Beautiful young girl in SUV gets knocked off a California mountain road by falling rock caused by a small tremor; she plunges down a cliff but miraculously gets hung up on a rock; hero flies in on rescue chopper, drops down on a cable, and when the winch on the chopper is about to burn out, plucks her from the front seat as it plunges into the chasm.
Cal Tech researchers whoop it up over recording a bunch of mini-tremors with changes in the magnetic field beforehand, which might prove their earthquake prediction theory; the researchers run to Nevada to check it out at Hoover Dam.
Back in California the hero walks into his modest home, talking to his daughter on the phone planning a road trip to San Francisco to go to school; he opens the mail and finds the divorce papers from his estranged wife.
Back in Nevada, the researchers are giddy over more tremors, then a bigger one hits and takes out Hoover Dam; the young researcher saves a little girl but gets taken out; the older researcher, a star with billing, makes it off the dam.
Back in California, the hero shows up at his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s palatial estate, owned by the new boyfriend, to tell daughter he cannot go on the trip because he has to go rescue people; but hero meets the new boyfriend who offers to fly daughter up to San Francisco on his plane, a private jet.
Back in LA, a bigger earthquake starts where the soon-to-be-ex-wife is having lunch with her rich new boyfriend’s former wife; daughter (who found a new boyfriend and his kid brother in an office waiting room) running for her life in San Francisco when it hits there; she gets trapped in a town car with the new boyfriend.
Up in San Francisco, the soon-to-be-ex-wife’s rich new boyfriend runs away “to get help” and gets taken out by falling stuff.
The “HOLLYWOOD” sign falls down.
While hero is in the air in his rescue chopper he sees LA completely fall apart.
Hero flies into the rubble (all of LA remember) and there is his wanting-a-divorce-wife standing on top of one big pile; he rescues her; his line, “Are you hurt?”
While hero and want-to-be-divorced-wife in hero’s rescue chopper, daughter calls dad (hero) from San Francisco on her cell phone; hero’s line, “Are you hurt?”; daughter says she is trapped in a collapsed parking garage; cellphone goes out and hero observes that the cellphone service went out; hero tells his wife it will be a long time before rescuers get to parking garages; hero’s line, “We’re going to get our daughter”; looks like the soon-to-be-ex-wife’s new boyfriend and his former wife were wiped out or at least lost in the chaos.
Back at Cal Tech, the head researcher with star billing says more quakes are coming; then he gets bunch of Cal Tech geeks to hack into all media outlets to warn everyone.
In San Francisco, hero’s daughter, her new boyfriend (met an hour earlier) and his kid brother get out of garage and walk around.
Hero and wife are in rescue chopper but they crash in Bakersfield (blue collar) where everyone is looting and shooting each other; hero hotwires a van; hero and wife drive off until they hit a gaping chasm, the San Andreas Fault.
Hero and wife meet old couple; old guy happens to have a small plane not far away; hero gives old guy the van keys and old man gives him the plane.
Daughter, her boyfriend and his kid brother decide to go to knob hill, the highest point, to get a cellphone signal to call dad (hero).
Hero and wife, now in the plane the old guy gave them, have a quiet moment while the planet is tearing itself apart beneath them; they work out their differences; they lost another daughter in some prior incident where the hero (a rescuer) could not save her; marriage apparently broke up over this; wife who did want a divorce but changed her mind when the new rich boyfriend ran away in the earthquake tells hero he couldn’t save their (other) daughter; they seemed to have worked it out as half of California was falling into the Pacific, but hero now must save his remaining daughter, because he is, after all, a rescue guy.
Hero and wife arrive in San Francisco by plane but there is nowhere to land, so they jump out of the plane with a tandem parachute and land in AT&T park; Coors, VISA, Safeway, and Yahoo ads in background; they land on the infield; hero’s line, “It’s been a while since I got you to second base.”
Cal Tech researcher still warning everyone; media telling everyone to run away.
Daughter, her new boyfriend and his kid brother still walking around; the kid is reading a book aloud; another quake hits San Francisco; lots of stuff falls down; dramatic music.
Hero and his wife are now running around the AT&T stadium neighborhood in San Francisco; bridges collapse; baseball lights fall down; people scream; hero’s line, “Get out of the street!”
