In Brad Peyton’s San Andreas, the biggest earthquake in recorded history is less natural disaster than divorce negotiation process. The film’s opening, in which a perpetually texting millennial almost psychically avoids two head-on collisions before a pre-tremor foists her car off a cliff, serves to contradictorily establish our vulnerability to the whims of nature and rescue-chopper pilot Ray’s (Dwayne Johnson) uncanny ability to fly in the face of any and all danger. The destruction that Paul Giamatti’s seismologist predicts with righteous precision happens right on cue—which is to say, only after Ray’s estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), sits down for dinner at a top-floor restaurant in Los Angeles and their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), is separated from them in San Francisco alongside a cute Brit (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his little brother (Art Parkinson). Where Godzilla’s recent dance with MUTO on the streets of San Francisco was staged as a lament, San Andreas’s soullessly thrilling orgy of devastation merely suggests the fulfillment of a contract obligation. As Ray hopscotches between copter, plane, and boat on his way to his daughter, the world completely falling apart around them, the film passes by as an impressively mounted series of CGI curlicues. The screenplay abounds in howlers, none more instructive than Ioan Gruffudd, as Emma’s rich beau, proclaiming that he never had kids because he was “raising” tall buildings. The film, then, uses mass destruction as a backdrop to the reintegration of the nuclear family; the interloper, naturally, gets his just deserts. But it becomes risible as another kind of allegory, ludicrously conflating the realization of the filmmakers’ gleeful thirst for carnage with our country’s own skill at rebuilding its defenses. In the end, San Andreas’s greatest fault is its cynical and arrogant correlation of Hollywood and American values.
- Brad Peyton
- Carlton Cuse
- Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson
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