San Andreas Review Roundup: Is California's Collapse Worth Witnessing on the Big Screen?

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in this disaster flick

By Francesca Bacardi May 28, 2015 3:55 PMTags
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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is back on the big screen after appearing earlier this year in Furious 7, but is it worth your while to check him out in San Andreas? If you're looking for a movie that will provide a ton of action and thrills, then yes. If you're searching for more than that, then probably not. Here's what the critics are saying about Johnson's latest action film, San Andreas.

Variety's Andrew Barker writes that the movie delivers on its promise of "complete CGI destruction of California" and Johnson's "jackfruit-sized biceps" but along the lines it becomes too repetitive and suffers from "spectacle overkill."

"...(you know what's cooler than an apocalyptic earthquake? Two apocalyptic earthquakes…and a tsunami) and a fatal lack of invention in its second, more concerned with toppling buildings one by one than ever drumming up a lick of suspense about the fates of those inside them," he writes.

A.O. Scott of The New York Times thinks that the overt use of CGI makes the movie seem "dull and routine," and can't help but point out the movie's political undertones.

"It might also express a bit of intrastate rivalry, in particular the tension between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, here represented by the larger cities most identified with them in the popular imagination," he writes. "And the SoCal bias is pretty clear: Los Angeles is battered, but San Francisco is much harder hit, and it's the home base for the closest thing the movie has to a villain, a soulless incarnation of selfishness and greed. The guy who saves the day is a public employee, and probably a union member. Liberal Hollywood strikes again!"

The Chicago Tribune feels that the movie respects "the essential hypocrisy required by any half-decent disaster movie," meaning that thousands may die but it's OK as long as the central characters live. Michael Phillips, who found the movie more enjoyable than others, notes, "I enjoyed large chunks of San Andreas, largely because the actors give it a full load of sincerity, and there's some bizarrely effective comic relief thanks to Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson as Brits who picked the wrong week to visit the Bay Area."

Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter credits Johnson's acting skills for keeping the movie from falling apart with every earthquake.  Unpacking all of that personal baggage makes for an uneasy fit with the action-adventure scenario, and the movie is at its strongest when it integrates family dynamics into the plot rather than indulging in extreme couples therapy," he writes. "Johnson is totally up for it, however, remaining one of the few contemporary action stars who can reassuringly embrace emotional situations at the height of catastrophe."

Forbes' review echoes what others have written: This action movie follows through with its promise of destruction. Scott Mendelson writes, "San Andreas is not a great movie. It has a certain thematically claustrophobic narrative structure and somewhat thin character development," he writes. "For those who just came to see the show, with the show in this case being the jaw-dropping carnage and much of California being laid to waste by earthquakes and the like, San Andreas absolutely delivers in spades."

Will you go see San Andreas? Sound off in the comments!