PictureThe Rock draws a lot of comparisons with Con Air. In the cinema, they followed each other, and on HD they are released simultaneously. Like Con Air, The Rock delivers a cinematically correct wideascreen 2.35:1 1080P transfer, and quite simply trounces any existing SD presentation. Unlike Con Air though, this transfer is consistently great.
The Rock is a very challenging film to transfer, I would imagine. Unlike other thrillers, a lot of the action takes place inside the dull, dank walls underneath the prison. However, at all times this transfer does the film justice.
The first quarter of the film takes place on the streets of San Francisco, and the level of detail and contrast in the print is consistently amazing. Colours are bright and sharp, and when a camera shoots up one of those fabled long streets the depth of field is stunning. Explosions are bright and vivid, and detail on shops and vehicles is amazing.
In these outdoor scenes the level of detail on the actor's faces is impressive, and this is also so once we enter the prison. Even in low, blue hued lighting, you can see every wrinkle and crag on Connery's face. I am convinced that like a tree, you can count the lines and tell his age.
Even with the constant blue hue of these scenes, the depth in the image is still noticeably hi def, and at all times you get a true sense of the almost 3d “pop” that the greatest transfers that HD can provide.
SoundThe Rock is presented with a PCM 16 Bit 5.1 soundtrack and it absolutely rocks, although it does suffer from poor sound design in places. This is down to the original source, however - it is hard to imagine how the sound on this disc could be better in the circumstances.
All speakers are used constantly throughout the film - there is not a single moment when your rears will not be used, whether it is with ambient effects or something more essential to the plot. The sound track totally immerses you in the action, enveloping you and truly drawing you into the world that Bay has created.
Dialogue is always clear and completely crystal. There are no moments here where you struggle to hear what is being said - even during the most bombastic moments. The sub is also used appropriately, adding zing to explosions such as the tram in the opening scenes.
Two problems I would identify. Firstly, directional placement is inconsistent. At times it is extremely impressive (check out the first missile launch on the city), but at other times it does rather tend to all blend together into rather a muddy mess. Secondly, the music score is rather too centred on the front, instead of truly filling the room.
However, as mentioned before this is likely to be a fault of the original source, not this mix - which does an excellent job.
ExtrasThe Rock was considered important enough to get a Criterion release, and although I never owned that disc, I believe through research that all the extras from that disc are included here.
The audio commentary features various interviews with Bay, Bruckheimer, Harris, Cage and technical adviser Harry Humphries. This is a very enjoyable and informative chat track, with lots of information presented in a way which is never dull.
The Rock World Premier is a very disappointing 2 minute long look at the premiere, and Navy SEAL's on the range is a rather limited 6 minute look on the real life SEAL tactics used in the film. The military theme is included in Hollywood : Humphries and Teague which looks at the weaponry used in the film.
The Special Effects for dive is a look at the creation of the insertion of the SEALs at the beginning of the film, and Action Effects : Movie Magic is a rather boring dissection of two key action scenes and the use of CGI in them. There are nine minutes of Outtakes which are very enjoyable, and then the best extra of the lot, a 15 minute look at The History of Alcatraz. The cult of Bruckheimer means that the longest extra on the disc is an Interview with the famed producer, but this is really good, partly biographical and partly about the history of the production of the film.
There is a lot of material here (there are also a collection of Trailers and TV Spots but to be quite frank most of what's here is poor and not worth more than one viewing. The only exceptions to this are the History of Alcatraz and the Bruckheimer interview. However, it is good to see that the extras have made it over unscathed. After so many featureless blue rays it is good to see this disc get the attention it deserves.
VerdictAdding The Rock to your collection is a very simple decision indeed. In fact, it is a no brainer. The film is excellent, the picture is top notch, the sound rocks, and you get all the extras from the Criterion Collection SD release.
If you have never seen the film before, then you owe it to yourself to add this film to your collection immediately. If you own the SD version and are wondering whether to upgrade, the answer in this case is simple. Considering all the extras are here, and the sound and picture are so good, there is quite simply no reason not to.
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