Human special effect Dwayne Johnson fights both the constraints of a cotton t-shirt and a giant earthquake in the new trailer for “San Andreas,” the 2015 blockbuster being directed by the guy responsible for “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.” The movie looks good in a Roland Emmerich gets moody kind of way, but this is not an art house picture about understanding mass tragedy on a human scale. This is an action flick about buildings falling down and The Rock standing up. That’s fine for now, but it’s more likely than not that, within the next two decades, “San Andreas” will become an action flick retrospectively inspired by horrible events. The movie will do great at the box office, but it’s destined to join “Pearl Harbor” in the “That’s Not What Happened” bin; it’s fictitious pending inaccuracy.
“San Andreas” may actually be Johnson’s most plausible role since he pretended to play football at the University of Miami. According to a study released earlier this year, the number of earthquakes with a magnitude higher than 7.0 on the Richter Scale doubled in the first three months of 2014 compared to 1979. That’s unnerving, but the pull quotes leaking out of Sacramento are even more frightening. “There's a real likelihood of a major, major earthquake in the next 10, 15, 20 years," California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom recently told the press. This from a man so hard to ruffle that his hair hasn’t moved in years.
Tectonics make “San Andreas” the rare high-concept blockbuster likely to achieve relevance. When Silicon Valley programmers, whose offices all but huddle on the fault, take an Uber to the AMC in Menlo Park to catch the film on opening night, it will seem like a bit of escapism. It won't seem that way when they actually have something to escape.