It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Brad Peyton’s San Andreas is little more than an excuse for elaborate CG destruction and cliched narrative bullet points. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson must repair his fractured marriage and rescue his teen daughter in the midst of an apocalyptic natural cataclysm…that’s essentially the plot of a handful of recent disaster movies, most notably 2009’s 2012. And as in that film, the digital display is both pretty exciting and largely bloodless. The virtual camera hurtles through a skyscraper as it splits in two and collapses, or takes you underneath the hull of a massive cargo tanker as it goes ass-over-teakettle into the Golden Gate Bridge — and amongst all this there is nary a dead body in sight. Perhaps this speaks to a fundamental contradiction in the audience’s desire to witness annihilation from a safe distance, but there you have it. Whatever the reason people go see disaster films, it’s not to be bummed out. In any case, nothing matters but the damage, and to that end the characters are just a convenient blip to follow as they happen to be in sight of every really cool part. The Rock is predictably charismatic and solemnly masculine in equal measure, even as he clearly betrays his duty as a rescue worker to go off in pursuit of his own family and again when the film stretches mightily and inadvisably to suggest that the horrible events and incredible (off-screen) death toll it depicts can be overcome by Americans’ natural tendency to unite in the midst of adversity. Yes, this is a phenomenally stupid movie. But to expect anything from this premise but ridiculous calamity feels like a waste of energy.
Blockbuster Beat• by Matt Lynch• Film