Every bit as stupid as you’d expect; every bit as entertaining as you’d hope. On its surface, this is a rollicking adventure with some bite and a bit of emotional satisfaction. I’ll go below the surface later.
Dwayne Johnson (Furious 7) and Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson) drive this absurd disaster film, that is very much in the vein of Earthquake and its sibs, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Big disasters, focused relationships, crazy big bad things going on.
In smaller roles Ioan Gruffudd (Forever), Archie Panjabi (I Origins), and Paul Giamatti (Love & Mercy) add in some emotional obviousness and expository filler, respectively. Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine) and Kylie Minogue get to have a bit of fun as well, and I do mean “bit.” Back to the Earthquake/70’s disaster reference, these were really just diverting and extended cameos with one direct reference to Towering Inferno, if you’re paying attention.
If you don’t look too closely, you can enjoy this roller-coaster and all of its raucous f/x. Feel free to subtitle or discuss it as it is going on; the film lends itself to snarky comments throughout.
So, now going below the surface… there is a darker side to this film, and I don’t mean the manifested visualization of “the big one” hitting the Left Coast. By the way, what is depicted isn’t really the big one. The true big one will more likely be in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, but let’s not quibble over lives, and few folks outside of the Pacific NW know of the zone while everyone knows the San Andreas Fault.
If you look at this movie with open eyes, what you’ll see is an experienced rescue worker who steals emergency vehicles and leaves untold numbers of people to die in order to save his own family. It is called desertion and dereliction of duty (he is ex-armed forces in this film). While Gruffudd may seem to be the ugliest of people in this film, with an unjaundiced eye Johnson is the true and abiding villain. Now that isn’t the intent, nor is it at all any aspect of the story, but really that is what is going on, and we cheer it.
Like I said, don’t look too closely, just enjoy the ride.