Last year, we had not one, but two disaster epics threatening humanity - especially those unfortunate enough to have actually watched those sorry spectacles. (Super-tornado CGI-fest Into The Storm blew in-and-out of cinemas leaving only the wreckage of several careers in its wake, and volcano period piece Pompeii famously failed to erupt at the box office.)
So, given recent form, San Andreas – Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s 3D earthquake extravaganza – looked a decidedly *ahem* shakey prospect. Happily, dear reader, the film bucks the recent trend for disastrous disaster movies.
Gripping from the outset, director Brad Peyton pulls no punches in his quest to satisfy your thirst for action. The opening scene features Ray (Dwayne Johnson) rescuing a damsel in distress from a car dangling over a cliff edge, and the drama doesn’t stop until the final credits roll.
Cynics will be initially fooled into thinking there is a superficial narrative running alongside the disaster quake storyline, when they discover Ray (soon to be a divorcee) is struggling to come to terms with his wife and teenage daughter moving in with their new partner.
But that’s only because there’s an even more superficial parallel narrative.
Oh yes! Ray is also tortured by the death, some years earlier, of his other daughter. Obviously, we don’t want to spoil things for you, so let me assure you that this backstory in no way foreshadows events that take place later in the film. IN ABSOLUTELY NO WAY, ALRIGHT?
Naturally, by the unwritten rules of these movies, The Rock’s surviving daughter Blake finds herself at the quake’s epicentre with Mum’s new ‘boyf’ when disaster strikes (Said boyf, meets a splatty end after deserting Blake in her hour of need conveniently opening the door for a family reconciliation).
A brief encounter with a couple of stereotype Brits - think wannabe Hugh Grant type, and a less nerdy Harry Potter - ensure that Blake has a couple of allies whilst she waits for Dad to ultimately rescue her.
|The Rock: only the second biggest chest in the movie|
But the busty babe is also resourceful, putting into action survival skills she has learned from her father. When a fellow companion is wounded she uses her vest to improvise a tourniquet, helpfully revealing more of her wonderful assets. And when a tsunami finally rolls ashore, the poor girl’s undergarments have become very wet. It’s not often that you watch a film with Dwayne Johnson where he doesn’t have the most impressive chest on display.
Exploding helicopter action
While desperately searching for their daughter, Ray and Emma are forced to make a crash landing when an engine on their helicopter fails. With the vehicle spinning out of control, they smash into a clothes store. Miraculously unhurt, the pair have to effect a panicky evacuation as they're both doused in fuel. The viewer patiently waits for fiery payoff, as the wrecked whirlybird inevitably ignites, but....... nothing happens.
There's no fireball, no flames, not even a whiff of smoke. Blasphemy!
In a film whose raison d'etre is the gratuitous celebration of mass destruction it is baffling that director would miss a golden opportunity to add to the carnage by providing the punchline we all expect to this sequence.
There's a time and place to play with audience expectations. This wasn’t it.
Helicopters have cruise control? Apparently so, as we learn when The Rock has to rescue his wife from the top a building.
You'd think flying the chopper and operating the rescue winch in the fuselage would be impossible, as no-one can be in two places at the same time. But for The Rock the impossible is just another item to be ticked off the to-do list. He simply presses a button labelled HOV and an unexplained autopilot takes over. Despite watching hundreds of films with helicopters this is the first time we've ever seen such a function.
Despite playing her father, The Rock was only 14 years older than Alexandra Daddario who played his onscreen daughter, Blake.
Review by: Shirley Bellinger