San Andreas **1/2

“San Andreas” pits Dwayne Johnson versus earthquakes. That is pretty much the premise of this movie. Johnson plays a Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot. He is getting a divorce after the recent death of his daughter during a river rafting trip. He has another daughter who is on her way to San Francisco with her mothers new boyfriend. Is this moving going to be original enough to spare them from peril? Not a chance.

The plot also follows a group of scientists, lead by Paul Giamatti, who exist to explain crucial information about earthquakes. We get countless scenes of them running around their labs, giving dire warnings and making startling discoveries. All of these elements are from pretty much every disaster movie ever made.

I personally found these characters to be mostly ridiculous. Their dialogue exists to create personal dramas to pass the time between scenes of mass destruction. I found a lot of the time the characters were wasting precious time to sort out their issues. At one point the main characters have a long heart to heart about why their marriage maybe ending at the same time their daughter is supposedly stuck in a collapsing building. What is worse is that they know she is in peril. Can we not have this idiotic conversation later?!

At this point I do not think we go to disaster movies anymore with the hopes that we will get a compelling story. “Gravity” is one movie I can think of in the last ten years that defies this trend. When characters are this dull my interest resides in the visual effects and the action to which “San Andreas” succeeds.

When the earthquakes hit the movie contains some breathtaking yet terrifying visual effects. Of course CGI is used to create these horrendous moments but a lot of it looked startlingly real. The director, Brad Peyton, also brings a thrilling sense of style to the screen as well. We get exciting action as opposed to visual chaos.

Are movies like this necessary anymore? Maybe. They do entertain me when I am in no mood to get involved with interesting characters or a compelling plot. I am just at the point where I don’t really need to see another one. But these movies make big dollars so they will keep coming and I will keep checking them out.

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