here…but it’s not about the story in this, is it?  Nope.  It’s about the eye-candy you’ll see in the special effects department and it is pretty cool to behold. 

One scene I especially like in this film is something that brings a recollection of an account my father told me one time.  He was born and lived in the Azores as a child, coming to America in his twenties.  Being that the islands had a lot of volcanic activity throughout the years, they sometimes had earthquakes.  He told me about a time he was walking down the road when one hit, explaining that when he looked on into the distance, he said the land just rolled and shifted like a giant piece of paper blowing in the wind.  I’d always thought about that story and wondered how that actually would’ve appeared.  In one quick part in San Andreas, one such scene exists and it is breathtaking.

Although the cast don’t really have much to work with in regards to a story, they all are believable in their roles and complement each other well.  Johnson, especially, shines as the hero and I’m just glad he’s hasn’t been doing too many silly family films (although I see he’s rumored to star in Journey to the Center of the Earth 4).  I don’t know about most people, but I really feel Dwayne
Johnson has so much potential to be such a huge action star.  It seems like the right movie just hasn’t come along yet.  Don’t get me wrong, I know he’s had a great oeuvre of films, but I think there’s just something missing.  Maybe it’s because it’s been discreetly touted that he was to inherit the movie throne from Schwarzenegger and I base my expectations on that.  I guess I just want to see Johnson play a terminator…just give me that and I’ll finally accept him as a certified movie god.

So, my final “bit” on San Andreas?

It’s a fun movie to relax, zone out your mind, and just watch for the action and excitement of it.  It’s still titillating and thought-provoking (hey, I Googled “San Andreas” soon after watching this, wondering where it was, exactly, and how likely it could cause half of California to fall into the ocean), so it’s not boring…trust me on that.  It’s just a big, dumb disaster movie that you’ll enjoy.

Thanks for reading!

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