In a sense, this makes San Andreas something of a throwback. There’s absolutely nothing related to mankind at all causing the problem in the movie; it’s just good old fashioned earthquakes, plain and simple. Perhaps that’s what makes San Andreas a bit more palatable than other recent disaster movies. Rather than taking up screen time with pessimistic proselytizers pointing fingers and trying to attach the blame to some person or group, San Andreas just shows ordinary people (and gigantic ex-wrestlers) facing extraordinarily bad circumstances and overcoming them.
When they are done well, or at least competently as the case may be, that’s the ultimate appeal of disaster movies. As pointed out in Tom and Sara Pendergast’s massive reference work, Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms, “Old people and pregnant women are rescued, children are lifted from the rubble, and love affairs blossom.” The aliens of Independence Day may blow up the White House and Godzilla may stomp cities to rubble, but when done properly, disaster movies can, despite Tomorrowland’s protestations, offer up a positive message.
As a good example of what I’m talking about, take a look at the United States Council of Catholic Bishop’s review of the end-of-times spectacular, The Day After Tomorrow, where they wrote, “Sadly, in a film dealing with tragedy on a worldwide scale, references to God or spirituality are noticeably absent, apart from a few scattered verbal afterthoughts. However, buried beneath the blockbuster budget and apocalyptic visuals is a message about familial love, selfless heroism and the indomitable spirit of man.”
And in its own derivative, ham-fisted way, that’s the message San Andreas is shooting for. Yes, as is a staple in these movies, hundreds of thousands of digital people perish in the onslaught, but by the time the end credits roll, prayers are said, an American flag is unfurled, and someone manages a short inspirational quip. It’s all as if to say that through perseverance, belief, and the right moral choices, the human race has the ability to survive whatever is thrown at it. That’s not too bad for a see-it-and forget-it disaster flick. Plus, it’s got The Rock in it; everybody likes The Rock.
In a world he didn’t create, in a time he didn’t choose, one man looks for signs of God in the world by… watching movies. When he’s not reviewing new releases for Aleteia, David Ivesspends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism at The B-Movie Catechism.