The lack of acting and screenplay is hardly a bump in the road for this hyperventilating 3D quake-a-palooza.
When the big one hits, where will you be? Wherever you are, you had better hope Los Angeles emergency rescue chopper pilot Ray (Duane Johnson) is close by. He will tip his helicopter into a chasm the width of your refrigerator and pluck you out of a Hades of twisted steel and burning buildings faster than you can say Richter scale.
If his helicopter breaks down in mid-air he will land it safely with hardly a bruise, steal a pickup truck after taking the bad guy’s gun away with his bare hands and then switch to a speed boat and climb a tsunami to rescue you. Plus, he will find you in the wrecked remains of the entire city of San Francisco and hold his breath under water longer than Shelley Winters in “The Poseidon Adventure” to pull you to safety. Then he will bring you back from the dead through artificial respiration and save his formerly floundering marriage at the same time.
Sound too good to be true? If Bond did it, this flick can do it ten times better. That is because it has ten times the special effects of any Bond movie and not the slightest trace of significant plot to distract from them. After the first five minutes of the film the viewer pretty much knows what is going to happen. Nothing left to do but enjoy the spectacle of giant buildings falling into your lap, or Hoover Dam collapsing into a giant chasm of muddy water in the aisles as man’s folly comes home to roost. It is not nice to play games with Mother Nature.
This is what Cal Tech earthquake scientist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) has been telling people for years. But nobody listened. Well, they will listen now. Or, at least they would listen if they had cell phone service and an emergency generator. That is, until the tsunami comes to town and floods and knocks down the few buildings remaining after the Richter 9.6 big one hits.
By the way, is not the tsunami supposed to start at the site of the quake and radiate outwards? Why does it come into San Francisco bay from out in the ocean somewhere if the quake center is San Fran? No matter, the container ship swept in on the wall of water smashing through the Golden Bridge is well worth a little author’s license. Until you have been in a motor boat under a hail storm of twenty ton steel containers you have not lived. Thanks to the miracle of 3D, you are really there.
Unfortunately, by this point the viewer is getting pretty bored of the one-dimensional acting and the repetition of Super-Ray surviving everything short of a nuclear bomb. Also, the never ending explosions and crashes are starting to wear on the nerves. At a run time of a little under two hours, this movie is plenty long. Kudos to Paul Giamatti for sticking this one out. The wrap party at his house is the closest anyone in the film will come to an Oscar nomination.
In spite of the shortcomings, after seeing this flick in 3D you will never think about an earthquake the same way again. Be shaken, be very, very shaken.