Journey 293: San Andreas

Movie night was very special to me this evening. I watched the recently released San Andreas, at the recommendation of my granddaughter. Aubrey, who will be seven years old at the end of the month, is already an avid movie buff. She began watching animated films at a very early age and quickly accumulated a vast collection of DVDs. I share this love of the movies, and we have been going to the theater and watching DVDs together since she was a toddler.

Aubrey the photographer

This is the first time that this bright girl has recommended a movie to me. I spent time with Aubrey Sunday evening and as soon as she hopped into my car, she gushed about the disaster movie, San Andreas. Without giving away spoilers, she shared some of her favorite scenes and the general storyline. She was so insistent that I watch this movie, that we stopped at my favorite rental store on the way to Joey’s football game and picked up the DVD. “Watch it and write your comments”, she implored me, referring to my blog. And so, delighted by her request and intrigued by her enthusiasm, I watched the movie, and here are my comments!

San Andreas stars Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Archie Panjabi and Paul Giamatti. The action adventure film was directed by Brad Peyton and carries a PG-13 rating for intense sequences (lots of them) and mild language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 54 minutes.

San Andreas Fault movie poster

We are introduced, at the beginning of the film, to LA Fire & Rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Johnson) as he carries out a daring rescue, north of Los Angeles. Mission safely accomplished, Ray intends to spend the next day with his daughter, Blake (Daddario), driving her back to college and spending time with her. His family is splitting apart, as his estranged wife Emma (Gugino) is filing for divorce and preparing to move in with her new boyfriend, Daniel (Gruffudd). Ray’s plans are changed when a series of minor earthquakes in Nevada escalate to a major quake that destroys Hoover Dam.

Seismologist Lawrence Hayes (Giamatti) from CalTech was on site with his colleague testing equipment that can predict an earthquake based on magnetic pulses that spike right before a quake. After the disaster, Lawrence returns to CalTech to study readings with his team. A reporter, Selena (Panjabi), arrives for an interview, and becomes an impromptu colleague as readings show strong spikes in the magnetic pulses, all along the San Andreas Fault that runs the length of California. Lawrence knows that a record breaking earthquake is about to happen. With Selena’s help, he uses broadcast tv to warn the residents of California.

Ray leaves to fly his rescue helicopter to Nevada, while Daniel agrees to take Blake with him to San Francisco for a meeting and then escort her from there to school. While Daniel is in his meeting, Blake meets brothers Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Parkinson) from England, who are visiting San Francisco. Ben is applying for a job in Daniel’s architecture company and he is quite struck by the beauty of Blake. Ollie is not shy about asking for Blake’s phone number, to help his older brother out.

San Andreas Fault movie still

And Emma is having an uncomfortable lunch with Daniel’s sister in a posh, high rise building with a restaurant on top, back in Los Angeles. She is on the phone with Ray when the building begins to shake. The first high magnitude earthquake strikes, setting off a domino effect of powerful earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault. Ray diverts from his flight plan to Nevada to rescue Emma from the top of the crumbling building. In San Francisco, the first quake there is bringing down buildings, including the one that Daniel, Blake, Ben and Ollie are in. Daniel panics, leaving Blake trapped in the car in the underground garage. The brothers come to her rescue and the group heads toward high ground. Blake trusts that her dad will find her….they just have to survive long enough for him to arrive.

Ray and Emma are desperate to get their daughter, by any means possible: helicopter, car, airplane, boat. They lost another daughter, who drowned while on a rafting trip with her dad, and they are not going to lose another child. As they fight their way to San Francisco, while earthquakes continue to devastate the area, the couple finds their way back into a relationship with each other.

Scene from movie 'San Andreas'

This was an intense film! I had one of my coloring books with me and my pencils near by, thinking I might color as I watched the movie. I never opened the book. I couldn’t take my eyes off the devastation and the action. This is definitely a disaster movie, and very well done with amazing special effects and long action sequences that kept me on edge. At the core of the movie, as buildings collapsed and a tsunami washed away every thing in its path, was a story about relationships, and overcoming a devastation of another kind, the loss of a child. The impact that loss had on the family was difficult and touching as each surviving family member handled it in a different way. And the secondary story involved a relationship as well, the budding romance between Ben and Blake.

I enjoyed the movie, and marveled that Aubrey loved it so much, due to the intensity. It did not seem to scare her.  It did me! I found myself thinking, “I don’t ever want to live in California.” I’ve heard of the San Andreas Fault all of my life, and heard as well the predictions that someday, California will fall into the ocean due to a horrific earthquake along the fault. Watching the movie was like watching those predictions come true, even if it was a fictional account. Why would anyone live in that seemingly doomed state? And then I remembered May 22, 2011. Massive destruction. Unbelievable loss. Tornado Alley. I’ve been asked the same question: Why do you live in an area that is frequently hit by severe storms? Because this is home. I love my city. My family is here.

And what did Joplin do, after such devastation? We rebuilt. And thus the final sentences in the movie made perfect sense to me. They apparently made sense to Aubrey too, a child who watched her community survive the worst storm imaginable and rebuild, stronger and better. I think the movie appealed to Aubrey also because the main character is a hero, a public servant, like her daddy is. He will do anything to protect his family, just like her daddy. And Blake, the daughter, has pretty blue eyes, just like Aubrey, who told me that fact herself. Aubrey loved this movie so much, after watching a rented DVD, that she purchased it for herself, using birthday money she received early. I believe this is the first time she has bought a movie using her own money, and she selected San Andreas. That’s my girl. I look forward to watching this movie with her, and observing her reactions to various scenes, learning from her. Thank you, dear girl, for sharing your enthusiasm with me and recommending a film that touched you. I am honored.

San Andreas pic

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