Saturday, July 16, 2016


While I was watching I had to pause and text my son Thor who was upstairs in his room catching Pokemon or something. "SO MUCH AWESOME!" He was not induced to join me. His loss.

I am, of course, talking about the masterpiece that is "San Andreas". I don't usually seek out disaster movies but it was on HBO so I recorded it.


It stars Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) and Carla Gugino. They play a divorcing couple who have two daughters. One daughter died because he couldn't save her even though he's a war vet and a helicopter rescue pilot. This is what led to their separation: guilt and lack of one good conversation about it.

Carla's character's career is not mentioned so I assume she doesn't have one. Her character is solely defined by the fact that she's divorcing one man and moving in with another (Ioan Gruffudd) and that she has two children. See? It's an ACTION movie. Who cares if the females are well-rounded?!

Alexandra Daddario plays the surviving, now adult, daughter. She's headed back to college. Dad can't take her because of a disaster rescue he needs to work on so Mom's boyfriend says he'll take her in his private plane as long as they can stop off in San Francisco first. She will demonstrate mad survival skills because her dad taught them to her. Will he be able to save his daughter this time?

Now before we even get to any of this we start with a young woman, driving her car in the hills of the Los Angeles area. She's on a twisty two-lane road with oncoming traffic. She reaches to the backseat for something, taking her eyes off the road and you brace yourself for the obvious head-on collision about to happen. Then she looks back to the road and nothing happens.

Then her cell phone beeps with a text message. She grabs her phone and looks at the text. Oh no, you think, NOW she will have the head-on! Nope! She continues driving and then little rocks start hitting her car: IT'S A ROCKSLIDE!! This is what causes her to lose control and spin out over the canyon below where she is trapped.

Helicopter pilot Rock and crew to the rescue!

Meanwhile, at Cal Tech, Paul Giamatti is getting word that earthquake monitors are suggesting an upcoming event in Nevada so he and a colleague head there.

A word, first, about the state of Nevada: It is pronounced Nuh-VAD-uh (VAD rhymes with BAD), NOT nuh-vah-duh (vah rhymes with la). EVERYONE in this film says it wrong even though they are all Californians and should know better. This is a pet peeve of mine and people's pronunciation of Nevada was recently made fun of in an episode of the most recent season of "Veep".

  • While at the Hoover Dam a huge earthquake strikes and the dam comes tumbling down. 
  • This leads to a major earthquake in Los Angeles.
  • Because it is a San Andreas thing it then leads to an even bigger one in San Francisco.
  • And then another, even bigger one in San Francisco. 
  • And then a tsunami as the cherry to the Californian destruction sundae.


So yes, this is a TERRIBLE, AWESOME movie. NONE of it makes sense.

At one point the Paul Giamatti character tells the people of San Francisco to evacuate. Now I live about 40 miles north of San Francisco. If a 9.5 magnitude quake hits it isn't just going to destroy S.F.! The whole Bay Area --- and then some --- will be destroyed.

During the 1906 earthquake the town of Santa Rosa, 60 miles north of S.F., was destroyed too. In the Loma Prieta quake of 1989 there was major damage in S.F. but it was Santa Cruz, about 80 miles south, that was devastated.

My point: THERE IS NOWHERE TO EVACUATE TO! Unless you can get over the Sierra Nevada (still pronounced Nuh-VAD-uh) which is about 4 hours away from San Francisco and the Bay Area, assuming there's no traffic.

Of course, that's not why we watch this kind of film. We watch to see things we recognize get destroyed. What is the psychology behind this, I wonder? It's not like terrible things aren't happening almost every day in this world.

But back to the movie. A major earthquake on the San Andreas fault would not cause a tsunami to head INTO the bay. It would head out into the Pacific Ocean and destroy things thousands of miles away.

San Francisco turns into kind of an island thanks to the tsunami. Because why not?

At one point in the movie Dwayne and Carla are headed from L.A. to S.F. to rescue Alexandra and they need to crash land in Bakersfield. Which is nowhere near the path between L.A. and S.F., most certainly NOT as the helicopter flies.

This film ignores everything that isn't "Los Angeles" or "San Francisco". It is sort of a live-action cartoon since it is mostly CGI. And all the main characters survive except Carla's new boyfriend. Of course the parents get back together! Of course Dwayne saves his daughter! Otherwise there couldn't be a sequel!

Many of the "great" disaster films aren't really very good but they are so suspenseful and chock full of action that you almost can't turn them off once you start watching. In the 1970s there was a heyday of disaster films: "Earthquake", "The Towering Inferno", "Airport", "The Poseidon Adventure", "Jaws", "Planet of the Apes" (actually late 60s but the sequels were all in the 70s) and so many more.

What are everyone's favorites? I especially like "Titanic", "Jaws" and "The Poseidon Adventure". "Earthquake" is so terrible it's great, just like "San Andreas"! I guess even "The Greatest Show on Earth" is a train disaster movie. Also terrible and simultaneously great!

Check out the list on Wikipedia: Disaster Films. There are SO MANY.


1 comment:

  1. The Towering Inferno lost a little bit due to the events of 9/11 and why I love the Planet of the Apes, I do not consider it to be a disaster movie (more post-disaster). Jaws is the clear winner in quality, but for pure cheese, The Poseidon Adventure.