Seems the end of the world happens multiple times annually these days. Superhero movies, Seth Rogen and/or Steve Carrell comedies, zombie apocalypse–it’s a pretty frequent occurrence at the local multiplex in the 21st century. Now, I’m going to sound like an old man here (50 hasn’t arrived yet for me), but I can remember a time when this wasn’t the case. For instance, this “San Andreas” flick that opens this weekend, starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, and Oscar nominee (“Cinderella Man”) Paul Giamatti. It has a prime spot “summer” weekend opening, a sizable budget, and will be shown in 2D and 3D. It rips apart San Francisco rather convincingly in the trailers, and I guess it’s going to rake in some big dollars by Monday morning. However, I pine for a simpler time.
I was but nine-years-old when 1974’s “Earthquake” arrived in theaters just before Thanksgiving. The big draw wasn’t 3D back then, but a process called “Sensurround”, that shook the theater seats with its enormous pulsating speakers. My grandmother took me to a showing, at a now demolished theater in the Journal Square area of Jersey City, and I’ll never forget my reaction to that noise. I cried. In fact, it took me a good portion of the film’s running time to grow accustomed to the enhanced sound effect. I adapted though, and later attended other “Sensurround” special releases like 1976’s “Midway” and 1977’s “Rollercoaster”. It was a neat little gimmick that wore out its welcome fast–especially after it caused cracked plaster and structural damage in some of the auditoriums where the process was used.
Here’s my point though. The destruction of a city, or a country, or the world, was an event in those days. Releases like “Earthquake” had all-star casts, featuring Hollywood titans like Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and Lorne Greene. In 1974, they destroyed Los Angeles with high prestige class. No disrespect to the hard-working actors, but the “San Andreas” headliners are a former pro wrestler and a fortysomething ex-model. In other words…this stuff has become achingly routine. Is “San Andreas” any good? I don’t know for certain, but my forecast is doubtful. Again, not that I consider it the height of cinematic achievement, but 1974’s “Earthquake” grabbed TWO Oscars for its sound and visual effects. It was an awful film, with some impressive old school practical action. “San Andreas”? Just one more feature, amongst an ever-increasing, mediocre, CGI pack.