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Everything you need to know about 'San Andreas' in one line
DWAYNE JOHNSON as Ray in the action thriller "SAN ANDREAS," a production of New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow Pictures, released by Warner Bros. Pictures. - photo by Travis Poppleton
"San Andreas is an emotionally dead, special effects spectacle."

You can keep reading if youd like, but this entire review is going to come back to that opening line. Sure, well cover The Rock, and effects, and any number of story issues youd like to chat about, but thats only because Im not allowed to turn in one-line reviews.

The truth is, San Andreas is spectacularly vapid. Which, if you think about it, is pretty amazing.

How can a movie dealing with a legitimate and devastating threat like the San Andreas fault casually kill off millions of people and visualize a level of destruction that would destroy the worlds economy only to end up as a useless, trivial borefest?

It is true that I dont think anyone buying a ticket to San Andreas is expecting a heavy-hitting emotional drama. But even if youre that person who, as a kid, made entire lego cities just to knock them over in a playful fury of destruction, this movie will make you wish youd just stayed home to fold that last basket of laundry.

Id honestly feel guilty if I knew you were still reading. The only thing less worthwhile than sitting through this movie would be to read a review about it. I have to keep writing in order to feel good about submitting something, but you really, stop now. Go tell your kids you love them and write that novel youve been talking about.

While you do that, Ill break this break this out into a few bite-sized highlights.

The Rock

If there was one thing I took away from my San Andreas experience, its that Dwayne Johnson is a much better actor than his resume suggests.

For a long time, when I would hear Johnson was headlining a movie, I felt I knew everything I needed to know about the project. But somewhere between The Scorpion King and Pain and Gain, Johnson figured the whole acting thing out. Everything that works with the movie rests on his Wrestlemania-ready shoulders, and his charisma goes a long way in making people almost enjoy themselves here. Seeing as his next movie is Journey to the Center of the Earth 4, its obvious his agent still hasnt quite figured hes ready to move on. But that said, even if you arent a Rock fan, he may just win you over in San Andreas.

The effects

There is an obscene amount of CG in San Andreas, and each shot comes in a mixed bag. When it comes to buildings crumbling and roads splitting, your eyes will just accept that its happening. Weve come to a place where manmade structures are pretty much photorealistic on screen these days, and San Andreas doesnt disappoint in exploiting that fact.

Where youll feel like youve gone from a movie into a video game, however, is any time theres an actor interacting with whats not there. If it isnt bad green screen, then youll actually be looking at CG models, and Hollywood still hasnt figured out how to bridge uncanny valley. When you finally get to the boat sequences at the end, you might just think the effects team gave up and who knows, maybe they did. Everyone has a deadline. But even with the effects mistakes, theres still enough to look at to give this movie a C+ in the effort department.

The story

If you havent seen a trailer and youre not entirely sure what this movie is about, just take any disaster movie and change out a few names and locations.

There are four or five people youre supposed to care about that get separated across a location where a major disaster is about to hit. Said disaster hits shortly after a scientist explains to the audience why its going to happen, then, for the rest of the movie millions of people die around our core characters as our core characters try to find their way back to each other.

Thats the universally insensitive approach to disaster storytelling thats been around forever, so you can hardly blame San Andreas for repackaging it. However, San Andreas takes the insensitive approach even further by writing the protagonist as the leader of a search-and-rescue team, but throughout the entire film he neither searches for nor rescues any person but the people that affect his personal life.

All of this might be excusable if you actually cared about your core team, but theres nothing to care about. Two characters are introduced who go out of their way to help our central family, but not one of the central family members stop to help any other troubled survivor. At best they make trades, but always seem to end up the recipients of very lucrative terms.

Since deep down, you know youre watching characters who wouldnt stop to save you and your cardboard box full of adoption-ready-puppies from drowning, its really hard to care if they end up drowning themselves, which means theres no emotional connection between the story and the audience enduring it.


In short, why are you still reading? There was nothing to see past the first line. San Andreas is big, its loud, it looks very expensive, and you wont care about any of it. If you are reading this I hope its because you skipped to the end. Every minute of your life you waste on this movie, including any time you spend reading about it, is time youll regret. Go adopt one of those puppies we talked about earlier and find a make-your-city-better service project somewhere. Then email me the details and Ill meet you there.
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