Monday, June 8, 2015

Review: San Andreas

Anything you (or anyone else) can do, the Rock can do better.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at his resume and you will find that it is littered with projects that have re-imagined and re-engineered other films simply by turning up the volume on the action and infusing Johnson's larger than life screen presence into the plot.  The results at the box office have been nothing short of impressive.  They don’t - after all - half-jokingly refer to him as The Franchise Viagra.

The plot of Johnson’s most recent movie, San Andreas, follows three simple steps.  First, establish the credentials of the protagonist.  Second, unleash unfathomable disasters of epic proportions on an unsuspecting public.  Third, follow the protagonist as he/she sets out to save endangered family members.  If this also sounds like the plot of The Day After Tomorrow, or 2012, you would be correct.  In fact, this is the plot of nearly every disaster flick ever created.  So what makes San Andreas worth watching?

For starters, the visuals are epic.  Major kudos go to the artists involved with the special effects, who really utilized the vast majestic California landscape to paint a sweeping disaster scenario that is both horrific and breathtaking.  It helps that the scenario feels incredibly real.  Whereas most disaster films tend to depict radically accelerated climate change incidents that could only manifest on the silver screen, San Andreas fictionalizes an earthquake scenario that could occur at any moment.  That’s not to say, the film’s account is accurate and grounded in sound science (because it’s not), but the notion of it is quite real.

Still, if special effects was the sole criteria upon which the quality of a movie measured, then the second Star Wars trilogy would have surpassed the original trio.  No, it takes something more and in this case, Johnson is just that something more.  His ability to bring credibility to lines that on paper must be cringe inducing is one of his greatest skills.  It’s an ability he no doubt crafted during his WWE days, delivering over-the-top one liners to live crowds with unwavering commitment and conviction.  So when Johnson makes a daring declaration or an ill-timed comment about getting to second based while facing insurmountable odds, it allows the audience to both groan and chuckle.  And that he has a larger-than-life presence, allows the audience to suspend just enough disbelief to buy-in.

However, none of this means that San Andreas is a great movie, because ultimately it’s not.  Some might say it’s not even good.  What most could agree on is that it’s entertaining.  Watching the California coast - from the glitz of the Hollywood hills to the nouveau riche technological epicenter that is San Francisco – crumble to the ground offers a horrifically exhilarating backdrop to the perfectly melodramatic chemistry between Johnson, longtime screen veteran Carla Gugino, and Alexandra Daddario.  More simply put, it’s watching good-looking people survive or not (no spoilers!) a stunningly visual disaster.  And who could possibly decry a gluttony of eye candy.

So long story short, it’s worth a watch.  The summer slate has been and will be fairly tepid this for the remainder of 2015 and the list is short on films that really bask in being an unapologetic popcorn flick.  The visuals are massive and worth that big screen treatment and will provide you with a nice break from having to think, process, or decipher.


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