When director Brad Peyton pitched Dwayne Johnson on “San Andreas,” a relentless thrill ride that brings the Big One to the big screen for the first time in 40 years, he promised to redefine the disaster genre.
“I want to create shots that truly immerse the audience inside the earthquake, inside the tsunami,” Peyton told the action superstar. “And also I need to immerse you.”
From the tranquillity of the Bel-Air Hotel last week, Peyton described his vision this way: “Just like the event, I’m not letting you out, I’m not letting you off the hook. There’s no ‘Cut!’ coming.”
“San Andreas,” which opens in 2-D, 3-D and even the so-called 4-D on May 29, proves Peyton is as good as his word. The $110-million film follows a search-and-rescue pilot (Johnson) as he and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) rescue their stranded daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario, after a massive earthquake hits California. Paul Giamatti plays the Caltech seismologist who predicts it.
“San Andreas” joins a growing revival of the disaster genre that was all but abandoned in the years after the Twin Towers fell in 2001. Only now real-life catastrophes are so commonplace that it’s not surprising when a flu pandemic coincides with the release of 2011’s “Contagion” or a tsunami hits Japan just months after audiences watch one depicted in 2010’s “The Hereafter.” Perhaps the success of films from “Gravity” and “Godzilla” to “Noah” and even “This Is the End” has more to do with our need for catharsis than we thought.
“Movies become this metaphoric way of working out your own fears,” said “San Andreas” screenwriter Carlton Cuse, who was also head writer of TV’s “Lost.” “We want to go through that hell and come out the other side and see the lessons that are learned.”