Director: Brad Peyton
Writer: Carlton Cuse
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Will Yun Lee, Kylie Minogue, Colton Haynes
Seen on: 29.5.2015
Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is a rescue helicopter pilot, a father and most recently a divorcee. His ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) just moved in with Emma’s new boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffud) and anyway, Blake is about to move to college. But when the biggest earthquake in recent history hits the west coast, it becomes Ray’s only mission to save his family against all odds, even if said family is much less helpless than one might think.
[SPOILERS, at least if you can’t guess the plot from other movies of the same ilk]
On the surface San Andreas is pretty standard fare: as the world falls apart, the heroic dad saves his family and thus wins back his ex-wife (whose new boyfriend is an idiot anyway). And I wouldn’t blame anybody if they decided to leave it at that, throw their hands up in exasperation and maybe avoid the film altogether. But personally I thought that there was a little more to the film than appeared at first. Also, the special effects were really cool.
I don’t dispute the general patriarchal fantasy that informs the plot in San Andreas, of the father that heroically saves his family, literally and figuratively. But it isn’t quite as straightforward here as I’m used to it being, instead there are some rather interesting points here: for one, the relationship between Ray and Emma is always amicable. Emma is not a bitch to Ray who has to see the error of leaving him (or vice versa, which is much rarer), instead you can see that there is a lot of love between them and that divorce will sometimes even happen when you don’t hate each other and that communication after separation might not always be free of hurt feelings and disappointments, but it is possible.
With that set-up, it also becomes much more understandable that they’d end up together again, but before they can actually get to that, we get a scene where they confront the biggest reason for their separation together: the death of their other daughter and Ray’s inability to deal with those emotions. It is only when Ray admits to his grief and his pain and manages to share it with Emma – thus showing actual growth in and of their relationship – that things actually get romantic again between them. [Admittedly, though, the over- the-top assholish behaviour of the new boyfriend ruins that a little and wouldn’t actually have been necessary.]
Another thing that is not actually common in these kinds of stories is that neither Emma, nor Blake are simply damsels in distress waiting for their hero. Both have to fight to get to a place where Ray can pick them up, and they do a damn fine job of surviving competently on their own (in Emma’s case shorter, in Blake’s for pretty much all of the film and with two boys that she manages to save along with herself), without having to sacrifice their vulnerability for said competence.
There was enough there for a reading of the film that isn’t completely patriarchal, so that I could still enjoy myself. Although, admittedly, I always enjoy Dwayne Johnson, so that’s already a huge plus right there. Add cool special effects and you almost make up for wasting Archie Panjabi. (Almost.) I had fun.