This weekend’s big release is the silly disaster movie San Andreas. While it might hit a bit too close to home for those of us living near the titular fault, it’s a fun, silly movie, but of course it’s loaded with death and destruction so I wanted to give parents the heads-up on what to expect before they take their kids.
1 .What’s it about? Earthquakes. Really, that’s about it. There’s something that pretends to be a story and some characters that sort-of a little bit get developed, but, honestly, if you’re looking for story and characters and good writing, walk into just about any other auditorium in the multiplex. If instead you just want to watch the destruction of every recognizable landmark and building in Los Angeles and San Francisco, from the Hollywood sign to the Golden Gate Bridge, then see this one.
2. Who is in it? Like most good disaster films, San Andreas features an all-star cast. The lead role is played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s joined by Carla Gugino as his estranged wife, Alexandra Daddario as their daughter who is heading off to college, Ioan Gruffudd as Gugino’s new and impossibly rich boyfriend, Paul Giamatti as the scientist who is in the movie to explain things to the audience, and Archie Panjabi as a reporter who mostly exists in the film to provide a someone for Giamatti’s character to spout off to.
3. What’s it rated and why? The MPAA gave San Andreas a PG-13 rating for “intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language.”
It’s a disaster movie, so the “intense disaster action” should be obvious. Again, that’s kind of the entire point of the movie. As for the language, a character calls another character an impolite name once, and there’s one utterance of the “f” word, but that’s it.
There is a lot of death, obviously, but most of it is more implied than shown. This is a tiny bit spoilery, but there are only two characters who are given names that die. Otherwise, it’s just the nameless, faceless masses getting blown away. But there are literally hundreds of people shown falling off collapsing dams and tumbling buildings and falling bridges. Lots of people get swept away by debris clouds and tidal waves. And there’s more than one scene when people get crushed by really huge blocks of falling concrete.
Aside from some scratches, there’s only one moment that’s at all bloody, when a character removes a shard of glass from another character’s leg. The scene is brief, though.
There is a scene of looting where you can hear, but not see, shots being fired in the background, and a character briefly has a gun held to his head.
4. Will I like it? This is the kind of thing that will be liked by people who like this kind of thing. I did enjoy it, honestly, more than I thought I would. It’s absolutely a paint-by-numbers disaster film. In fact, it often seemed like they kept a checklist of disaster movie clichés nearby as they made the movie to ensure that they didn’t leave any out.
Are you a fan of The Towering Inferno? Did you like 2012? Or Armageddon? Twister? If yes, then you’ll probably enjoy this movie. If, however, you’re more inclined to nit-pick little details like the fact that tsunamis triggered by earthquakes radiate away from the epicenter, not towards it, then you’re going to spend this entire movie worrying about its incredibly implausible plot devices and will most likely end up wanting those two hours of your life back.
Oh, and if you answered “yes” to the question about The Towering Inferno above, then keep your eyes out for the little visual tribute to that disaster film classic.
5. Will the kids like it? Older teens probably will because it’s a fun action film, but despite the PG-13 rating I’d hesitate to take younger kids. The death toll in this movie is in the many, many hundreds, and that’s only counting the numbers that you see on screen. They never give you a chance to connect to anyone who dies (although to be fair, I didn’t feel like the movie was really about connecting with any of the characters), but it still might be upsetting to some. One of the reasons why disaster movies work is that they show our inability to control nature, and that’s a concept that younger kids might have problems with.
6. When’s a good time to run to the restroom? There are actually quite a few moments in the middle of the film where things slow down and give you a chance to run out if you need to. Pretty much any time Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino are on screen together, you can count on at least several minutes of them just talking. It’s an attempt to set up their characters, but nothing earth-shattering is ever covered and you’ll be able to infer what you missed pretty easily. Once they arrive in San Francisco, though, the movie really doesn’t slow down again, and this is when most of the really great effects happen, so you’ll want to make sure you go before then.
7. Is it worth seeing in 3D? I saw the movie in 2D, but there were a lot of pretty obvious scenes that were designed for 3D. I suspect that the destruction scenes might have been even more impressive in 3D, so if that’s really your thing then it probably is worth it.
8. Is there anything after the credits? No. The movie takes itself too seriously to add any little jokes in at the end, and everything that needs resolving gets resolved. Plus, this isn’t exactly the kind of movie the studio can expect to turn into a franchise, so there’s no extra bit to set up the next movie. (Although, to be fair, I would have said the same thing about Olympus Has Fallen, and it turns out I was wrong about that. Who knows? If this movie makes enough money, maybe we will see San Andreas 2: New Madrid in a few years.)