Review: 'San Andreas' a relentless roller-coaster ride

By Fred Hawson

Posted at May 28 2015 02:45 PM | Updated as of May 28 2015 10:48 PM

Because watching at the 4DX Theater of Bonifacio High Street costs twice the price of a usual movie, we need to decide well which films will be best seen in such an all-involving manner beyond sight and sound. The first film we decided to watch there was "Into the Storm" (2014), which was about the violent effects of a monster tornado in the American Midwest.

For my second time to watch there, it is yet another disaster movie -- this time about a massive earthquake. I guess in my book, a disaster movie would be one genre of film that would work very well in 4DX, and certainly this time I was not wrong.

At the risk of betraying my age, I recall in my childhood that there was a famous film entitled "Earthquake" (1974), which was a big deal back then because it was shown in theaters with a special soundtrack effect called "Sensurround." My vague recollections of that movie experience was that very loud and heavy bass sound effects made audiences feel like they were shaking along with the action on the screen. Of course, with one disaster film released after another over the years, audiences would expect the new one to supersede the previous one in terms of special effects of mass destructiveness.

"San Andreas" definitely does not disappoint in that aspect.

Professor Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) and his team at CalTech had perfected a method of predicting earthquakes. Just when they were testing their system at the Hoover Dam, a very strong earthquake strikes. However, their equipment shows that that Nevada earthquake was just the precursor of a bigger, more destructive as their indicators light up the whole San Andreas fault line from Los Angeles all the way to San Francisco!

Meanwhile, we meet Fire and Rescue chief Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) had to rescue his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) trapped somewhere in LA, and then rush off by all (and I mean all -- land, sea and air) means of transportation possible to rescue their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) trapped somewhere in San Francisco with her two new British friends who helped her, the charming architect Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his smart-alecky younger brother Ollie (Art Parkinson).

Will Ray reach Blake in time to rescue her, or will he be reliving the ghosts of a past tragedy from which he had never really moved on?

We all know that story is not really the big selling point of a film like this. We can all somehow predict how the family drama would go in the end, don't we? We know that Ray Gaines, being "The Rock" that he is, would be a super-dad who just happened to know how to do EVERYTHING.

It was so good that Johnson nailed both action and dramatic scenes with aplomb and sincerity. He provides both muscle and heart to this film. We know we will be seeing lucky characters, narrow escapes, coincidental encounters, close calls, last-minute saves, and yes, these incredible scenes are there aplenty. Cheesy romantic scenes? It has those too. No, we do not really watch films like this for the story.

People who watch this film are there to watch the best special effects used to recreate the most realistic disasters. "San Andreas" spared nothing in its span and scale of disaster. You may have seen the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed in other films, but I bet you've never seen it destroyed this way before.

Watching this in 3D+4DX is worth the extra ticket price because this really brings us more into the midst of the massive earthquake. Our seats are shaking with the quake, as well as the motors of the cars, planes, copters or boats we see on screen, with the wind blowing around us. It is literally breathtaking as we are taken on a relentless roller-coaster ride, with adrenaline on a constant high.

While this film fully captures the terrifying power and fearsome wrath of a widespread magnitude 9.6 earthquake, with our hero Ray and his family to root for, this film also becomes quite entertaining to watch as well. Director Brad Peyton was able to strike that perfect balance to keep us at the edge of our seats with the sense of imminent (and potentially real) danger, and yet still have an exhilarating fun time. You may also pick up some vital quake survival tips along the way. 7/10. With the 3D+4DX, 8/10.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."