The AT&T ballpark quake subsides; hero’s line, “Is anybody hurt?” (He is, after all, a rescue guy.)
Hero and wife score a boat to go by water to avoid all the devastation on land.
Daughter tends to her new boyfriend’s injuries; his kid brother is still okay.
At Cal Tech, the older researcher with the star billing is with his students; their computer says bigger tremors are coming.
Hero and wife are on boat; water recedes; hero says it’s a tsunami; they scram out of there by boat.
Daughter and her new boyfriend and his kid btother now hopping through San Francisco.
Finally, the warning sirens go off, a little late.
Boats are speeding out of San Francisco Bay way too fast because they are not real but CGI cartoons; mayhem on the water; hero and wife’s boat just clears a huge cargo ship prop but the big boat dumps all its cargo containers all around them, then flips and takes out the Golden Gate Bridge.
Cruise ship comes careening and tumbling into San Francisco; well, we’re used to those cruise ship disasters by now; no big deal.
Tsunami floods what’s left of San Francisco; wrecks more buildings; but daughter, her new boyfriend of a few hours and his kid brother make it through.
Hero and wife race through the debris laden water way too fast because the scene is not real but a CGI cartoon; they see the crumbled San Francisco; hero’s wife’s line, “Oh my god.”
Hero and wife boat their way into the crushed city, again way too fast because, well you know why; hero and wife actually are filming (actually video-ing) all this in an empty set in front of a green screen.
Daughter and her new boyfriend and his kid brother see hero and his wife, now thinking the divorce might not have been such a good idea, drive by on the boat; they scream for hero and wife and pound on the only remaining intact glass window in San Francisco but hero and his wife cannot hear them; daughter and the new boyfriend kiss; kid brother’s line, “Mom’s going to love her.”
Hero says to wife they are going to need some gas; not sure where there are any remaining gas stations; wife spots little lights on boat console; daughter, her new boyfriend and his kid brother are shining a green laser from their window; hero’s wife’s line, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!”
The building collapses; daughter, her new boyfriend and the kid brother survive and start moving up the building floors because it is sinking, rather than breaking apart like all the other buildings.
Hero kisses wife and dives in the debris laden water; hero’s line, “I’m bringing her back, promise.”
Inside the building, daughter, her new boyfriend and his kid brother swim around; they have a flashlight; hero swims underwater into the building then pops up beside daughter.
Daughter’s new boyfriend and his kid brother running around upstairs on a dry floor; construction cranes start falling on building; water rushes in.
Hero and daughter down in the waterlogged floors; as they go under, daughter’s lines, “I love you dad”; then she drowns; dramatic music; hero drags drowned daughter around underwater; he still has a working flashlight.
Hero and drowned daughter pop to the surface; hero does CPR on daughter (he’s a rescue guy, remember); building starts collapsing again; hero’s line, “We gotta get outta here; break a window!”
Wife, in the boat outside of building, sees them, says, “Oh my…”, then rams the inflatable boat through the only unbroken window in all of San Francisco; music dramatic, but now hopeful.
Everyone is on the boat racing away from building; hero’s wife, who definitely has shelved the divorce plans, drives; hero keeps up with the CPR on daughter; building falling down towards them but they outrun it, thanks to CGI cartoon animation.
Hero gives up on daughter; wife cries; everyone cries; hero does more CPR; daughter coughs up water; she made it; rising, hopeful, dramatic music; all is quiet.
Back at Cal Tech, the older researcher with star billing is listening to the media reports about how everyone is pulling together; dramatically, the researcher removes his glasses.
Outside, what‘s left of San Francisco’s populace is picking up the pieces and hugging.
Hero and wife together; daughter, her new boyfriend (of a few hours) and his kid brother all together holding each other in the setting sun; hero’s line,” Thank you”; daughter’s new boyfriend’s line, “You’re welcome.”; wife’s line, “So, what now?”; they look up and two rescue choppers fly over; the American flag unfurls on the remains of the Golden Gate Bridge; hero’s line, “Now we rebuild”; afterall, he is a rescue guy.
Camera pulls up and up and up to satellite image perspective; credits.
Richard J. Schneider writes mystery novels. His latest is WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation.