Audiences keen on quake movie, but critics unmoved

Audiences keen on quake movie, but critics unmoved
VISUAL TREAT: The movie San Andreas depicts a massive quake destroying San Francisco, including landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge.

LOS ANGELES - California's long-feared mega quake hits movie screens this week with San Andreas, but the big-budget movie has thrown up a fault-line between critics and filmgoers even before its release.

The movie, which stars Dwayne Johnson, has only a 41 per cent critics' rating on the Rotten Tomatoes film review website - but 96 per cent of cinemagoers say they want to see it.

All eyes will be watching whether the flick, with its US$100 million (S$135 million) budget, can shake the box office after a lacklustre week or two at the start of the traditional summer blockbuster season.

The movie - whose title refers to the San Andreas fault, the geological rift feared mostly likely to produce a mega quake in California - depicts San Francisco in ruins.

But those behind the film say they hope it moves beyond the traditional disaster movie by bringing emotion and personal stories to the screen.

"It is an opportunity to redefine the genre," Johnson said ahead of the film's US release today.

"This is a fantastic epic... it raises the bar of the disaster movie. Generally when you watch this kind of movie, you remember the action, the hero, how cool they were. In this one, we'd like you to remember the characters."

Johnson, whose past action credits include the Fast And Furious franchise, plays rescue helicopter pilot Ray, whose wife, Emma (played by Carla Gugino), recently left him for a rich architect.

When a massive quake hits Los Angeles and a seismologist predicts another imminent and even bigger one in San Francisco, the pair are forced to set aside their differences to rescue their only daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario).

Although the film is visually spectacular - making full use of the latest computer generated imagery effects - some critics have not been kind.

"California crumbles spectacularly in an action movie that quickly degenerates from blissfully stupid to fatally stupid," wrote industry journal Variety's Andrew Barker.

Added the Hollywood Reporter's Justin Lowe: "Not exactly earthshaking."

Some were more positive, although barely.

"Does for San Francisco what Jaws did for the ocean," said Kam Williams of Baret News.

But whatever the critics say, the movie is hoping to do big business at the box office.

Variety reported on Wednesday that the Warner Bros movie was on course to make US$40 million domestically in its opening weekend, while also rolling out across some 60 countries worldwide. It opened in Singapore yesterday.

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