San Andreas is exactly the movie you’d expect it to be. There are no unexpected twists or touching romances here, no obvious ruminations on human nature or profound symbolism. You get what you pay for—Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson taking on a 9.6-level earthquake. The winner? The special effects, naturally. (Without ’em, the movie would’ve been pretty lame, as you can see below.)
Thankfully, San Andreas does have special effects—gobs of them—and that makes for a big, dumb, kinda fun popcorn muncher. It’s about as intellectually challenging as an evening watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But even so, there was one thing that bothered me about the movie: In the midst of a national cataclysm, The Rock’s character was pretty obsessed with just two potential casualties: Those of his wife and daughter. He literally takes off with a Los Angeles rescue helicopter to save them. I’d imagine that Dwayne Johnson’s character, Ray, would face some rather difficult questions from a California congressional committee shortly thereafter.
It made sense that Ray would zip over to rescue his wife, Emma. She was in the general area, after all, and he did ask her to lead fellow civilians to the rooftop so that he could pluck them from harm’s way, too. It’s not her fault that most of them went down the stairs instead, rather than climbing up an already crumbling high-rise.
But then, after plucking his wife from certain disaster, Ray immediately turns the chopper north to save his daughter, who was spending the day in—bad timing, this—San Francisco. Did he call his supervisor to let him know that he was going to need the rescue chopper for a few hours before getting back to work? No. Did he stop and pick up any other needy civilians along the way? No. He was determined to use governmental property in dire need elsewhere to save his precious little girl. He would’ve gone all the way to San Francisco, too, if it hadn’t crashed into that mall.
But quibbles aside, there’s also something a bit beautiful about Ray’s single-minded desire to save his family. And it reminds me—ever-so-slightly—of God’s desire to save us, too.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Ray isn’t about to let his daughter die in this cataclysm, no matter what. He’ll hotwire cars and commandeer planes and rip apart underwater buildings to save his little girl. He’s not going to let anything—be it natural disaster or, presumably, his frantically radioing boss—stand in his way. And God, we’re told, feels that same boundless love toward us. Never mind that He’s a holy deity who can’t tolerate our cataclysmic sin. He bends heaven and earth to save us, forgiving us more times than we’d ever have a right to. No matter who we are or what pickle we’ve found ourselves in, God wants to rescue us. He’s given us an out in the form of Jesus. I think that’s pretty nifty.
If God’s sense of justice can look a little to us like San Andreas-level wrath, Jesus is the guy coming to our rescue. It doesn’t matter that we don’t deserve to be saved: We don’t deserve it, the Bible tells us. But then Christ swoops in and plucks us up. Why? Because he loves us. Like a father.
Maybe strictly speaking, Ray could’ve and should’ve taken a different tack in San Andreas. But hey, the movie conveys a simple truth: Love is the most powerful motivator there is, and it can make us all do some crazy things. Thank goodness.