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Saturday, May 30, 2015

San Andreas



The last superhero in a movie to take on the San Andreas Fault was Superman and he cheated: he spun around the world and turned back time. In the entertaining and literally earth-shattering disaster porn San Andreas, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson can't prevent Los Angeles and San Francisco from being utterly annihilated by a 9.6 earthquake ("the largest ever recorded" according to geologist Paul Giamatti). The best Johnson can do is rescue his family. When The Rock sets his mind to making sure his estranged knockout wife Carla Gugino and their knockout daughter Alexandra Daddario are safe, nothing come hell or high water (which he faces in abundance) will stop him. What a super man.

In San Andreas, Johnson is a heroic para-rescue captain who saves a teenage girl trapped in her car from plummeting off a cliff at the start of the movie. This would be the last and only person in the movie he rescues who isn't related to him (or really, really wants to be). When the earthquakes start, first utterly destroying the Hoover Dam in minutes and then demolishing all of downtown Los Angeles, Johnson and his rescue chopper go AWOL from his job. He singlemindedly focuses on rescuing his beautiful, physically perfect, genetically anomalous family in peril. First up is Gugino stuck at the top of a collapsing skyscraper, showing an incredible amount of well-placed faith in her husband by rushing to the roof while everyone else is trying to get down to the ground. Next up is their daughter Daddario, who is in San Francisco with Gugino's boyfriend, a smarmy billionaire real estate developer played by Ioan Gruffudd. Gruffudd is no Mr. Fantastic; besides looters, he's the closest thing to a villain in the movie who isn't Mother Nature herself. When trapped by an earthquake in a parking garage, Gruffudd abandons Daddario and fends for himself, even assaulting people on the street to save his own skin. Gruffudd's character's surname is "Riddick" in the movie; he's a disgrace to the proud movie name of Vin Diesel's science fiction anti-hero.

The luminous Daddario turns out to be a chip off the old Rock. Not just extremely easy on the eyes, she possesses myriad survival skills she learned from her daddy, the People's Champion. Befriending a British guy her age (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his precocious little brother (Art Parkinson), who saved her from the collapsing parking garage when Gruffudd skedaddled, Daddario imparts her knowledge of how to use rotary phones and land lines, survival kits in rescue vehicles, and emergency frequencies to contact her father and keep them all alive while San Francisco is decimated by the earthquake. Can The Rock and Gugino make it from Los Angeles to San Francisco in time to save their daughter from certain doom? Raise the People's Eyebrow if you have doubts. It's apt that San Andreas is named after one of the popular Grand Theft Auto video games, as The Rock borrows, steals, and pilots helicopters, planes, boats, and cars to get to San Francisco. He and Gugino parachute from a crashing plane into AT&T Park and then drive a speedboat right into and over a burgeoning tsunami. Following The Rock's lead, Gugino and Daddario are totally game to jump, swim, duck, dive, and endure every horrible fiery catastrophe San Andreas can throw at them.

San Andreas delivers all the eye-popping destruction it promises. Los Angeles being toppled and ripped asunder would have been enough, but San Francisco got the worst of it. Poor San Francisco really can't catch a break; last summer Godzilla and a couple of other giant monsters tore half the city apart, and now San Andreas finishes the job. To its credit, San Andreas' script, written by Lost's Carlton Cuse, goes out of its way to celebrate science and the ability scientists like Giamatti have to predict earthquakes of this magnitude. The upside to all of this devastation is that Giamatti was able to get on TV and warn people soon enough that evacuation was made possible and more lives were saved than not. However, San Andreas is most concerned with just one particular set of lives saved, and that Johnson (in an emotional, remarkably layered performance) was able to put aside a past family tragedy to save and reunite his family in the wake of unspeakable destruction. "Now, we rebuild," The Rock declares, as the American flag is unfurled over the ruins of the Golden Gate Bridge at the conclusion of San Andreas, leaving us all a little more inspired by Johnson Family Values.