San Andreas Review: The film is quite the disaster, and OMG! The Rock!
by Gayatri Gauri
OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!
They call it disaster movie, but really, the genre that San Andreas belongs to is the “OMG!” film. Whether it’s in 3D or 2D, no matter where the film is set or what disaster the heroes have to encounter, the defining moments of an OMG! film are more identical than monozygotic twins.
Here’s a list of the OMG elements in San Andreas:
1. Destruction in this latest offering from Hollywood comes in the form of multiple earthquakes. But first, there is a rescue mission, led by The Rock (but naturally). Damsel in distress? Check. Car crash? Check. Bonus: car hanging sideways, off a cliff.
The hero could be anyone, from Tom Cruise to Vin Diesel, but in this case, who better than Dwayne Johnson as Ray to save the world? Our knight – with shining tattoo on a boulder-sized bicep – flies around in a cute, red, whirling chopper, makes daredevil swoops that save victims just a fraction of a second away from death, and comes out a surefire winner. Very whistle worthy.
2. Cell phones and torches miraculously work everywhere – inside locked cars, miles up in the air in the middle of nowhere, or in neck deep water. Then all of a sudden, it struck the writer of San Andreas that this that might not be very convincing. So Ray’s trapped, rescued, trapped again and generally very brave daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario) starts looking for push button phones and landlines in San Francisco. Yes, landlines are functional even while chaos rages and everything from concrete roads to multistoreyed buildings fall to pieces.
3. Which brings us to a critical characteristic of the OMG film: every few minutes, something falls apart. It's either a road, a pillar, a building or if not anything else rubble because something needs to give constantly in San Andreas. And as the world cracks and crumbles, crowds run helter skelter. Appropriate screams add to the familiar sound effects. Comfortingly, though, rubble always falls micro inches away from our lead characters. Also, when you have Paul Giamatti and Archie Punjabi in the house, office tables suffice as earthquake shelters.
One thing we do learn from San Andreas is that the quality of building construction at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is superb. So what if it’s an earthquake that’s somewhere between 7 and 9 on the Richter scale? Caltech remains unshaken. You see, it’s home to Very Important People. They save the world and California. Giametti plays Lawrence Hayes, a seismologist announcing doom while trying to display a few, feeble shards of his acting talent. His Merlot line from Sideways is a better memory than his panic-ridden holler, “GET DOWN!”
4. Our main hero, Ray, is top of the Very Important People pile. With a chopper and his estranged wife, Emma (Carla Cugino) holding his hand, the man has all that he needs to stick his metaphorical tongue out at the worst earthquake in human history. If San Andreas was a Hindi film, Emma would have broken into a dance to “Tu mera hero…tu mera hero….O..O…” . However, this is a Hollywood blockbuster, so Emma looks suitably shell-shocked and says “Oh my God!” again and again. Eventually, she adds a variation: “Oh my God! Let’s go get our daughter.” Because hey, there’s no such thing as Mission Impossible.
5. Somebody that at least one lead cares must get injured in an OMG film. In this case, it's a hapless British lad who gets a massive shard of glass in his upper thigh, but still manages to swim, climb stairs and generally scamper around as a tsunami strikes San Francisco.
Also, someone completely inconsequential must die. But not before one heroic act – in San Andreas, it's picking up a sobbing young girl, running with her in his arms and throwing her into someone else’s arms as though she’s a rugby ball. This martyr happens to be cute too. Hashtag: single tear.
6. The real rescues are, of course, by our own giant-sized hero, Ray, who has two girl-in-arms moments. But when it comes to his own daughter, who is trapped in a high-rise building and caught in a sudden tsunami, Ray is rendered momentarily helpless. But neither hell nor high water (literally) can stop him. Sure he gets to her late, but hey, he’s The Rock and ain’t no heart going to stop pumping if he wants it to start beating again. Even if the owner of said heart has been dead for what seems like five minutes. Johnson with tears in his eyes rocks it here.
7. Heroes, we must remember, are tortured folk. Ray has the guilt of a failed marriage and a failed attempt to save another daughter from drowning. So we have the heart-in-mouth, breathless seconds when both Ray and Blake are neck deep in rapidly rising water. Blake gasps, “I love you, Daddy.” Could the granddaddy of disaster movies Bruce Willis (from Die Hard) have reacted with a better expression than Rock? Discuss.
8. A sweet little love story must unfold to give the audience breathing room from all the running and screaming. So it is that Blake (Daddario) flutters her eyelashes at an awkward Englishman, Ben (Hugo Johnstone Burt). San Andreas ups the ante by adding a cute kid to the mix: Ben has a rather smooth kid brother Ollie (Art Parkinson).
9. Finally, the real deal. The reason you pay good money for 3D glasses to watch one of these films are the special effects. When the buildings and bridges tumble, they look devastating enough. But you have seen that so many times before. So San Andreas offers a two-for-one deal: there are two kinds of natural calamities in the film and both Los Angeles and San Francisco go crash boom bang. Once the thrill of collapsing CGI buildings wears out, spectacular water shots come into play. Fire and smoke, clouded screen and a few coughs give the necessasry realistic touches. San Andreas's high thrills come from low angle shots of skyscrapers crumbling, massive ships crashing across angry water waves; a tiny chopper flying through a gap created by buildings smashing into vertical halves.
Is all this enough to play on the eternal American fear that the world will end tomorrow? Well, almost.
Updated Date: May 29, 2015 17:30:40 IST