“Remember the natural disaster craze of the 90s? It started with small, localized events like Twister and proceeded to get bigger and bigger until the likes of Armageddon and Deep Impact. That then led to a scifi craze, but these bad weather flicks tended to pop up every now and again. Except each time they do, they’re even bigger, hoping to grasp the attention of our ADD nation. I remember watching The Day After Tomorrow a few years back. My Daddy came in to the room just as the Statue of Liberty was being destroyed. “”Every time they make one of these movies, they have to destroy the Statue of Liberty. Every time. Or if they’re on the west coast, it’s the Hollywood sign.”” “”Oh you just missed that. They destroyed that a few min ago”” “”Oh God”” he said shaking his head with disgust as he left the room.
Personally, I always preferred the smaller films. The more realistic, could actually happen. Night of the Twisters was my favorite, the Family Channel MOW starring Devon Sawa. I remember in 6th grade, for a creative writing assignment, one of my classmates wrote about our class reunion in the far distant future, going down the list of the whole class assigning professions. He predicted me to be a scientist that studies tornadoes and such. I didn’t realize it until years later, but at least as far as my studies, he wasn’t too far off. As part of my seemingly random education and career path, I did end up majoring in Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences, specifically focusing in on geoscience. That’s not the industry I currently work in, but I know a few things, and the whole 8th grade science class thing always held my interest.
That all brings us to San Andreas, the latest big earth busting blockbuster. This time, it’s a major 9.5+ earthquake on the west coast that absolutely destroys California. To be honest, I really wasn’t feeling it, at least as far as wanting to see it. I worried it would be dumb, too sensationalized, too superficial, and just a lot of things falling apart. However, it was my best prospect for the weekend (after being on the fence about Aloha, love Cameron Crowe but hate the romcom vibe, the internet was very clear about telling me to stay away). What finally sold me on going to see this instead of just repeating Mad Max or somesuch was Dwayne Johnson. I’ve been following him on Instagram for a few weeks, and I’ve just been struck by how much charisma and joy for life this guy has. I figured if nothing else, I’d at least enjoy watching him do his thing.
I’ve never been so delightfully wrong about a movie. Yes the cheese factor is a little high, but I had such a blast watching this. Johnson works for LA Fire and Rescue, and for arbitrary reasons, his family is scattered across the state of California when a giant earthquake that Paul Giamatti predicted strikes the area. We follow The Rock as he tries to round up and reunite with his daughter and estranged wife. Sure, not a whole lot to the plot, but remember that Johnson charisma I talked about? Yeah, that went a long way here. He wasn’t just the stoic tough guy (though there was some of that), but you felt the connection he had to his family and his perseverance was palpable and believable. I didn’t care that I could predict most of the film beat by beat. I cared about the characters and about the details in how they would deal with events unfolding.
As the movie went on, I realized how impressed I was with the daughter character, Blake, played by Alexandra Daddario. She wasn’t a damsel in distress. Okay sure, she got into trouble a couple of times, but it was unavoidable. Instead, she was a tough chick with a good head on her shoulders. Her father’s occupation taught her a lot of survival skills that proved to be incredibly useful as she was often the hero rescuing the brothers she meet-cute-d and joined up with. She wasn’t prancing about in flawless make up, mouth agape, staring at the chaos around her and waiting for a savior. She was critically assessing her situation and calmly addressing it. Seriously, this girl is a role model for all characters in similar situations as well as real life young girls.
The action was a little over the top, but in a way that served the film well. My moderately packed Saturday afternoon screening was cheering and gasping and making other appropriate noises appropriately when appropriate. I kinda felt like some of the destruction was a little much (after all, aren’t these buildings constructed to at least hold up somewhat in an earthquake?) but the CGI looked pretty flawless. Comparing to the previously mentioned Day After Tomorrow, ten years ago, the advances are incredible. And just knowing that much of what was happening is a realistic possibility scared the \m/ out of me at times. Yeah it’s sensationalized in the film, but these types of events are a very real possibility. For two hours, I let myself believe in the fiction of the film, and just enjoyed the ride.
San Andreas – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”