San Andreas ***
As disaster movies go, “San Andreas” is, well, a bit of a disaster (sorry), but a spectacle none the less, especially on the Big-D screen with scary surround-sound technology booming and blasting every few minutes.
The film starts off well enough, like the great disaster flicks of yore, “Earthquake (1974)” and “The Poseidon Adventure (1972),” which understood the disaster is secondary to the development and interplay between the characters. Charlton Heston’s “Earthquake” actually defined the “disaster” genre.
In “San Andreas,” named for the nasty and occasionally active geological fault line on the U.S. West Coast, we’re given proper introductions and a little backstory to most of the main characters; Paul Giamatti as the Cal-Tec nerd seismologist with new earth-shattering info, Dwayne Johnson as the aviator dad with superhero skills and superhero pecs, and additional characters young and old. But it seems as if the filmmakers thought we’d lose interest if the rock and roll didn’t start immediately.
Where’s the build up? Where’s the tension? All hopes for anxiety of the coming apocalypse seem to vanish into the abyss, like the big chunks of California that go missing. Even “Day After Tomorrow” did a better job setting up the superstorm that engulfed the planet.
The CGI in “San Andreas” is nearly flawless, the 3D pops without being gimmicky, but the plausibility and storyline is pure Saturday morning cartoon. We’ve all heard that California will fall into the ocean one day, so we’re already believers that the “big one” is overdue, but you’d never believe these people could survive and triumph with the scenarios given to them by the filmmakers.
Still, “San Andreas” was the No. 1 movie, just slipping to No. 2 behind “Spy,” and meets the definition of “summer blockbuster.” For most moviegoers it should provide a bit of distraction from real-world disasters, which are far more worrisome.
What do those stars mean?
* Really, really, really bad. Don’t bother.
** Pretty bad, with one or more redeeming scenes.
*** Pretty good, but maybe not great, worth seeing for most
**** Really great, a winning combination of story, casting, and directing
***** The rarest gem, an all-around perfect motion picture