Rather than sit here and take longer to write a standard review of this middling disaster film from director Brad Peyton than it took Carlton Cuse to write the screenplay, we're instead going to opt for something a little bit different. Here are some of the most important life lessons gleaned from watching it on the big screen.
While some of these could indeed be considered spoilers, you can save your outrage: In this case, it would be like complaining if someone gave away the ending to a random Scooby Doo episode -- if you can't accurately predict 98 percent of everything that happens in this movie, you are either 3 years old, legally brain-dead, or this is your first experience with "filmed entertainment" since you finally got sprung out of your parents' basement cult, in which case, welcome to the 21st century!
70 Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Ioan Gruffudd
Director: Brad Peyton
Rating: PG-13, for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language
Running time: 114 minutes
1. In super-dangerous rescue operations, when dangling from a helicopter in incredibly tight quarters in order to free a trapped crash victim seconds before her car teeters off a canyon, it's always best to introduce yourself with your full name and title in order to establish your credibility with the victim before attempting to save her. This can also serve as a way to introduce yourself to the audience, who couldn't have guessed that you worked for the Los Angeles Fire and Rescue department otherwise.
2. Professors and seismologists, even ones played by venerated actors like Paul Giamatti, are often eggheads and socially awkward, but they are very necessary in order to explain to us what earthquakes are actually caused by, and to offer some examples of the worst quakes in history in order for us to have a valuable reference point later on when they somberly tell their staff San Francisco has just suffered a 9.6 -- the worst ever on record. They are also useful to tell a terrified mob of people already running hysterically toward them to get off the Hoover Dam, and that they have, in fact, selected the best course of action and that they should all continue to run in that manner, away from the crumbling concrete and gushing torrents of water.
3. If, however, you happen to be a superfluous scientist, preferably a non-Caucasian (Will Yun Lee), you are certain to die anyway, so you might as well go out by saving a scared young girl and heaving her to safety just as the dam crumbles into rubble underneath you, taking you out with it. This should make you feel better for being virtually the only named character who suffers such a fate in the entire film.
4. If possible, everything of great significance in your life should happen all at once: You finally crack the code of predicting earthquakes before they happen; you get served your divorce papers; you have your big job interview and meet the girl of your dreams; you finally meet the clinically cold ex-wife of your new, very rich boyfriend; and the worst natural disaster in U.S. history hits a bit later that same morning. It's a rich tapestry.
5. Proud action heroes (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, in this case) are, in actuality, deeply committed family men whose life-threatening heroics and stoicism in the face of tremendous personal tragedy often lead their nubile wife (Carla Gugino) to seek a divorce and take romantic shelter in the arms of someone fabulously rich (Ioan Gruffudd). Fortunately, it turns out, the rich dude is really super-cowardly and deserving of a horrible fate. Relax, you'll get to smirk about all this a bit later on in the day.
6. These sorts of people -- would-be family usurpers who aren't worth a drop of gleaming sweat on The Rock's magnificently shaved head -- are so horrible and hateful, it's totally OK to cheer when they finally meet their ignoble ends, being completely flattened by a flying shipping crate on the Golden Gate Bridge, even if that moment leads to the utter destruction of the rest of the bridge, and all the thousands of other poor, innocent souls still on it. Totally worth it!
7. Super-hot daughters, here played by super-hot Alexandra Daddario, also tend to be absolutely charming, down-to-earth, and so guilelessly sweet and unassuming they are literally nice to everyone they meet, including an equally cute and guileless young Brit (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his thoroughly annoying younger brother (Art Parkinson). Luckily, these two can instantly fall in love with each other and spend the rest of their earthquake experience escaping cataclysms and making out whenever possible.
8. If you have the horrific misfortune to have lost one of your children years ago in a rafting accident, understand that it was not your fault in any way, and, in fact, if anyone could have possibly saved them, it would have been you. You're off the hook!
9. Watching the utter, rampant destruction of entire American cities, building by building, and the subsequent tidal-wave flooding of the remaining rubble of those cities is actually considered perfectly fine cinematic entertainment, with a long history in the Hollywood annals of giving audiences the vicarious thrill of literally watching millions of their fellow Americans dying in extremely horrible ways. Pass the Raisinettes!
10. If you happen to be in a grim, life-or-death race to San Francisco in order to save your last surviving daughter, it's the perfect time to question your ex-spouse about their feelings as to your estranged relationship and how they feel about their deceased child. You'll find they will tell you much more under those circumstances than they ever did when you were living together. This is called multitasking.
11. If you intend to save your family during a horrible natural disaster, you'd better be an expert in piloting helicopters, crop dusters, and speedboats; you also should know how to hot-wire a car and jump out of planes, and you'd better be really, really intuitive, so you can track your daughter's whereabouts as if she had a built-in GPS lodged in her head.
12. The trick to taking a small speedboat and climbing up the 150-foot wall of a tsunami before the wave crests is to gun the engine and be first to the top among a fleet of boats that won't be so lucky.
13. As to the aforementioned other boats, and various other innocent people who die right next to you in order to better dramatize the level of danger you're in, best not to pay them any mind or try to attend to them in any way. They probably don't have families who love them as much as you love yours, the generic nobodies.
14. Be aware that the second you manage to escape any kind of crumbling building, giant wall of water, or burning aircraft, the entire thing will uncannily come crashing down the moment you actually escape.
15. If you happen to be flying one of the few fully stocked rescue helicopters in Los Angeles County by yourself the morning a horrible earthquake strikes, by all means spend your time and precious fuel saving only your ex-wife from the top of a crumbling building rather than trying to help anyone else out in any way. Then, continue on your magical journey of self-determinism by taking this badly needed rescue rig up to San Francisco in order to go save your daughter. You'll still be considered a hero, so don't sweat it.
16. Epic natural disasters with no historical precedent have a way of really bringing formerly estranged families closer together. They also might even give a dull seismologist a chance to bag a babe of his own. With these sorts of catastrophes, anything is possible, so be sure to take personal advantage of them when given the chance.
17. Most importantly, in the wake of this kind of orgy of destruction of two of America's biggest and most vibrant cities and the horrific deaths of many millions of Californians, when you finally get to feel the glow of golden dusk on your face, huddled with your immediate family and their good friends who all somehow miraculously survived, announce to everyone around you that it's finally time to "rebuild," as a tattered but proud American flag flutters in the pleasant breeze before you. As a result, feel pretty good about the day, all things considered.
MovieStyle on 05/29/2015
Print Headline: Default disaster/By-the-numbers San Andreas teaches 17 universal life lessons in the wake of the quake