“San Andreas” – California Based Disaster Movie isn’t as Solid as The Rock

The next of my posts about movies which I studied for my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?” is about San Andreas (Brad Peyton, 2015). I thought I’d write about this movie next after two other recent posts related to earthquakes – Jishin Retto and Nihon Chinbotsu. That these movies all revolve around earthquakes is about where the similarity ends. While there is no doubt that the Japanese movies push believability to its limits (and arguably beyond), San Andreas rushes past the limits with apparent glee.

A summary on IMDb for San Andreas is as follows.

In San Andreas, California is experiencing a statewide earthquake that goes on record as easily the biggest earthquake in history. Dwayne Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a helicopter rescue pilot for the Los Angeles Fire Department, who is trying to find his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), who is in San Francisco amidst the chaos. Ray’s estranged wife, Emma, is forced to turn to Ray for help, as he is her last resort. Together they journey to save their daughter.


Amazingly, San Andreas isn’t classified as ‘science fiction’ on IMDb (see previous discussions on this topic in relation to Dante’s Peak, Volcano, Deep Impact and Armageddon). I am currently editing a chapter I have written for a book about Japanese media and am discussing disaster movies. In that (as things stand) I have suggested that generally people don’t go to watch a movie for the disaster itself, but for the rest of the story. San Andreas may be the exception that proves the rule. It is not a film that requires much thought or gets you thinking about any issues. Is it a pure action movie which is only made somewhat entertaining thanks to the over-the-top special effects (but, I would add, just because such effects can be created by CGI, doesn’t mean that they should – especially when it comes at the expense of other aspects of the movie) and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s contributions (I’m not saying it’s high quality acting, but it is entertaining).

In terms of the revised list of conventions that I developed as part of my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, the movie scored a 13 out of the 17. Unsurprisingly, one conversation it doesn’t have (like many Hollywood movies and unlike Japanese ones), is that, despite all the death and destruction, we don’t see any dead bodies.

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