Everything Wrong with the San Andreas Trailer, According to the Film's Scientific Consultant

Friday, 29 May 2015 - 9:35AM
Science News
Friday, 29 May 2015 - 9:35AM
Everything Wrong with the San Andreas Trailer, According to the Film's Scientific Consultant
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When Dwayne Johnson appeared on Jimmy Fallon recently, he claimed that the filmmakers behind his new disaster movie San Andreas "had the world's top seismologist and earthquake scientist pore over the script" so that "everything in the movie could actually happen." But according to the seismologist in question, USC earthquake expert Thomas Jordan, those meetings were not nearly as fruitful as Johnson claimed. While the filmmakers took his advice about realistic reactions to an earthquake, such as the "drop, cover, and hold on" safety measures, Jordan says the science behind the cinematic earthquake itself is pretty much entirely wrong. 

The film comes out today, so we haven't seen it yet, but here's everything wrong with the trailer alone, according to the film's scientific consultant:

It's impossible for the San Andreas to cause an earthquake of that magnitude

The first thing we see in the trailer is the devastating damage caused by the earthquake- falling buildings, fires, general mayhem. According to the film, the earthquake is a 9 on the Richter scale. But in reality, experts agree that the San Andreas fault is only capable of an 8.3. An 8.3 is still terrifying, but it wouldn't cause the level of devastation seen in the film.

You can't predict an earthquake before it happens

The second clip in the trailer focuses on Paul Giamatti's character, who clearly plays the fictional version of Thomas. As a result, his lines are a gold mine of scientific inaccuracies. The first words out of his mouth: "People need to know that the shaking is not over. We will get hit again, and it's going to be a bigger one this time." Unfortunately for both the film and real-life earthquake victims, it is impossible for seismologists to predict an earthquake before it happens.

Earthquakes can't cause canyons

Giamatti goes on to say, "the Earth will literally crack open. Except faults like the San Andreas cause earthquakes as a result of friction between tectonic plates, so by definition, the earthquake will not cause the terrifying canyon seen in the above trailer, no matter how big it is.

The East Coast can't "feel" an earthquake in California

Paul Giamatti is just lying all over the place. In the very next line, he says, "We will feel it on the East Coast." Not so. There is practically no conceivable way that the quake's tremors could travel the 2800 miles to be felt all the way over on the Eastern seaboard.

The San Andreas fault can't cause a tsunami

The final (and fairly frightening) sequence in the trailer sees a titanic tsunami rolling towards the Golden Gate Bridge. This is such a great and action movie-ish image, you have to expect that it's a load of BS, and it is. According to Thomas, the San Andreas fault is mostly on land, and therefore wouldn't be able to cause a huge tsunami as seen in this trailer.

The moral of the story

"It's a good action flick and spectacular special effects … but not realistic from a seismological point of view," said Thomas. "But you wouldn't expect it to be. It's Hollywood."

Via LA Times.
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