San Andreas Blu-ray Review
Not sure “drop, cover and hold” is going to cut it.
As modern, Emmerich-scale, disaster movies go, San Andreas provides suitably engaging material, with just enough family drama behind the scenes to glue together the jaw-dropping West Coast destruction.With comparatively brainless blockbuster movies like 2012 arguably setting the benchmark for modern disaster epics – just show a crescendo of increasingly preposterous destruction sequences featuring an array of vehicles escaping quakes, fires or floods – San Andreas is partly successful in its attempt to provide a slightly more human core, largely thanks to the man-mountain presence of the surprisingly human superhuman Dwayne Johnson. Despite his muscles seemingly getting bigger and bigger with each successive movie, he remains one of the few old school action heroes around; he is unexpectedly relatable, with an unquestionably warm-hearted charm that underpins that dominant demeanour. Casting him in the lead role as a rescue helicopter operator in an earthquake-centric disaster movie is a good idea in and of itself; but then turning the story into the tale of a father who couldn’t save one of his daughters and is desperate to save the other, gives it an inherently more human edge.With the still-ageless Carla Cugino providing support, Alexandra Daddario making for an unexpectedly strong female co-star, and Paul Giamatti attempting to keep the science real (whilst repeating his slightly optimistic mantra of ‘drop, cover and hold’) San Andreas ticks all the key boxes for a disaster flick and ultimately boasts more heart than most. Yes, it’s unquestionably derivative, predictable stuff, ever increasing in its preposterousness and certainly threatening to lose you in its more elaborate effects sequences – particularly when tanker ships start getting thrown at you. And, yes, it could have probably benefitted from more of the tense smaller-scale helicopter rescue-style events as at the beginning, rather than being drowned out by the state-wide destruction that tsunami’s its way across the finish line. But it’s still unabashedly old school disaster movie fun; utter mayhem made considerably better by the presence of Dwayne Johnson at the heart of the destruction, exactly where you’d expect him to be.
Picture QualitySan Andreas comes to Region Free UK Blu-ray courtesy of Warner, promoted with a stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Detail is outstanding throughout, whether showcasing mass levels of state-wide destruction tearing up and down the West Coast, or more isolated events within crushed cars and bashed helicopters. Skin textures are finely observed, whilst clothing weaves and background minutiae never go unnoticed.
Demo destruction, both on the video and audio front.
Clarity is so impressive indeed, that the effects – whilst wholeheartedly stunning when it comes to the grander shots of mass destruction – can’t quite keep up with the precision on some of the sequences: the skydiving shot sees faces getting slightly rubbery (think: Skyfall), and the water-set sequences are not quite seamless in their representation of the characters who are supposedly piloting the boat. It’s little to notice or pay regard to, however, in such an otherwise supremely demo-worthy offering. The colour scheme boasts strong, predominantly earthy tones; rich, largely unfaltering black levels and no signs of any digital defects whatsoever. Indeed, given that the only minor complaint about the image is that it’s arguably too good for the effects to always keep up – and that this slight flaw is actually inherent to the original feature, rather than this specific transfer, it’s even easier to regard this as nigh-on perfect.
Sound QualityThe Blu-ray of San Andreasincludes a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that can be listened to in 5.1, 7.1 or various Atmos configurations.
Cas Harlow reviewed the audio using a standard 5.1-channel setup - As impressive as the video, San Andreas continues its demo destruction on the aural front, tearing up the neighbourhood with an all-engulfing Dolby Atmos track centred on a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core. Even without the full Atmos array, the track draws you into the thick of near country-wide destruction, with the percussive rumble of successive mini-quakes and full earthquakes giving your LFE channel the toughest workout it’s likely had in a while; on constant duty as the destruction is disseminated across the runtime.
Surround effects bring helicopters overhead as the blades whip at you incessantly, sees buildings collapsing to the left of you, whilst explosions erupt to the right. Dialogue remains cleanly presented irrespective of the thundering effects or soaring score beneath, and overall, even in just its core form, San Andreas provides a staggeringly immersive aural experience. We will add a review of the film's full Dolby Atmos soundtrack later but even in its 7.1-channel configuration this is an impressive level of sound design.
Even in its 7.1-channel configuration this is an impressive and immersive level of sound design.
Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup - Whilst we genuinely believe that an Atmos soundtrack could even benefit a romantic comedy, and almost proved the point with The Age of Adaline, it's obvious that a film about helicopters, earthquakes and tsunamis is tailor-made for the format. So it proved with San Andreas, which delivered a fantastic Dolby Atmos sound mix that matches the best we have heard to date. The sound designers very cleverly don't play all their Atmos aces too early, allowing the soundtrack to build as the earthquakes escalate. So whilst there's plenty of surround and overhead action in the opening rescue and the destruction of Hoover Dam gives your subwoofer a workout, the fully immersive nature of the soundtrack becomes apparent as the stakes are raised. In a scene where a character is trapped in a car in an underground garage, the sound comes from all around and completely places you inside that car.
As Los Angeles and then San Francisco are levelled, the sound design kicks up a gear, with debris crashing all around and above you. When a giant tsunami hits and the characters are underwater, it's another chance for the sound to completely immerse you. As you'd expect from a film that centres on a helicopter pilot, it gives the sound designers plenty of chances for fly-overs and the low frequencies used during the earthquakes will shake your room as well. However despite all the chaos and destruction, dialogue always remains crystal clear and the music has a chance to add impact during the more dramatic scenes. There's no doubt that San Andreas will be on many an AV enthusiast's demo list and one thing's for sure - by the end you'll be dropping, covering and holding on for dear life!
Although not quite comprehensive, the strong selection of extras certainly ticks all the main boxes.
First up we get an engaging Audio Commentary from the director, who discusses the project, from the preparation work to the casting to the shoot to the stunts and effects work. A trio of Featurettes explore key aspects of the production in further detail, each lasting less than 10 minutes, with San Andreas: The Real Fault Line looking at some of the more practically-driven stunts and Dwayne Johnson to the Rescue focusing on lead actor's toughest moments, and Scoring the Quake looking behind the musical accompaniment. The disc is rounded off by a short Stunt Reel, a shorter Gag Reel and a few minutes of part-complete Deleted Scenes with optional Commentary.
Whether or not the movie grabs your attention, San Andreas's Blu-ray release certainly will.
With excellent demo video and audio, and a strong selection of extra features to round out the package, there's plenty for fans of disaster movies to lap up with this solid addition. Undoubtedly Dwayne Johnson grounds what would otherwise be - and sometimes still largely is - just another preposterous, predictable, derivative disaster epic, allowing for a heartier meal to be enjoyed as the world crumbles around you.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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