**/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras B
starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti
screenplay by Carlton Cuse
directed by Brad Peyton
by Bryant Frazer Back in the 1970s, Hollywood thrillers broke a sweat trying to depict a single terrible event--just one burning building, overturned luxury liner, or airship disaster. These days, the imagery has gotten a lot more freewheeling. Armed with powerful computer algorithms that generate cartoonish eruptions of earth, fire, wind, and water, today's VFX supervisors have a mandate to make bad things happen on screen--all of the bad things, preferably at the same time. In San Andreas, the terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day includes a disintegrating Hoover Dam and a container ship that cartwheels end-over-end into the Golden Gate Bridge. Skyscrapers collapse in on themselves, generating 9/11 flashback clouds of dust and debris that blast through city streets. A tsunami and its attendant flooding sends murky water pulsing through the floors of submerged high-rises, trapping helpless victims inside like goldfish behind glass. It would all be a little hard to take if the visual effects were more convincing (they're cartoonish) or the action scenes at all naturalistic (ditto), but director Brad Peyton isn't especially ambitious. His operative aesthetic is purely Theme Park.