Wednesday, June 10, 2015

San Andreas ★★★

Image result for San Andreas film stills

    Disaster films have certainly become the laughing stock of Hollywood over the last several years, if for no other reason than for their unadulterated reliance on over-the-top special effects and storylines--that are not only inconceivable--but downright inane. Enter "San Andreas," a picture that is bigger and bolder than that of "2012," and one that adds a little extra something to its storyboard: That being, human emotion. "San Andreas" takes a simple but effective approach to the eradication of anything in junction with this fault line and becomes the first true disaster film along the way.

    Sure, there are instances where the plot makes absolutely no sense (which is rather often), yet, to be quite honest, this hardly matters, especially considering the fact that most scenes cannot even finish their thought, as action becomes relatively non-stop and quite intense at times. We are introduced to Ray (Dwayne Johnson aka "The Rock"), a veteran employee for the Los Angeles Fire Department and Rescue squad, in an opening scene very reminiscent to that of "Cliff Hanger," as our main protagonist and his fellow colleagues indulge in their first life-threatening call of the day.

    From here, we become acquainted with the life of Ray, which ultimately consists of a broken marriage and two daughters. This is only for a brief moment, however, as a series of Earth shattering quakes begin to hit the California coast; subsequently, turning the film into nothing more than a free for all, as Ray inevitably focuses on rescuing his family during this tumultuous period. (This alludes to a theme immersed in the truth of human nature, as this egoist mindset dominates all of Ray's priorities.) He merely becomes a one man rescuing crew, complete with his own helicopter, as he scours the wreckage of San Francisco in an effort to save his seemingly torn family.

    This is not to say that those events are the only noteworthy actions taking place here; there is a tedious and informative subplot involving some local scientists. (The purpose of which is to obviously give the film some tranquil minutes, although action comes swiftly and our scientific geniuses simply become a visual aid in-between these natural occurrences.) There is a handful of sequences in which a lost child is thrown into the mix to heighten dramatic tension, and enough CGI destruction to last a lifetime. Let's face it: When it comes to a picture of this structure, the special effects gain the most prominence and "San Andreas" delivers invariably on that note, even if scrambling crowds appear silly and fake at times.

Image result for San Andreas the rock film stills

    Although Dwayne Johnson headlines this picture in almost every imaginable way (we are even introduced to the man with a very bright radiance, as if his presence was tinged with this angelic feeling), his performance is really just limited to a handful of one-liners, several phrases littered with profanity, and one endearing conversation with his character's soon to be ex-wife. Nevertheless, Johnson achieves a naturalness that fits him well, which is quite difficult considering his bulky appearance and larger than life persona. (He is not only the highest paid action star of the last decade but a man built around charisma.)

    We have to actually believe that he is this average human being, and many scenes rely heavily on his delivery, in part because he is physically the largest actor on-screen. Johnson holds serve, however, and even provides us with an improved sense of facial acting, which only shows the growth of the actor, as far as technique is concerned.

    What separates "San Andreas" from your run-of-the-mill action film is its fondness of human emotion and moments that will surely pull the strings of your heart. Several scenes bestow upon us this warranted affection and close-ups of touching hands and strains of regret only enhance this idea. Most notably, however, is a scene involving a reminiscent Johnson and a set of photographs. It is clearly the most heartwarming moment of the picture--and the most refreshing--considering most films nowadays utilize cell phones and Instagram accounts for these instances of remembrance; we should not only commend this decision but applaud its simplistic and out-dated design.

    Yet, it would seem that the biggest elephant in the room, with regard to this film's discussion, is the career of one Dwayne Johnson--a former wrestling great turned professional action star. Although Johnson's career has not been as prestigious as past action film stars (namely Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, the former of which I would deem to be the greatest action persona to ever grace the silver screen), he is beginning to hit a stride that is very conducive to his style and personality.

    Schwarzenegger could never have pulled off this role, and although Stallone has played this type of character before, it becomes clear that Johnson fits the mold precisely; a mold that the actor began his career with in films such as "The Rundown" and "Walking Tall." It is only when Johnson steps into bit roles aligned with popular franchises and children's films where things seem to go awry. Will "The Rock" ever produce a masterpiece, much like Stallone's "Rocky" or Schwarzenegger's "Terminator?" Only time will tell, however, his surrounding talent must be upgraded if the goal is to come even remotely close to being attainable.         

1 comment:

  1. Kudos for giving "San Andreas" a passing grade. It's been a frustration to me this summer how many critics give it a dull-eyed pan with 'it's a mindless popcorn flick without much, if any, plot' while peeing themselves with glee over, say 'Mad Max', with 'it's a mindless popcorn flick without much, if any, plot!!'.

    "Fury Road" wore me down after a while with its repetitive carnage and hammering at its simplistic message. "San Andreas" gave me a *far* more satisfying roller coaster ride of SFX disaster. And no one ever mentions the most satisfying example of competent female power in the movie. Charlize Theron has a monkey wrench for an arm and everyone loses their shit. The young heroine in "San Andreas" demonstrates a cool head and keen mind thru the entire disaster and it is not worthy of comment? I guess she should've flamethrowered someone to get attention.

    Back when I saw the "Rundown" with Mr. Jonhson, I lost my mind. It was funny, action-packed, gorgeous scenery and simply clever. I anticipated great things from "the Rock". And they never arrived. He never had a movie as slick or better again.

    (apologies if this is generally a duplicate comment. My first attempt simply...vanished.)