It’s the story of a strong, silent man, and we’re led to believe he’s the main character and driving force behind the movie. Yet, when you see it you’re completely bewildered when the main character truly turns out to be the strongest female character you’ve seen in years. A woman who always finds her way out of the craziest situations and who can somehow steal our hearts and terrify us at the same time, all while piercing our very souls with her insanely gorgeous blue eyes. This film has the greatest action sequences you’ll see in ten summers of blockbusters. It has visuals that stick with you for your entire life of the horrors of both man and nature. It’s driven by an actor from a billion dollar franchise who’s out on his own to make a name without being a supporting cast member…and absolutely knocks it out of the park. But, enough about Mad Max, let’s talk about The Rock’s newest outing, San Andreas.
I’ll just get this out of the way real quick: There’s a scene where he’s repelling down a cliff from his helicopter to rescue a girl from a car and I actually said aloud, “Rock slide!” The man in front of me was angry. I was pleased with myself.
Honestly, I went and saw this on a whim. I imagine that’s how it did so well at the box office. I’ve seen The Day After Tomorrow, I’ve seen Twister, and I’ve seen 2012. I’m not going to say any…haha…BLEW me away. Twister puns. Gets me every time. They’re eye candy. They’re beautiful mayhem on a huge budget. We like destruction. When it happens in real life we are horribly scarred and sometimes we go to war, but in a movie we are left wanting more. It’s a sight to behold. I said to myself, “I know I’ve seen the movie before, but this time it has The Rock in it so…f*** it, I’m going.” That’s not even paraphrasing here. That’s an exact transcript. I’m very vulgar in my personal life.
The story is essentially the same thing we’ve seen a billion or so times. The Rock is our main hero, mostly. They absolutely tried to sell the idea that his daughter was just as heroic as he was, having led the two British brother characters to safety in many crazy situations. The Rock is a helicopter rescue pilot for the Los Angeles Fire Department named Ray. In a nutshell, once the chaos of the earthquake caused by the San Andreas Fault begins he goes on a race to find and save his daughter, who happens to be caught right in the middle of most of the chaos. It’s like Taken except with less sex trafficking and more earthquakes and less Liam Neeson and more Dwayne Johnson.
I’m going to come right out and say it: This is substantially better than the other movies I listed here. The CG that I normally complain about in almost every movie I see is beautiful beyond words. Next to anything not called Gravity, it may be the best computer animation I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s easy to pick apart for all its…faults. Oh my God, I’m on such a roll. I feel like this is an excellent time to bust out a “Wakka Wakka!” Time’s passed. Moving on.
The acting isn’t awful. The Rock has really come into his own as an actor, a far cry from his days as The Scorpion King or The Tooth Fairy. One specific scene was literally written in just to lend the film a little emotional gravity, and, despite that being its solitary purpose, Dwayne really hits the emotional notes required by the scene. You’ll know the one when you watch it. He won’t quite cry, but you see the tears filling his eyes and you know that it’s every bit of his masculinity holding them back and saying, “Men don’t cry! You stop that shit!” It’s brief, but it really does give The Rock a moment that we haven’t really seen from him in the past.
That’s about where the best parts of San Andreas stop. To put it bluntly, Mad Max has probably ruined movies for me. I’m still wrestling with this, but it may have been the best movie I’ve ever seen. Period. So now when I see an action film it’s really not a question of, “Is this a good action film?” But more a question of, “Can this film even exist in my mind after having seen the spectacle that is Mad Max: Fury Road?” Make no mistake, San Andreas is a far, far cry from attaining that level of art. The sheer fact that it’s not about a man named CJ from the hood of a fictional city called San Andreas who’s trying to work his way up from petty criminal to kingpin of the entire state was a bit of a bummer right from the get-go.
Ray’s daughter, Blake, is played by the stunningly gorgeous Alexandra Daddario. The goal of this movie is clearly to present her as a very strong female character who can hold her own in a world of summer blockbusters dominated by men. After Charlize Theron’s turn as Furiosa in Mad Max, the entire role of a strong woman is going to change. Blake seems less like a strong woman and more like the product of a director dead set that he needed to cater to a female demographic. I’m not saying there’s a huge issue with that, but I am saying that it feels so forced that it doesn’t work anywhere near as well as Furiosa. The constant need for the male characters to talk about how magnificent and strong Blake is just gives the screenwriting an artificial touch. Max never once says Furiosa is amazing, but he respects her, just as we in the theater do, and he treats her as his equal.
I don’t care how scientifically accurate the earthquake scenes are, really at all. All I know is they are awesome. What I do take issue with is the constant use of something called a Deus ex Machina. Simply, a Deus ex Machina in terms of story is when the main character is rescued by something completely at random that wasn’t established earlier in the film and is clearly the product of the writer trying to put a main character in peril and then having no real, genuine way written into the story to rescue them. How bad is it in San Andreas? Well, literally every single action scene ends with that “just in the nick of time” scenario, where the exact moment they escape a situation it escalates to a point that would have killed them .00000001 seconds earlier. It gets old really fast and you come to expect it. The worst offender has to be a scene where Ray and his estranged ex-wife almost drive off of a cliff, if not for a warning from an elderly couple. The cliff, of course, separates them from their destination. But it’s okay because the old man just happens to own an airplane that he wasn’t using for some reason, despite the massive earthquake that it would save him from.
Aside from the constant use of extraordinarily convenient plot devices, there’s also a massive issue with how the catastrophe is presented. The film is essentially about five main characters, and every time they survive another ridiculous moment we are meant to feel like it’s somehow a victory. Sure, in a few scenes The Rock saves a handful of people, but literally two minutes later something happens and you can’t help but think, “Yeah, Ray survived that. But all those people he just saved are dead now.” The death toll in the film is in the millions, easily, but yet we are supposed to feel a sense of happiness that it wasn’t higher. In the immortal words of Kim Jong Ill, this would be “9/11 times 2,356.” Don’t know what that is? NO ONE DOES.
One scene sees Ray save a large group of people from a crumbling building and everyone is like, “Omg! Ur such a hero! I luv u lol.” That scene is followed immediately by a typhoon coming in and wiping out the entire area that it happened in. I can only imagine the people drowning, saying, “Rock! Why have you forsaken me!?” Good thing Ray didn’t end up in that typhoon because rocks sink in water. That’s the last pun. I promise.
San Andreas is a mindless summer blockbuster full of stunning visuals that, frankly, left me literally jaw-dropped on more than one occasion. You’re going to have to leave common sense at the door when you walk in. But, hey, if you’re reading this then you’re most likely a wrestling fan so it’s not like that’s going to be terribly hard for you. You do it every Monday. The story is tired and cliché, the characters are forced and one-dimensional for the most part, and the constant need to build tension inevitably begins to work against it as the film carries on. It’s well worth the price of admission, assuming you’ve already seen the glory that is Mad Max: Fury Road and really need something to watch while you wait for the new Star Wars to come out. I will absolutely go on record to say, in the hypothetical scenario that everything in the world turns to utter chaos and I am told that I can choose one single person to attempt to save my life, I would choose The Rock.
I’m running out of creative ways to push you to follow my Twitter. I mean, I’m not, but I feel like saying I’m out is a great way to talk you into it. Pity follow me @JakobDraper and I’ll continue telling you how great Mad Max is. About the time my honeymoon with it starts to come to an end it will be out on Blu Ray and I’ll start all over again. God bless capitalism. Only here can we be fed the exact same thing in perfectly time increments that we continue pumping our money into it.