Everything you need to know about “San Andreas” is available in the trailer. Within its runtime, you’ll know that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the hero who will stop at nothing to save his family from the devastation caused by one of the worst earthquakes ever recorded, according to a scientist played by Paul Giamatti.
The premise of “San Andreas” is simple: get out of danger. The danger is decoupage of survival nightmares ranging from getting trapped in a parking garage or what to do when you’re stuck in a top floor swanky restaurant during an earthquake. In those regards, “San Andreas” delivers.
But oh the clichés! The movie’s reliance on every cliché known to the disaster movie genre is painfully apparent. Layer upon layer of predictability, nothing in “San Andreas” would have thrilled more than a surprise. The movie is like a turducken of timeworn tropes: the nonessential person of color must die, the ex-wife learns to appreciate her former partner over her new one and if someone appears to die in front of our hero, he will gain the necessary motivation to rescue them.
Just as the trailer told the viewer the need-to-know bones of the story, the first 10 minutes will show Johnson’s character, Ray, is an experienced Fire and Rescue pilot with a tragic loss behind him and a distanced family. But nothing brings the American family back together quite like a disaster, as evidenced by one of the final scenes of the movie.
Johnson’s stoic performance is so straightforward, it’s almost campy. His uncanny knowledge of where to find his daughter amidst the ruins of a leveled San Francisco is probably more unbelievable than the pseudoscience thrown down by Cal Tech professor Lawrence (Giamatti). For the most part, the women in “San Andreas” are meant to be rescued, although thankfully Ray’s daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) is somewhat of a scout of her own and can manage with some slight survival skills until her dad arrives.
Director Brad Peyton, who previously worked with Dwayne Johnson on “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” did his homework on the disaster movies of the ‘70s that included “Earthquake,” “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure.” Viewers can find small homages to each of these classics folded into “San Andreas.” Rather than follow a large ensemble cast across the chaos, Peyton personalizes the drama to make it much more about the American nuclear family.
“San Andreas” remains to be seen as little more than epic disaster porn. The story is second fiddle to the main show of chaos and disorder. Dwayne Johnson is the stand out star here, and not just because his face takes up most of the poster. He’s the living, breathing rugged survival fantasy that is a testament to self-sufficiency in times of crisis. Ray is an everyman superhero who isn’t fazed by the fact that the state of California is potentially floating off into the Pacific. That’s for the nerds to worry about.
“San Andreas” opens in theaters Friday, May 29.