San Andreas
"Despite all the chaos, I've seen more mild peril in an episode of Scooby-Doo - except that, in Scooby-Doo, the female characters have some agency."

Things were slower in the Seventies. Most written correspondence involved letters and two days' postage and most disaster movies started with a leaky rivet or a plume of smoke in a lift shaft. But in 2015, the age of the text message, we haven't got time to hang about. So Ray (Dwayne Johnson) has barely had time to rescue a damsel in distress from a car on a cliff and have a 'moment' with his wife Emma (who is moving in with her new man but whom he still loves) and daughter Blake (whose sister died tragically, natch) before the CGI smashing, crashing and splashing starts.

The effects are the most convincing aspect of the film. As the Hoover Dam and then San Francisco bend and torque this way and that it is impressive, with some of the buildings showing considerably more movement and emotional range than Ioan Gruffudd, although as mum's irredeemable boyfriend (he leaves Blake to quite possibly die in a collapsing car) he has very little to do except be annoying to underline how deserving he would be of death.

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Meanwhile, Emma (Carla Gugino) is stuck up a building in one place, while miles away Blake (Alexandra Daddario) is still trapped. As Ray flies/rides/sails to the rescue, Blake gets her own knight (Aussie Hugo Johnstone-Burt, doing his best Hugh Grant) along with sidekick younger brother Ollie (Art Parkinson). Elsewhere, CalTech seismology expert Paul Giamatti is inhabiting an entirely different film, entitled San Andreas: The Exposition - popping up periodically to explain the 'science bits'. Because Giamatti is so good, we actually care about him, which is ironic, as he is the only member of the main cast who is barely put in any danger. There's nothing wrong with Johnson either - I've always found him surprisingly cuddly and affable for someone nicknamed The Rock - but the scripting is so bad that the editors have done away with as much as is humanly possible, meaning he simply doesn't get sufficient speaking screentime to make his presence felt.

The special effects may look real but the relationships are made of much less sturdy stuff - it doesn't matter how impressively a building collapses or how threatening a tsunami looks if you don't give a damn about any of the characters or believe for one moment that the scriptwriter (Carlton Cuse) is prepared to kill any of them in the name of tension. Despite all the chaos, I've seen more mild peril in an episode of Scooby-Doo - except that, in Scooby-Doo, the female characters have some agency. Here, aside from some vague lip service in the direction of Blake, it's really her lip gloss and associated assets director Brad Peyton is interested in as he plunges from one damsel-in-distress moment to the next. If you're looking for depth, better opt for watching San Andreas in 3D because that's the only way you'll get any.

Reviewed on: 27 May 2015
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San Andreas packshot
A rescue pilot tries to save his family in the aftermath of a gigantic earthquake.
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Director: Brad Peyton

Writer: Carlton Cuse, Andre Fabrizio, Jeremy Passmore

Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino, Dwayne Johnson, Colton Haynes, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Vanessa Ross, Paul Giamatti, Kylie Minogue, Will Yun Lee, Matt Gerald, Art Parkinson, Jackie Dallas, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Stephanie Johnston

Year: 2015

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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