The best and worst things happened before the movie started. The best: Jeri Jacquin, the Movie Maven, saw me clumsily putting my 3D glasses over my regular glasses. She gave me a pair of 3D clip-ons. I had no clue such a thing existed, and I thank her immensely.
The worst: hearing a baby starting to cry. And it happened a few times during the movie, because…parents just aren’t aware that once buildings topple over and helicopters fly in for rescues, babies won’t sleep through such noise.
If you shut off your brain and just want a popcorn action flick, you can have fun with this disaster porn.
The movie borrows a bit from the 1974 film Earthquake (not just because they deal with earthquakes, but also divorces and a few other plot points). You don’t come to a movie like this for originality. You don’t mind that it’s predictable. Yet there are many things that do bother you (at least, they bothered me). We’ll get to those in a bit.
The movie stars “actor” Dwayne Johnson, who used to be “The Rock,” and perhaps should’ve gone back to that name for the film. Dude is built like a rocky mountain. And his opening rescue is an amazing five minutes of exhilaration. His helicopter is trying to get down a mountain to rescue a teenager in a car that’s half way down the cliff.
The four screenwriters play fast and loose with the facts regarding earthquakes. There’s one point where an earthquake expert (Paul Giamatti) talks about it being so big on the west coast, you’d feel it on the east coast. I seriously doubt that (but am too lazy to research it). I’m also not sure if all the earthquakes would strike California at the same time, despite the fault lines. I’m pretty sure the tsunami they worked in wouldn’t have happened like that, but boy is it fun watching Johnson try to make it over that huge wave. In this movie, he flew airplanes, helicopters, boats…everything but a Segway.
I don’t mind going with the fictional plot device that has Giamatti coming up with a device that can predict earthquakes; just as I didn’t mind Matthew McConaughey ending up in his kids closet after being sucked through a black hole in Interstellar (Oh. Spoiler Alert if you haven’t seen Interstellar).
The visuals in this movie are amazing. Credit goes to cinematographer Steve Yedlin and VFX supervisor Colin Strause. There wasn’t a single moment where anything looked fake, and there was a lot of destruction going on. What was “fake” was the dialogue. The four screenwriters couldn’t seem to come up with anything that seemed remotely normal or not clichéd. That doesn’t mean there weren’t a few laughs. How can you not smile when Johnson parachutes into the Giants Stadium, after convincing his ex-wife to jump out of the plane with him…and to say while landing, “This is the first I’ve gotten to second base with you in a long time.”
Yet for each line you can credit, there are five horrible ones. One of those being the scene where Johnson finds out his wife is moving in with a new man. It’s so bad you cringe.
Here’s a big hurdle that I couldn’t get over with this film. I was well aware that we lost 3,000 people when the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. Well, if every skyscraper and building in California is crumbling from this earthquake, whether Johnson and his wife (Carla Gugino) get back together and find their daughter (Alexandra Daddario), is the least of my worries. I’m wondering about the 100,000 people that have already died, and hundreds of thousands more that are waiting to be rescued. All this, while he “took” an LAFD helicopter he was supposed to use to rescue people, and instead went to find his wife and kid. But hey…they told us earlier he had 300 rescues so…perhaps he earned that right.
I won’t even go into all the plot holes, which are as big as the opening fault lines. The one I’ll mention is the first noticeable one. It’s the fact that the daughter has her legs crushed in a parking garage. Yet when she’s rescued by a guy she flirted with earlier…she’s able to walk and run for the rest of the movie. As someone that’s broken bones before, I can safely tell you…running a few minutes later won’t work. I guess it wouldn’t work to have the cute girl being wheeled around by her new love interest (who later in the film has a huge shard of glass in his leg, but can continue to get around just swimmingly).
You wonder why the daughter, who has obviously been well-trained by her dad in rescue efforts, doesn’t seem to lend a hand to anybody around her. Oh, and her new boyfriend (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), has a younger brother tagging along (Art Parkinson). He was cute in the first meet/cute moment, but grows annoying as the movie goes on.
Again, the visuals are a lot of fun. The Hoover Dam scenes are incredible. You just have to shut the logic part of your brain off, and go for the disaster. Oh, and not care about human lives dying all around. Just watch the Rock lift rocks off people, save lives, and do everything but pull the moving fault lines back together with his bare hands.
It gets 2 stars out of 5, but if you’re buying a ticket to see a movie about an earthquake, I’m sure you won’t be as disappointed as I was.