First Hit: Some of the visual effects were awesome even if improbable, the rest was mediocre.
To be frank, the storyline was extremely implausible. As pointed out by the experts, the San Andreas fault would not create the type of crevasses as depicted in this film. Neither would the tsunami that picks up a large cruise ship and tosses it against, and breaks, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Despite the unreal depictions, the way they were presented was fun in 3-D. I loved the rolling ground during the earthquake. However the helicopter scenes where they fly between the falling buildings of LA were not believable.
As for the characters, they were subsets to the whole film. Although Ray (Dwayne Johnson) with his huge physic did what he could, he and the rest of the characters couldn’t compete with the visual graphics. I was also highly suspect of Ray’s ability to fly the helicopter and borrowed airplane, with his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) from LA to SF during this type of catastrophe to save their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario).
Johnson did his best to be as big and dynamic as the visual effects of the earthquakes. It just wasn’t a possible task. Paul Giamatti (Lawrence) as the scientist who figures out how to predict the huge quake came off as odd. At one point he seems unhinged and at other times clearly in-charge. Gugino as Johnson’s wife was good, but competing with the effects was just not possible. The best acting was done by Daddario because many of her scenes are more human oriented and not based solely against special effects. She showed both vulnerability and strength that worked with the two English boys she was helping. Carlton Cuse wrote an unbelievable screen play which was not based on actual science. Brad Payton did a wonderful job of putting in lots of effects, but as far as directing a believable film – it didn’t work.
Overall: Go to watch the effects, just don’t expect much in the way of realism from the story or actors.