Monday, June 1, 2015

SAN ANDREAS REVIEW [SPOILERS] - 8 DISASTER MOVIE CLICHES

Thankfully I have a contact high from seeing 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' because 'San Andreas' is just your run of the mill Hollywood disaster flick.  'San Andreas' is not a bad film. It's just not particularly good one. It's in the range of "fair to middling." The film does have a few bright spots, but most of the movie gets bogged down in disaster movie cliches. Seeing 'San Andreas' reminds me just how fantastic and smart 'Fury Road' was. It was a rare treat for an action film. Since I can't review 'Fury Road' again, I guess I should actually start talking about 'San Andreas.' *Sigh.
CLICHE NUMBER ONE
The Common Everyday Man is a Hero

Our fair film begins as most disaster films do with a "common everyday man" protagonist, Ray (Dwayne Johnson), who just happens to be medivac pilot. We see Ray in action with intrepid television reporter Serena (Archie Panjabi) who follows his every move. After the thrilling rescue of a young damsel in distress (she won't be the last one), Ray returns to his modest home, where he phones his college aged daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) or the "girl from the Percy Jackson movies" as my dad calls her. Daddario is a lovely young actress and I hope she lands bigger and better roles in the future.
CLICHE NUMBERS TWO AND THREE
The Broken Family and the Rich Boyfriend

This leads us to our second and third cliches..."the broken family" and the "new rich boyfriend." Ray has just received divorce papers from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and she's decided to move in with her new boyfriend Daniel (Iaon Gruffold). The wonderfully talented Gruffold really deserved a better role here. My guess is that he did this one for the paycheck.

The "broken family" in a disaster film is used time and time again, most recently in the disaster film '2012.' This cliche has previously appeared in 'Independence Day,' 'War of the Worlds,' 'Deep Impact,' 'Twister,' 'Outbreak,' 'Die Hard,' and 'The Abyss.' For some reason the "new rich boyfriend" is becoming a trend...and also appeared in both '2012' and 'War of the Worlds.' The rich boyfriend is occasionally noble and likable, as he was in '2012,' however, the rich boyfriend is always doomed! Doomed I say. I'll get to that later.
It should be noted that 'San Andreas' avoided some of the unnecessary family drama that comes along with the "broken family." Everyone in this broken family genuinely seems to like each other, which is a refreshing break from other disaster flicks in which the broken family is at each others throats. It should also be noted that 'San Andreas' added a little bit of depth to the "broken family" cliche as the reason the family broke is due to a terrible personal tragedy and not because of bad behavior on the part of the family members. It was also refreshing to see a father and daughter who genuinely cared and rooted for each other. There wasn't any of this "I hate you" angst.

CLICHE NUMBER FOUR
I told you so.

You gotta love the "I told you so" person in a disaster film. In 'San Andreas' that role belongs to good ole' Paul Giamatti who plays Lawrence, an unassuming Cal Tech professor and seismic scientist. Lawrence and his colleague and writing partner Dr. Park (Will Yun Lee) are studying earthquakes at Hoover Dam. It's here that the "fit hits the shan" and the Hoover Dam crumbles like a stale cupcake. I don't know if anyone has ever seen the Hoover Dam, but it's so massive and incredibly constructed, that it's very difficult to believe that the Hoover Dam would fall apart so easily. But alas, please temporarily dispel your disbelief for the next two hours. I consider myself to be an expert on this subject as I have watched the entire series of 'Life After People!' :)
CLICHE NUMBER FIVE
Rich Boyfriend is a Douche

Anywhoo, Ray is recalled and has to leave immediately. This means he can't drive his beloved daughter to college, but instead she has to rely on the "rich boyfriend" to take her. This brings us to our fifth cliche: "rich boyfriend is a douche." Needless to say the rich boyfriend is cool at first but when stuff gets real his douchiness is revealed. When the quake hits San Francisco poor Blake is stuck in a car in a parking garage and her mother's boyfriend ditches her and runs for the hills. To be fair he goes to get help and is almost killed in the process. Perhaps he ran away in a state of shock...but oh no...the writers want to make sure that you hate this man. So they show him throwing other people to their deaths to save himself. Subtle. Real subtle. Clearly Hollywood is filled to the brim with angsty struggling screenwriters who have been dumped for plastic surgeons. It's time to get a new cliche Hollywood.
CLICHE NUMBER SIX
A Handsome Stranger Will Save Your Life

After the douche boyfriend takes off, Blake's life is saved by two strangers she just met. One is of course a potential love interest, because what else should a young college girl think about when millions of people are dying? Thankfully Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) is joined by his adorable little brother Ollie (Art Parkinson), who gives the film a few moments of levity. Sweet boys that they are, they rescue Blake after briefly meeting her in the lobby of the building that her mother's boyfriend owned. They form a fast friendship and try to escape the mayhem of the city together.
CLICHE NUMBER SEVEN
The Wife Who Dumped the Loyal Husband Will Soon Regret it!

