Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

San Andreas

(USA, Australia, Canada, 2015)

It’s like they had a checklist of cliches. The Rock is a man of action, but with a troubled past. Check. His wife is divorcing him because of something in the past. Check. She has taken up with a super-rich man who seems like a nice guy. Check. When the chips are down, the rich bastard abandons their daughter to her fate. Check. I could go on, but you have the picture by now.

Then there is the science, all of it bad. The San Andreas cannot cause a chain reaction 9.6 quake that first destroys Hoover Dam, then obliterates much of Los Angeles, before delivering the real punch in San Francisco. Just can’t happen. Nor can it trigger a tsunami higher than the roadway of the Golden Gate Bridge. Even if it could, a tsunami moves away from the source of the subsidence, not toward it. There are many, many more details like that. Enough said.

Oh, and one more important item. The Rock and his wife and daughter (a woman named Alexandra Daddario, a beauty with eyes so pale blue it’s spooky, like the kids in Village of the Damned) must have a last-moment escape … and we’re talking inches, and seconds … at least every ten minutes.

But I’m going to forget all that, because in the end, it’s sort of goofy fun. It is so over the top that by the halfway point I was laughing out loud at the sheer silliness of it. You will not believe one solitary second of it, but it’s amazing to watch. The special effects are simply staggering. Maybe the best I’ve seen so far, and that’s saying a lot.

I was a little puzzled by one thing, though. We have enjoyed seeing an actor named Hugo Johnstone-Burt in the wonderful Australian TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. And he is Australian. So why is he playing the daughter’s new boyfriend and companion in catastrophe? Surely there was an American actor who could have done the job without the plane fare from Down Under.

The reason is simple. This movie was made in Australia! There were a few real scenes shot on devastated streets of San Francisco (including one where you can see the GG Bridge at the end of Grant Street in Chinatown, which is totally impossible), but the others were streets in Adelaide. But there are only a few shots like that. Everything else, Hoover Dam, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, is generated in incredible detail in the computers. It is stunning to think of all the gnomes creating these buildings in photo-real detail, and then shaking them apart such that you can see every shard of glass, every shattered office interior … man, I don’t know how they do it.

There was one aspect of it all that disturbed me, though. The Rock was with the helicopter rescue unit of the LAFD. When the quake struck he was flying alone, on his way to the remains of Hoover Dam. He learns that his wife is trapped on the roof of a crumbling building downtown … and instantly abandons the trip to Nevada to save her. Well … okay, I guess. But not really. They soon learn that their daughter is trapped in the basement of a building in Frisco … and Rock instantly heads in that direction. He abandons the thousands of people who need help in L.A., and steals the goddam helicopter!

And that’s only the beginning. When he crashes the chopper (don’t worry! Not even cuts and bruises!) he immediately steals a pickup and keeps going. When they encounter a huge gap in the highway, they steal an airplane. I’m not making this up! The rule of law is not suspended in a natural disaster, nor because you’re in a huge hurry to rescue your daughter. It’s still stealing!

So they can’t land the plane, and he opts to set the autopilot to fly itself out to sea, and they parachute into AT&T Stadium. Before long, they have stolen a boat. Now, we are suppose to admire this asshole? We’re supposed to root for him? I’m sorry, I’d lock him away for a long, long time, mostly for stealing the helicopter and bugging out on his duty. Screw you, Rock!