Picoreview: San Andreas

Picoreview: San Andreas: exciting!

I saw a review that said “this is a movie about earthquakes having a vendetta against the Rock,” which mostly made me think “Didn’t they see 2012, in which earthquakes were literally chasing John Cusack?”

San Andreas was much better than 2012, which is not meant to damn with faint praise, given how utterly awful 2012 was. (I liked 2012, but it was disaster movie porn. It was not good.) But I spent far more of San Andreas on the edge of my seat than I expected to, and the Good Friday quake in Alaska got a shout-out, and it’s Dwayne Johnson who is ridiculously charming, so, y’know, I was basically gonna be pretty happy with it. It did what it said on the tin.

The effects were good. Some of them were even reality-based, like, good ground ripples as cities got ruined, and the collapse of buildings and so on and so forth that were well done. Apparently they used a lot of practical effects, models, and sets, which delights me.

(There were also parts that were not so reality based, like the shot of a crevasse where the San Andreas fault opened up at one point, and it’s a slip-fault, which mostly goes north on one side and south on the other and doesn’t have a lot of up and down motion and, although I guess their point was that this is SUCH A BIG QUAKE that it actually activates the spreading that’s more commonly seen on the ocean floor, which isn’t…impossible…with the San Andreas fault. But land-based earthquakes where the earth splits open are more usually reverse fault where the land drops dramatically on one side and thrusts up on the other and potentially opens up (which is what happened in the Good Friday quake), and also there wouldn’t have been a tsunami because earthquake-born tsunamis are created by the zones shifting on the ocean floor which is not what happened in the movie (look, I’m from Alaska, it inclines one to learn things about earthquakes, okay? also I think geology is really interesting, I’d like to get a degree in it someday. :) And somebody reviewing it–a geologist, I think!–objected to the idea of feeling the quake on the east coast, but I don’t know, man, the 2002 7.9 earthquake in Denali, which was the biggest & longest I’d ever personally been in, was felt in Seattle and raised the water table in Louisiana. I’m pretty fucking sure if half of California fell into the ocean they’d feel it in New York.)

The women–it was, as I said on Twitter, no Fury Road (which caused a friend to say “That’s going to be the gold standard for ever, now”)–but out of the five screen-time leads, two were women and both were good characters. If the secondary, scientist story line is included, there were two more relatively important characters, one of whom was a female newscaster who was also a good character.

Another review I read said Alexandra Daddario, who played Johnson’s daughter, did nothing but scream and be rescued in the movie. Apparently that person saw a totally different cut of the movie, because although she did get rescued twice, she spent the interim being keeping the people she was with alive. I would say she arguably did as much rescuing as Johnson’s character, who had a pretty damn good emotional story arc for an action movie hero but didn’t rescue very many people. I actually thought Daddario carried so much of the film that she genuinely deserved second billing (although she’s not as famous as Carla Gugino, who did get second billing, and also a brilliant mic drop with the utterance of the film’s one PG-13-allowed f-bomb).

The one character I was really disappointed with was Ioan Gruffalo or whatever his name is, who was turned into a caricature and the terrible thing is it was *totally* unnecessary to do that. He could have been used really well; he could have been used in exactly the way he was up until the point where he became caricature, and then worked *so* well around that without giving him one second more or less screen time, but with him they blew it.

Overall, though, I mean, hey: I spent half the movie on the edge of my seat, I laughed, I cried (really. I told you the Rock’s emotional arc was good!), and aside from the fact that they’d basically have to sink Anchorage to do another US-based earthquake disaster movie I’d totally go see a sequel. Ideally one in which Daddario rescues the Rock. :)

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