Weekend Forecast for May 29-31, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
May 29, 2015
A month of May that showed a lot of promise and anticipation limps home, preparing to add two more disappointments to its roster. Hollywood would probably rather just hit the snooze button for a couple of weeks and wake us all up when the dinosaurs arrive.
After a resurgence of popularity in the late '90s and early '00s, the disaster movie craze burned itself out quite quickly, perhaps epitomized by The Perfect Storm, which ended up being a two hour slog of fishing just to see one gigantic wave. In retrospect, I don't know why we expected different from that, but such was the time we were living in. Of late, disaster movies have shifted to the idea of ridiculously large scale (2012), cable TV quality (Sharknado), or a mix of the two. This week's leading opener, San Andreas, seems to be aiming to hit a sweet spot between epic scale and intentional cheesiness, such that it's still taken seriously, but that's likely to prove a tall order.
One of the few disasters that didn't really get a big budget treatment during the '90s was an earthquake, which San Andreas makes up for in spades. Set in the brief period before (allowing us to establish character and give them all one particular trait that will be emphasized for pathos, humor or hubris later on) and the extended period after a west-coast megaquake, it's full on disaster porn that expands its scope beyond the west coast to all of North America. Dwayne Johnson plays a helicopter rescue pilot who's in the air when the earthquake happens, springing into action to save his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and his college-bound daughter (Alexandra Daddario) across the state. Cue toppling buildings and giant fissures in the Earth.
The problem with a lot of disaster movies is that nature makes for a poor antagonist, and two hours of rubble doesn't sound like a tremendous viewing experience. The flip side of that is that the villains often aren't much better, as in Volcano's evil businessmen, Twister's evil tornado scientists, Pompeii's scenery chewing Roman villains, and San Andreas' ...somewhat slimy businessman, played by Ioan Gruffudd. Basically, there's no real good way to do these movies, but Hollywood keeps trying, with varying levels of financial success. The presence of The Rock likely helps a lot with the box office compared to last year's Into The Storm, which came and went without a trace thanks to an anonymous cast and underwhelming trailers. San Andreas still has a little novelty to it, but it's really just the same as any other disaster flick out there. I'd look for a modest weekend of about $38 million.
In baseball, you can often talk about a hitter losing his bat speed, meaning that after some unspecified and random point, they're just unable to keep up with major league pitching anymore. There's not really an equivalent term for film directors, but whatever it might be, Cameron Crowe might just be the patron saint of it. His latest film, Aloha, hits theaters this weekend with minimal fanfare and abysmal reviews, coming on the heels of two successive financial failures.