Wednesday, 28 October 2015

San Andreas

Who doesn’t love a cheesy disaster film? Deep down, we all love to see the world fall to ruins as waves of population are wiped out by some over-the-top disaster while a big name star scrambles to save the day. We don’t watch this sort of film for its artistic merits, we watch it to switch off our minds and forget about our troubles for a couple of hours. But some disaster films are just so bad that we can’t switch off and enjoy them, and thus their existence is totally unnecessary. But what’s this? A decent disaster film?! Tell me more, I hear you cry… 

Out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D, and directed by Brad Peyton, San Andreas is one of the most predictable and clichĂ©-stuffed disaster films of recent times. But it’s also one of the best. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson plays Ray, a legendary Air Rescue pilot with hundreds of rescues to his name. But despite being a hero out in the field, he still has family problems like anybody else. Awww. He is in the midst of a divorce with his partner Emma (Carla Gugino) and trying to remain close to his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), as Emma’s new partner Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) joins the family. There’s a fair amount of family drama going on while you wait for shit to hit the fan, as well as a completely bizarre appearance from Kylie Minogue. Then it all kicks off! Earthquakes and collapsing buildings and Zimmer-esque bwaaaaaaaaaam’s from Andrew Lockington’s score. Obviously, Ray has to fight through all of this to find his missing daughter and, along the way, might just relight the spark between himself and Emma. It’s all ridiculously predictable.

Thank goodness then that the special effects are among the best I’ve seen recently. After a rather rocky opening sequence in terms of somewhat weak visuals, I was worried. It looked a bit terrible. But I can only assume this sequence was an after-thought, and was made with whatever scraps of budget the filmmakers had left. Because the big earthquakey carnage in San Fransisco looks AMAZING. San Andreas is a film that truly deserves to be seen in 3D, or at the very least standard Blu-Ray. The incredible visuals and jaw-dropping sound deserve to be seen and heard in the best possible way, because if you take away these traits there’s not a huge amount to recommend in the film. I was consistently blown away by San Andreas in a way I hadn’t expected, and will certainly be using it as a demo of my 3D/surround sound set-up for anyone who wants to see it in action – along with Mad Max: Fury Road, I’ve never seen a better immersive experience. The 3D really adds to this experience too, without being gimmicky. Don’t expect many bits coming flying out of the screen at you, but the sense of depth is breathtaking.

So, is there anything else worth discussing with San Andreas? Well, the cast are trying their best. Dwayne Johnson is playing the same character he always does, and despite a rather uncomfortable emotional breakdown scene, he’s decent at what he’s doing. Carla Gugino does a pretty good job with her character and Alexandra Daddario is there for the boys – but we’ve never had a problem with that, have we fellas? But for me, there was one stand-out member of the cast who gave the film a little bit more quality. Roger Ebert once said "no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad” and I apply that logic to a certain Paul Giamatti. We’ve been seeing a lot of him recently, particularly playing shits in music biopics (Straight Outta Compton and Love&Mercy) and I think he thinks San Andreas is a better, more high-brow film than it is. He’s clearly trying to act here, which is more than the majority of the cast. Despite an unoriginal scientist character, Giamatti is great here. I bloody love him.

Ultimately, San Andreas isn’t trying to be anything more than a popcorn flick. I’m sure when director Brad Peyton sat down to plan this, he wasn’t thinking in his head where he’d be putting his Oscars. It’s a disaster movie, which with films like this tends to describe the genre and the quality. But San Andreas is one of the stronger films the genre has to offer, boasting incredible visuals and sound, and some fantastic action sequences. The cast are all decent and make a rather poor script seem alright, and despite complete predictability I was on the edge of my seat.

San Andreas earns a down-the-middle 3/5.


Sam Love

San Andreas at CeX

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