The San Andreas fault stretches 810 miles up the Pacific coast, roughly the length of a dozen Dwayne "The Rock" Johnsons lying end to end. When it rumbles, we'll need all twelve of him to spring into action -- although, as Brad Peyton's San Andreas warns, that still won't be enough to save the day. Disaster films offer the thrill of an impossible enemy. There's no hope of a hero who can stop the shaking and snuff the fires, not even the 260-pound Johnson, who here rips off a car door with his bare hands.
Johnson plays a first responder named Ray, a divorcing father of two who lost one of his daughters to a rafting accident, and his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) to his inability to open up about that pain. His surviving child, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), is leaving Los Angeles for college, and Ray is unmanned to hand her over to British architect Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd), Blake's stepdad-to-be, whose private plane will fly her to visit her new skyscraper in San Francisco. What could go wrong?
Everything, of course. San Andreas can't wait for the carnage. The problem is, it's too chicken to ask us to comprehend it. It's all big, distant, unfathomable wreckage -- all shattering skyscrapers and rippling cityscapes — with no sense of the human cost. Unlike Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, a movie with the courage to ask if selfishness in a disaster could ever be morally excused, Peyton's film isn't trying to make us think. Instead, it takes for granted that Ray's concerns are our concerns. But when 8 million people could be dead, who cares about this guy's divorce?