San Andreas will not get any awards for its screen play, which is utterly forgettable. But you will not forget this movie. It is positively epic, full of destruction and mayhem on a scale I have never seen on screen. It is almost numbing. But not quite. It’s too visceral to be numbing.
The destruction in the movie is what saves it, the only thing that makes it really worth watching. But it delivers so singularly in that regard, it is utterly engaging. I smiled at cheesy lines and shrugged off ridiculous plot holes, gladly willing to tolerate them in exchange for the stunning, thrilling, exhilarating visuals. There was never a moment of this film where I wasn’t on board, even when I was rolling my eyes. I was able to gleefully abandon my usual role of the jaded critic and just love this movie.
But it wasn’t only for the visuals. (Unless you count Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a visual, and I suppose that wouldn’t be entirely out of line.) Johnson has a compelling presence on screen. He’s believable, even in a movie that isn’t. He’s charismatic, and intensely likable. You feel for him and root for him. He even manages to convey some pretty convincing pathos here and there.
Turns out I was wrong about what I had taken, from the trailers, to be the plot of the film. I thought it was about Johnson’s character rescuing people from this horrible earthquake, but it’s actually about Johnson’s character searching, with his ex-wife, for his daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario (The Squid and the Whale), one of the most physically stunning women I’ve ever seen on a movie screen. Her acting chops aren’t bad either. But again, so what. Her performance was above passable, as are most of the performances in this film. She’s mostly an amazing visual, like almost everything else in the film.
And no one will, or should, see this movie for the acting or the story line. You don’t need those reasons in this movie. They don’t matter here, and they are not what the film is about. You will be able to enjoy the movie completely without anything coming close to an Oscar turn (even from Paul Giamatti, easily the most gifted actor in this cast), and without buying into the plot or even caring about it.
If you go to see it simply for the mayhem, you will leave deeply satisfied.
I saw it in 3D IMAX. If ever a film was made for that format, this is it.
Above all, don’t miss this in theaters and then try to watch it on video in a few months. The visuals are 95% of what the movie has going for it and if you fail to see it on a big screen, there’ll be very little point to seeing it at all.