EXPECTATIONS: A campy disaster movie with a likable Dwayne Johnson hilariously dealing with impossible situations to save people from an earthquake.
REVIEW: Twister, Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, Armageddon and so on. These movies all have great spectacle but none of them are legitimately good in terms of film-making. But they can be undeniably entertaining due to how they handle their spectacular disaster scenes and their handling of tone. But generally, there are two ways to approach a disaster movie. You can treat the film as a campy entertaining experience OR you can treat the film as a substantial piece of film-making. Now I know what you’re thinking, is there such thing as a disaster film that is well-liked by audiences as well as critics? Of course there are. TWO examples that spring quickly to mind is a little independent film called Titanic and a small low-budget film in Korea called The Host. Those two films had wonderful characters/character development, fantastic spectacle, great storytelling as well they even toy with audience expectations, so a disaster film of this calibre is possible. But a disaster movie with The Rock saving people? This should be part of the campy side and guaranteed better than previous disaster films mainly due to the presence of The Rock. He’s charismatic and likable in most of his movies, even his crappy ones (like The Game Plan or The Tooth Fairy) and if this movie were more daring and campy, they should’ve came up with The Rock causing the earthquake in the first place. Not from his huge size, mind you, but yeah, laying the smack-down on the ground hard. But does this film entertain? Unfortunately, this film lands with a thud.
This is going to be the shortest plot synopsis I’ve written so far. The San Andreas fault is splitting apart and city destruction ensues, with Ray Gaines (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a rescue pilot doing whatever he can to rescue his family of pending ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and estranged daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario). That’s pretty much it. Other characters are extraneous and/or stereotypical of the genre. We have the scumbag (Ioan Gruffudd), we have the prophet (Paul Giamatti), we have the youngster/comic relief (Art Parkinson) and we have the saint rescuer (Colton Haynes).
First things first, the disaster scenes. For the most part, the CGI looks great and there are sequences that can leave you in awe. But the problem is that they all start to look similar and can tire people out before the film reaches its climax. There’s nothing that makes it stand out from other disaster films. Even the scene when the characters are on the boat and are on the giant wave fells anti-climactic due to the nil effect of the wave and what happens on-wards is too reminiscent of The A-Team (2009). There are some scenes where the green screen is very noticeable (a scene where the characters explore the ruins on their boat is a prime example) and the CGI is quite sloppy (the intro sequence).
So if the disaster scenes don’t really stand out in the long run, maybe the characters/actors will. But as usual for the disaster film, the characters are stuck in a rut. Not even one ounce of charisma from Dwayne Johnson is present in this movie. There are some remarks here and there that add to the camp factor, but he’s just a dull presence in this film. Almost everyone in this film cannot bring any life to their characters, except for Paul Giamatti, and that’s just because he’s Paul Giamatti, professional as usual. But even the dialogue he’s given is laughable. There are scenes that are laughable in the campy/cheesy way like the intro sequence, the fate of Ioan Gruffudd’s character, the way certain characters are foreshadowed (i.e the scumbag) but there aren’t enough moments to make it campy fun. The movie tries to sell the characters with backstory and drama but it never feels earned, especially when you realize that Dwayne Johnson’s character is a rescue pilot not doing his job.
The film can’t decide whether to be a campy experience of a serious drama and its attempts at both are mediocre and middling at best. This review is short from lack of effort but if the film is the same way, when in Rome…
P.S – If the film title was called “Rock Bottom”, it could’ve made more money.
People who want destruction are going to get it
The cast aren’t given anything to do (even Dwayne Johnson is robbed of his charisma)
Some of the CGI/green screen is surprisingly sloppy
Doesn’t decide whether to be campy or serious
Suffers from repetition
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Kylie Minogue, Will Yun Lee
Director: Brad Peyton
Screenwriter: Carlton Cuse