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San Andreas (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 105 minutes.

OK for children over 12.

If this is the way it’s going to be when the San Andreas next breaks, look out. However, this is a movie. While the massive destruction that takes place makes the word “Catastrophic” insufficient, I guess that this could occur if a 9.1 earthquake should happen, followed by another and another even stronger. But we must face reality. Virtually nothing in the movie has even the remotest relationship with authenticity. Let’s take just a few examples before reviewing the quality of the movie.

First, the film shows that a huge, 9.1 earthquake on the San Andreas fault east of Los Angeles and a subsequent quake around San Francisco causes a huge (and I mean huge) tsunami to inundate the city. Experts rate the San Andreas at a max of 8.3, but who knows what might happen. This is an inexact science. Never limit mother nature.

The tsunami is depicted by a surfing wave of epic proportions, large enough to swamp The Golden Gate Bridge (237 feet). At their largest, tsunami waves do not exceed 50 feet, large to be sure, but not big enough to swamp the Golden Gate Bridge. Further, anybody who saw the 2004 Indonesia tsunami (which was caused by a subduction quake where one plate went under another, quite different from San Andreas) knows that it doesn’t come in a huge surfing wave, but a relentless rise of the sea level that just keeps coming and coming with unstoppable force. The “wave” was only 10 feet high but it was almost 310 miles long. The San Andreas is a vertical fault that moves side to side, not up and down. Tsunamis are caused by an up and down movement. And a tsunami cannot be caused by an earthquake that does not have an epicenter in the ocean.

Second, a quake on a vertical fault just does not cause canyons into which people are enveloped as shown in this film.

Third, modern glass buildings, especially in Los Angeles are built to withstand quakes and probably won’t fall over. The 1985 Mexico City earthquake that destroyed so many buildings by falling over actually had its epicenter in the Pacific Ocean about 217 miles away. The movement came in waves and started the buildings wobbling and they fell over. But they were concrete buildings on sedimentary soil with no connection to bedrock. The only areas of Los Angeles where there are concrete buildings on sedimentary soil with no connection to bedrock are in the Wilshire corridor in Westwood and Marina del Rey. All the buildings in the movie are in downtown where there is bedrock.

There are many plot holes in the film. Things happen serendipitously for Ray (Dwayne Johnson), a Los Angeles Fireman who is a helicopter rescue expert, and his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) as they are trying to track down their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), who is somewhere in San Francisco, which is the main plot of the movie. The acting of all is good and the story, however implausible, holds up OK, especially since it’s just a pretext to show fantastic special effects.

All that said, the special effects in this movie are mind-boggling. There are aerial shots of both San Francisco and Los Angeles being destroyed and they certainly looked real to me. Like a tsunami, they are omnipresent and overwhelm whatever story is trying to be told. They are absolutely, definitely worth the price of admission, regardless of the deficient science and weak story line.

This is being shown in 2D and 3D. I saw it in 3D, but I recommend 2D. The 3D is pretty good, but it greatly darkens the picture. I took my glasses off occasionally and the color is significantly brighter and better without the 3D. I’d rather see the bright color than the 3D effect, which is lost on you after the first few scenes.