REVIEW: Check your brain at the door for "San Andreas," sit back and enjoy the destruction in all its 3-D glory.
By James A. Molnar
And bombastic disaster movies like “San Andreas” utilize every inch of that screen to a chilling effect.
Your jaw will hit the floor — again and again — as skyscrapers fall like dominoes to Mother Nature’s force majeure.
During a class lecture, seismologist Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) tells his students at the California Institute of Technology — and the audience — that California is overdue for the next “Big One” by about 100 years.
“It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” he says.
Hayes and his team of scientists and students are attempting to figure out ways to help save lives by predicting when an earthquake is coming.
That team will help save millions of lives with their technology, but the main star of the film is not Hayes, but Los Angeles Fire Department Search and Rescue helicopter pilot Ray Gaines, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The role was made for Johnson, who is quite the muscle-bulging action star.
He plays a pilot who is strong but gentle and nothing will stand in his way of protecting his family — or saving them from disaster, whether it’s collapsing skyscrapers or flooded buildings.
His family includes estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and teenage daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), who is preparing to head to college. Gaines focuses on saving his family via helicopter, airplane and boat, but will make an exception for the injured woman or elderly couple.
If that sounds like a cliché, that’s the entire 114-minute movie.
“I know this sounds crazy, but…” is just one of the many phrases that audiences will eat up like salty popcorn soaked in butter.
With enjoyable 3-D visuals and pulsating sound effects, “San Andreas” is not the place to look for an out-of-the-box story or an Academy Award-winning screenplay.
Audience members could even be heard laughing at one point in this reviewer’s screening. One, because of the gobsmacking visual effects and two, at the miracle that the main characters in the movie didn’t die 100 times — but that’s the point of the summer blockbuster.
The first earthquake hits the Hoover Dam in Nevada. Let’s just say, things don’t go so well.
Before the devastation begins in California, audiences are treated to a sweeping views of the San Francisco and Los Angeles cityscapes. Enjoy the view while it lasts.
Once the disaster begins, it’s jaw-dropping and overwhelming in its scope and beauty.
Look for some fantastic production design by Barry Chusid, who has a niche for disasters, having overseen design for 2011’s “Source Code,” 2009’s “2012” and 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow.”
Carlton Cuse, known for his work on “Lost,” wrote the screenplay, with story credits given to Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore.
Director Brad Peyton last worked with Johnson on 2012’s “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”
Director and producer Roland Emmerich, who is currently working on the “Independence Day” sequel for next summer, would have been a perfect collaborator for “San Andreas.” He helmed both “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”
This would be the normal location in a movie review for plot points and details, but this is a summer blockbuster and disaster movie. The plot and character development is secondary at best.
Check your brain at the door, sit back and enjoy the destruction in all its 3-D glory.
As the credits roll, singer Sia delivers the movie’s anthem, “California Dreamin’. ” The credits also provide a notice for ways audience members can protect themselves against earthquakes.
You might not want to visit Los Angeles or San Francisco any time soon — or maybe visit now before the next “Big One” hits.
Rated PG-13 for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language.