2 Stars — Weak

Are there natural disasters that scare you or cause you to fear going places? I have heard people who live with tornados in the Midwest tell me that they would never live in California because they are afraid of earthquakes. If that were the case, then this movie will leave you hiding under the bed with a sense of dreaded doom. In reality, though, the likelihood of this kind of earthquake happening is equal to dinosaurs suddenly reappearing on the Earth. Oh, wait a minute, that’s the movie Jurassic Park!

San Andreas plays on a known fact that the San Andreas Fault is the biggest on the Pacific coast, stretching through all of California and separating two gigantic tectonic plates. And yes, it does move in dramatic ways as it did in 1906 in San Francisco.

California, though, is filled with smaller faults and they move hundreds of times a year in ways that are barely felt by humans. Major earthquakes occur once every 10 to 20 years, unlike deadly tornados that form far more frequently, and according to CalTech, which studies these things, the ability to produce an earthquake like the one in the movie San Andreas is almost impossible.

This story is the usual plot for most disaster films. Drama occurs in a family, people are estranged as a result of the drama, a big disaster occurs, everyone spends the rest of the time in the movie trying to save one another, and in the end they all realize that they should look beyond each other’s faults and love one another. It would save a lot of time and personal grief if they would just skip the disaster and figure this out earlier in their lives. Oh, wait a minute, that’s the story of the Bible!

What causes fear when it comes to anticipating a natural or man-made disaster? It might be well worth taking three inventories — physical, mental and spiritual. When it comes to our physical well-being, do we regularly (monthly) check to see if we have food, medical, sanitary and water supplies secured to provide for our family for a minimum of two weeks? Do we have the tools in place to shut off gas and water lines if they break?

Are we mentally prepared for the reality of a major disaster? It helps to have a family recovery place and plan known by all. It helps to have communications equipment backed up. It is important to realize that government, utility, and medical people are not likely to be available as you have come to expect. Overcoming fear requires practicing reality scripts in your head and filling the state of anxiety with positive options that will calm people down.

A “spiritual inventory” is also an important part of disaster preparation. Disasters aren’t about God “doing something to you,” but they are moments when you realize that having a divine connection can get you through it. Fear can be transformed into opportunities for healing, which is what is at the basis of any disaster movie, including San Andreas. Your own presence of mind can be calmed by a dependence on a power far more comprehensive, grounded and knowledgeable than your own. Besides your immediate situation, you may also be called upon to comfort others who are worse off, or who may have suffered the loss of a loved one. You may be a “divine appointment” in someone else’s life.

San Andreas may be preposterous in its over-the-top portrayal of a natural disaster, but it is a good popcorn movie for a Saturday afternoon. Its lesson, though, is that we do need to be prepared for the unknown in our lives, and that requires inventorying our supplies, and not skipping the daily practicing of our spiritual and mental skills.


» What are you most afraid of and how is your fear impacting your life? What could you do to calm or face your fear?

» It is difficult to imagine the level of destruction presented in this film. The loss of life would be overwhelming. Why do you think the film mostly omitted that reality?

» The happy ending of the film is completely out of place with the actual loss portrayed. Do you think the film is saying that as long as it works out for you and your family that other people do not matter?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.