san andreasDirector: Brad Peyton

Screenwriter: Carlton Cuse

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Alexandra Daddario

I am pleased to say that San Andreas, the new action film from director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) is by far the director’s finest work but also a really enjoyable film from start to finish. Many action films struggle to find a niche for themselves given their overabundance at the box office, especially in the disaster genre, but San Andreas manages to deliver for the most part.

Dwayne Johnson plays Ray, a California rescue chopper pilot who knows the ropes. Recently divorced, Ray is trying to pick up the pieces and maintain a strong relationship with his teenage daughter, Blake (Alexandrea Daddario). When Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) a Cal Tech Seismology professor discovers tremors in a new fault line under Nevada that allows him to accurately predict upcoming earthquakes, he realizes that San Francisco is in for an earthquake, the magnitude of which the Earth has never seen before. Now, Ray has to risk it all to rescue his family.

I’ll say this once just to get it out of the way and leave it at that. This is not the film from 1996 about the scientists who are trying to invent a way to increase warning systems before a natural disaster hits centralized around a recently divorced protagonist with a tragic past that risks it all to keep his family safe, including his ex-wife. That film was Twister. This is also not the film about a group of heroic men who through strength and determination are able to save various female characters who are depicted as much weaker, until one female character with a masculine name (Jo) proves to be just as tough as the boys. That film was Twister. This is the one from 2015 that has the girl named Blake.  Oh, and did I mention both Jo and Blake spend most of their respective films in tight cotton tank tops?  You know, the ones male action characters often wear with the unfortunate colloquial term, “wife-beater.”

Ok, snarkiness aside, this is a fun movie. Feminists will cringe at the fairly common occurrence of women getting into trouble and requiring men to save them, in some instances costing the male characters their lives. However, screenwriter Carlton Cuse has tread these waters before. Mostly known for his television writing on shows like Lost, The Strain, and Bates Motel (the latter involving a female character named Bradley), Cuse knows how to thrill, pace, and deliver some thrills. Furthermore, director Brad Peyton creates a spectacular scene of San Francisco’s demolition throughout the film. The tension is palpable and tangible regardless of our familiarity with this genre and the formulas that come along with it.

San Andreas is a traditional summer tent pole blockbuster, but as more and more of these types of films are starting to feel stale, this one works. Johnson continues his ascension to being the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, only with more charisma (of course, I am aware that there still is a current Arnold Schwarzenegger, but did you see The Last Stand, Sabotage, or The Expendables 3?). Unoriginality and misogyny do hold the film back slightly and boy oh boy does the final shot reek with clichéd patriotism, but I still recommend the film on its merits and believe audiences are smart enough to not find the film’s shortcomings offensive. B

San Andreas is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 54 minutes.