It’s a disaster movie designed to be a roller coaster ride–the kind of scary fun you expect from summer blockbusters. Not quite a Spielberg roller coaster, but still, pretty intense, with a story of family reconciliation to boot.
My original title for the post was going to be “San Andreas: There is no thoughtful cultural commentary to offer on this movie. Just have fun.”
But even insurance companies acknowledge that earthquakes are "acts of God," so it's natural to see a link between earthquakes and earthquake movies and God. But first, the movie…
Unlike the 70’s disaster movies–Earthquake/Poseidon Adventure/Towering Inferno–the San Andreas disaster isn’t a quick prelude to a long, drawn out fight to escape twisted pipes and blistering steam.
In San Andreas the disasters, with their big bang, big burn special effects, just keep a’comin. And so does the hero. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), an LA search and rescuer, races to save his family in a helicopter, a big truck, a small plane and finally, a million-dollar speedboat.
While tens of thousands are presumably dying all around, our concern is focused solely on the survival of Ray (Rock) and his family, which has been torn apart by the drowning death of the younger daughter some years previous.
She flipped overboard in a white water rafting accident. Ray was unable to save her. This failure and the inability to process the loss with his wife have cost him his marriage.
The way this back story heightens the drama in San Andreas may seem a tiny bit cheesy to you, depending on how sensitive your cheese meter is.
In one breakthrough moment where Ray finally begins to process his grief with his wife, I leaned over to my husband with a snarky whisper, "Wow, for an action adventure hero, he's really in touch with his emotions."
"I know," responded Jack, "it's disgusting."
But if you don't mind a little cheese, and you like watching other people heroically fight their way out of wrecked cars, crashing skyscrapers and urban tsunamis delivered in stunning CGI detail while you sit in air-conditioned comfort, then San Andreas is just the ticket.
We wanted escape. San Andreas delivered. We walked out of the theater feeling exactly like you do when you walk out of a roller coaster.
You really shouldn’t ask the question, Should disaster movies be fun?
But if you did, my first response would be, San Andreas is so over the top in the scope of its destruction and feel-good predictability that it feels more like fantasy than reality. Add to that, although thousands are dying, we don't see one bloody corpse.
Not that we don't see anyone get smashed, but like the lawyer in Jurassic Park, clearly he deserves it.
Today I did have some second, deeper thoughts. I have recently participated in Anne Graham Lotz’ nine-day call to prayer and repentance for ourselves and our nation. In the videos she speaks about the severe and certain harbingers of God's judgment from the book of Joel.
In Matthew 24:7 Jesus lists some of them: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Earthquakes are warnings. Like the doctor who tells us our cholesterol is 350. Let's turn this around before you have a heart attack!
The 1997 Northridge, California earthquake hit nearly all of the U.S. soft-and hard-port video industry. Every one of the seventy primary porn studies and distributors suffered damage. Many porn actors took it as a warning from God and left the business.
A real earthquake gets our attention. It invites us to consider, are we honoring God as God? Are we giving him thanks? In our personal lives? In our national life? (Romans 1:20ff)
Our founding documents honor the Creator God–the God who created heaven and earth, male and female and marriage.
In just a few weeks our Supreme Court will decide whether to honor the goodness of God's creation of marriage or set it aside. If they set it aside I wonder if we could we be taking a step closer to God’s judgment.
As the movie poster proclaims, whether sooner or later, “We always knew this day would come.”
Even as San Andreas was gearing up for a May 29th release, on April 25th and again on May 13th Nepal suffered 7.8 and 7.3 earthquakes that killed over 8,000 and wounded over 23,000.
The pictures from Nepal remind us that a real earthquake is not so much shock and awe as death and desperation. Hands claw through tons of rough bricks and corrugated metal searching for family members and possessions.
One picture shows the waist-down body of a young male face down in the rubble. A huge chunk of vertical wall has pinned him at the waist, obscuring his upper body.
Another shows a Buddha smiling serenely in the midst of the rubble. A reminder of his teaching that true enlightenment means the ability find peace within as you detach yourself from all the suffering of the world.
But how can these people detach themselves from such terrible loss? The great difference between Buddhism/Hinduism and Christianity is the belief, the reality, that our personal God is with us. He is not detached, eyes closed and smiling, from my thirty-five years and counting of pain and limitation with rheumatoid arthritis. Or the loss of love in your marriage. Or the end of your job.
As Corrie Ten Boom famously said, "There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." I will carry you, God promises. Even to your old age and gray hairs (Isa 46:4).
We live in serious times. An escapist movie offers a wild, welcome ride for an evening. But today has been a good day to watch this video by Anne. Pray this prayer. In the face of moral drift and judgment God has always called his people to pray:
Joel 2:12-14 "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him…?”
Like a good doctor I sense the Lord's warning: Don't be too casual about your summer. Your life. The world around you. Connect with the brokenness emotionally. "Rend your heart." Come to the cross. Lay hold of life that is really Life.