San Andreas for a Californian

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By Nathan Lichtman

Our homes demolished. Our roads condemned. Our offices collapsed. Our neighborhoods flooded. Our memories destroyed. Everything we know and love gone! Does this sound like our worst fears of urban collapse and natural disaster? Nope, it’s a new action movie starring Dwayne ‘Don’t Call Me The Rock Anymore’ Johnson.

I recently saw the trailer for the film San Andreas before getting to see Jupiter Ascending (perhaps an article about the Wachowski siblings’ post-pinnacle movies to come). I think a flick of this nature spells box office hit for most of the country, but trauma for us.

We, here in California, know what it’s like to go through a bad earthquake. In 1994, I was living within about 3 miles of the infamous Northridge Quake. My house suffered a lot of damage and much of my family’s stuff was damaged or jumbled. It certainly was scary, especially to a kid.

In films like Avengers, Man of Steel, or even 2012, we can generally stomach the idea of our cities getting destroyed, because we (generally) know it’s fiction. But the San Andreas Fault Line is no comic book. The fault is roughly 810 miles long, and meanders its way through the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego areas. The LA Times predicts that an 8.1 Richter scale earthquake, from this fault, would cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in damages. By comparison, the 1994 earthquake that killed 57 people, injured more than 5,000, and damaged countless homes and buildings—that one was a 6.7 magnitude.

So, is the upcoming mega-film San Andreas a documentary about the concern of such a dangerous fault line? Is it a drama about the loss we’d experience, with a realistic storyline about the suffering people would face? Nope. The film is set to focus on Johnson as an off-duty rescue helicopter pilot, looking across the destroyed Southern California area for his estranged daughter. It’s going to utilize the best in special effects and graphic imagery to traumatize us, and then stick us right into a plot from a (probably bad) daytime soap opera.

I saw the 1974 film Earthquake, and it was a bit scary. But, firstly, it focused on the realistic aftermath of such an event, and what might be done to save people. And, secondly, its special effects were (let’s face it) not phenomenal. Nowadays, they can literally make us feel the horribleness of the earthquake unfold on screen. Oy.

I’m likely not going to see San Andreas, and I wish the film industry would put more money into good action film ideas (like making the R-rated Power Rangers short into a full-feature film).

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