As a resident of Los Angeles who visits San Francisco fairly regularly, I live in constant fear of being squished by an earthquake. And yet I also find movies in which earthquakes decimate Los Angeles, San Francisco, or even the whole world to be entirely engaging, even when the shaking is surrounded by a rote story or shallow characters. Which is what you get from San Andreas (Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD): a rather exciting disaster.
In San Andreas, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Furious 7) plays Ray Gaines, the pilot of a rescue helicopter in Los Angeles when “the big one” finally hits. So, naturally, he has to save the day, which includes trying to rescue his college-aged daughter, Blake (True Detective‘s Alexandra Daddario), and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Emma (Sin City‘s Carla Cugino), even though it means shirking his responsibilities in a time of need.
In many ways, San Andreas is a fairly typical and predicable disaster movie. Gee, you think Emma’s new boyfriend is going to do something stupid that drives her back into the arms of Ray? Or that Ray will pilot his chopper under a falling building? Or that, through a series of impossible coincidences, all will turn out okay for the main cast? If not, then you clearly need to watch more movies. Bad ones, preferably.
Which isn’t to say San Andreas is bad…well, not entirely. While there are some truly terrible moments — including one the cast of The Perfect Storm will find laughably silly — director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) get points for not trying to tug at our heartstrings by putting a dog in danger, and for not killing any stereotypical Californians in any ironic ways; y’know, like having a San Francisco tech worker crushed by an Apple billboard or some crap. But then he loses those points for giving Ray and Emma a paper thin back-story, by finding an equally thin excuse to have Daddario in a wet tank top, and by having an ending so cheeseball that I think it made me lactose intolerant. Or at least cheeseball intolerant.
But what San Andreas lacks in originality and character development, it more than makes up for with spectacular special effect and rollercoaster action. Granted, the disaster scenes aren’t as huge, or as over-the-top as the ones in 2012, which truly decimated my home town in a spectacular way. But when the movie gets going, and the ground gets shaking, it’s still a quite an impressive sight.
It also helps that the cast is rather likeable, especially Johnson and Cugino (though Straight Outta Compton‘s Paul Giamatti is wasted as a Cal Tech scientist). It’s nothing that will change your life, or even influence your decision to live on the West Coast, but for nearly two hours, it’s a pretty thrilling bit of big dumb fun.
Not surprisingly, the San Andreas Blu-rays and DVD are just as hit and miss. In terms of the film itself, it looks and sound great here, especially on Blu-ray, which really makes good use of your home theater’s surround sound capability. However, it also suffers from the same volume issue as so many movie Blu-rays and DVDs in that the difference between the loud and quiet moments is so pronounced that you have to watch this film with one finger on the volume button.
As for the 3D Blu-ray version of San Andreas, I can’t comment either way, since Warner Home Video only sent me the regular Blu-ray and I didn’t see the 3D version in theaters.
The San Andreas Blu-rays and DVD also has a fairly typical selection of extras. First up is a commentary by director Brad Peyton. Which is fine if you want a free film school class, but if you’re looking for something that’s as entertaining as the movie, you’ll wish that Johnson and Cugino had joined him in the commentary.
Next, there’s a nearly ten minute love-fest called “Dwayne Johnson To The Rescue,” during which we get to watch the cast and crew talk about how Johnson is just an all-around cool guy. Y’know, just in case you didn’t notice his immense likability while watching the movie.
There’s also “San Andreas: The Real Fault Line” which, despite what the title suggests, isn’t about the real San Andreas fault and how a real earthquake might impact California, but is instead how they shot those scenes of the movie.
The San Andreas Blu-rays and DVD also has a featurette on the movie’s music, which is a little weird given that the score didn’t strike me as being particularly effective or annoying; it was just kind of there. Well, except when it was too loud (as I mentioned earlier).
Speaking of music, the San Andreas Blu-rays and DVD also has footage of the stunt crew doing what they do, but it’s rendered unwatchable by a truly terrible soundtrack. Thankfully, they didn’t do the same to the gag reel, which shows the cast goofing around for a minute and a half and is thus as engaging as the gag reel on every other movie Blu-ray and DVD.
Lastly, the San Andreas Blu-rays and DVD has almost five minutes of deleted scenes, some of which are rather interesting, especially the one that shows Ray telling a coworker that he’s taking off to rescue his daughter and his coworker says nothing about how Ray is shirking his responsibilities. And basically stealing a rescue helicopter. Though what I do appreciate is that these cut bits come with optional commentary by Peyton. Which isn’t something I should appreciate, it’s something that should be de rigueur. But since many movie Blu-rays and DVD give no indication as to why the deleted scenes were cut, or from where in the movie, I appreciated that Peyton did commentary for these excised bits.
Ultimately, the San Andrea Blu-rays and DVD, like the movie itself, has some good parts and some bad, and while it’s not a keeper, it’s also not a tosser-in-anger-er. If you’d like to see Los Angeles and San Francisco get all shook up, this is a fun ride. Just don’t expect anything more.