Meanwhile, another damsel in distress is awaiting rescue. Emma is having lunch with Daniel's mean sister, who is oddly enough played by Kylie Minogue? Who knew Kylie was acting these days. Poor Kylie has about three lines before the earthquake hits, but it's enough for her character to come off as unlikable, which makes it easier for us not to care that she soon dies. Thankfully Emma is on the phone with her soon to be ex-husband, you know the one who just happens to be a rescue pilot with a helicopter.
Emma tries to save other people, including the waitress who was nice to her, but to no avail. Emma is the only one who makes it out of that building alive because she goes to the roof to meet Ray who medivacs her out of there. Since California's buildings are built to earthquake standards, I highly doubt buildings would crumble that easily or quickly, but what do I know. This is a disaster flick after all. At some point the film felt like an earthquake preparedness infommercial. Blake appears to be a disaster expert because her father is a rescue pilot. Blake knows that they need to get to an electronics store to find a push button or rotary phone to connect it to a landline. She knows that an abandoned fire truck will have a supply kit they can use. She also helps her team get to a safe height when a massive tsunami hits. Typically tsunamis are caused by ocean-based earthquakes, but hey just go with it. The point is that I have no doubt that there will be a news story someday, "the 'San Andreas' movie saved my life! I didn't know what a landline was until I watched this film!"
CLICHE NUMBER EIGHT
The Family Gets Back Together

Now that Emma is safe, they both go after their daughter Blake. What follows is a series of unfortunate events that become more and more insane. The movie is almost over at this point and the disaster has led us to our eighth and final cliche: the disaster has brought this family back together again. Not only is the family happy reunited, but Blake gets a boyfriend, and Emma's boyfriend has been conveniently killed off.  What a wonderful life. The end. My question is why does it take a disaster to reunite a family? Why can't we have a fully united family struggling to survive? Why does there have to be an undercurrent of familial discord? It certainly didn't really add anything to the film.

I should say that the performances were solid. The Rock is always great in these types of roles. Daddario was equally wonderful and she has the most beautiful blue eyes. Another positive was the casting of Carla Gugino. Gugino doesn't get nearly enough work, despite being a fantastic actress. She's also an age appropriate lead. After the Maggie Gyllenhaal thing last week, it was great to see an action lead with an age appropriate wife. I say this not because May/December romances are necessarily bad, but because Hollywood relies on them too much. Last week it came to light that 37 year old Maggie Gyllenhaal was turned down for a role as the love interest to a 55 year old actor because she was...too old. Yeah, they went there. So there are a few things that 'San Andreas' gets right, but unfortunately it's just not enough.
TWO AND A HALF STARS.  

20 comments:

  1. Great review! I'm not a fan of disaster flicks and I think that your review is more enjoyable than going to watch the movie.

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    1. Hi, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed my lists! Yes, if you're not a fan of disaster flicks, then you won't like this movie. It's so over the top.

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  2. They really covered all the cliches, didn't they? That is nice to know the family isn't at each other's throats. I'll probably watch on NetFlix as I do get a kick out of disaster films.
    Like you, I wanted to review Fury Road again instead of the movie I did review today. I've seen it twice now and it's such an awesome film!

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    1. Hi Alex! yes, they really did cover the cliches. It was a popcorn flick. Something not to be taken seriously. I too like a fun disaster film! Yes Fury Road was soooo good, it's hard to review a film after seeing that one!

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  3. I LOVE how you reviewed this! Brilliant. LOL, the boyfriend being a douche is so cliche!!!

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    1. HI Fisti! Thank you! It's such a common cliche!

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    2. I really loved this movie. It doesn't pretend to be something it isn't.

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    3. Hi Thomas, thank you for your comment! It was an entertaining film at times. I just thought there were a lot of cliches. It's a popcorn movie, so I don't take those too seriously. However, 'Fury Road' has given me a new perspective. Popcorn movies can still be incredible. So that's why I'm a little tired of the same ole' same ole from the hollywood machine.

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  4. Funny thing about this film for me [not seeing it] is the score and the cliche music that was wonderful with the highs and lows of a film that looks like you have described. I read the taglines and didn't read the breakdowns as I might have to see this at some point. Score was typical and above to fit the ideas within the film, chippy song in the end... but for me this year, MAD MAX is winning along with 10's from film to score...

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    1. Oh Mad Max was just a 10 on so many levels. I completely agree with you! Yes, the score for San Andreas was nothing special.

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  5. This post is everything! I love how you layed it out. It looks pretty standard for sure.

    Side note: Rickon Stark is in this! Nice.

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    1. Thank you! Ha, yes yes it was. Oh my goodness you're right! That is Rickton Stark. Good for him!

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  6. Great points Ms Mariah. I haven't watched the movie but all the cliches make me feel like I've seen it. I'm still going because my bro the Rock is in it but I'm not expecting much.

    A lot of movie writers are divorcees that harbor fantasies of saving their ex-wife from their new husband. The guy looks amazing but they know he's really a jerk. That makes for a tired formula.

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    1. Hi Maurice!! Yes, I do have a soft spot for the Rock. That's why I went to see it too!

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  7. I am glad when smart people see the same movie I did.

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    1. Thanks! That's the best compliment I've had all day!

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  8. Nice review! I really want to see this just because it looks fun, but the cliches might be a little too much.

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    1. Hi Katy! It is definitely fun, but heavily cliched! It would be a fun rental.

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  9. Great review. I'm actually taking notes so I can write my own disaster movies. Just change a few names, search-and-replace "earthquake" with "hurricane" or "flying sharks" and I'm there.

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    1. Hi Nigel! Ha, I think you're movie sounds great!! I'd see it.

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