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Arts and Entertainment

LOL: The Rock Says Everything In 'San Andreas' Could Totally Happen

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Hollywood loves nothing more than to continually destroy itself on film in an annual ritual that marks the arrival of summer. Most viewers are savvy enough to realize the disaster genre is basically a subgenre of science fiction. San Andreas is the latest in a long line of films that mixes science—California is prone to nasty earthquakes!—with the kind of fiction that lends itself to some sweet special effects—it could trigger tsunamis as high as the Golden Gate Bridge!

Except that San Andreas' star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, recently went on Jimmy Fallon and proclaimed that everything in San Andreas could theoretically happen: "We had the world's top seismologist and earthquake scientist pore over the script, challenge us with the script, so by the time they walked away they said, ‘Everything you guys shoot in the movie could actually happen.'"

LOLOLOLOL NO. If sheer bicep strength, gentlemanly suits and charm could save us from the Big One, Mr. Johnson would be our guy. Unfortunately, he seems to know about as much about earthquakes as Jenny McCarthy knows about vaccines. And the scientist who actually did consult on the project gently points out that not everything in the movie is gonna happen.

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“I gave them free advice, some of which they took - play up ‘drop, cover, and hold on’ - but much of which they didn’t - magnitude 9’s are too big for the San Andreas, and it can’t produce a big tsunami,” Thomas Jordan, USC professor and director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, told the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Lucy Jones, aka "Earthquake Lady," has also been making the rounds to discuss what is and is not accurate about the movie.

Even the press material for the movie acknowledge it's not 100% accurate: “Applying creative license to a real-world threat, the story’s far-reaching scenarios aim for a heightened sense of action and drama."

So just to review: an earthquake is probably going to destroy parts of the Golden Gate at some point. The movie shows that it's a good idea to duck and cover—not run out the door when it happens. Landlines are a better bet than cell phones. However, the movie is full of all sorts of things that will not happen:

  • When the Big One strikes, it will not be any higher than a magnitude 8.3, which is still pretty big.
  • But not big enough to be felt on the East Coast, despite what an authoritative-sounding Paul Giamatti scientist character says.
  • The earthquake isn't going to create a scary-looking chasm in the earth. Earthquakes are actually caused by the friction of two plates rubbing together and slipping.
  • Earthquakes can't be predicted.
  • That wave cresting over the Golden Gate Bridge is impossibly high and also impossible. The San Andreas fault is inland, so it's not going to start a tsunami. Though Dr. Lucy gives the movie props for showing a draw-down of the ocean preceding the tsunami—that really does happen in places where tsunamis occur.
  • But Jordan, a real-life scientist, still gives the movie his stamp of approval: "It's a good action flick and spectacular special effects … but not realistic from a seismological point of view. But you wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s Hollywood."We're excited for the special effects, but also this: