In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey with his ex-wife across the state in order to rescue his daughter.
It’s certainly been a while since we got to sit through an epic disaster film that featured earthquakes, volcanoes, twisters, a giant monster lizard, or even a ‘Sharknado‘. Luckily for us, the summer of 2015 gave us ‘San Andreas‘, a full-scale earthquake action picture starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. It shouldn’t be any surprise that director Brad Peyton has teamed up with The Rock again for this disaster flick since their previous ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island‘ did so well. Add on ‘Lost‘ writer Carlton Cuse, and you have ‘San Andreas‘, the movie that should be able to hold the championship belt at the box office, at least for a week or two.
It was definitely a missed opportunity to not title this film ‘The Rock v. Earthquakes‘, even if it didn’t feature our main hero jumping solo out of an airplane and giving the natural disaster his iconic ‘People’s Elbow’, while yelling “If you smell what the Rock is cooking”, but I digress. What I like most about ‘San Andreas‘ is that it knows exactly what kind of movie it wants to be and commits one billion percent to it. It knows that it wants to be full of action and peril with at least three sides of cheese, complete with funny one liners, fast close up pans of The Rock looking at the destruction, and even wind blown American flag hanging ever so slightly on the damaged rubble.
So, if you’re going to follow anyone in a massive earthquake type scenario, it might as well be The Rock, who plays Ray, a retired war pilot turned helicopter search and rescue pilot in Los Angles, as we see in the first scene of the film that strongly resembles the first few minutes of ‘Cliffhanger‘. Ray is the epitome of the good guy badass who can rescue and save anyone with a smile on his face, tell a quick joke to make you feel more comfortable, and probably fight three bears with chainsaw hands by himself. This didn’t work at home though as his soon-to-be-ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugnio) wants a divorce and has moved in with her extremely wealthy land developer boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd).
Emma and Ray have an 18 year-old daughter by the name of Blake (Alexandra Daddario, the beautiful mistress of Woody Harrelson from HBO’s ‘True Detective‘), who takes a ride with Daniel on his private plane where she meets Ben (Hugo Johnston-Burt), who is applying for a job with Daniel. Ben’s kid brother Ollie (Art Parkinson) is the smooth talking comedic relief of the film and is along for the ride through the earthquake too. Meanwhile, a seismologist (Paul Giamatti) at CalTech learns of a string of mini quakes around Las Vegas, when the big one hits, taking out a major landmark.
He soon realizes this is the pre-cursor for the mighty big one to tear apart the San Andreas fault, which happens soon after. Ray is summoned to start rescuing in his helicopter when the big one hits and goes rogue to rescue his ex wife on top of a building, then off to find and save their daughter in another city. Most of the film is spent dodging falling buildings, avoiding sink holes, and a big typhoon as the split family tries to find each other. This is also a great way for Ray and Emma to work on their failed marriage, possibly due to an underused and ridiculous backstory.
That being said, ‘San Andreas‘ plays out quite well, with plenty of moments that will guarantee you to move to the edge of your seat. It just seems like the earthquake is strictly after Ray and his family from time to time, as they can’t seem to catch a break from certain doom.The Rock handles the big guy hero with ease and even has a few shots delivering some hilariously cheesy lines with big musical crescendos.
Daddario and Gugino turn in excellent performances as well, as they are more or less put through the ringer more than a dozen times. Second to The Rock smacking the earthquake in the face, the visual effects are all top notch. I know we’ve seen tons of buildings completely fall due to certain Marvel superheroes recently, and we certainly get that here, but it’s the smaller moments that stick with us for longer, whether it be kitchen appliances exploding in a restaurant and setting people on fire, or window glass falling on people from several hundred feet up and slicing and dicing them. That detail was good to see here.
‘San Andreas‘ nails its niche genre with all of it’s impressive action and performances, even if it has enough cheese for a dozen grilled cheese sandwiches. Highly recommended!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'San Andreas' comes with an UHD 4K Blu-ray Disc as well as standard 50GB Blu-ray Disc. There is an insert for the digital download code. The discs are housed in a hard black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
With these few early UHD Blu-ray releases, we've seen some vast improvements on the video quality of some of the films. 'The Smurfs 2' might be the best one I've seen so far. On the opposite end of that scale might be 'San Andreas', which is unfortunate, because it is such a fun and detailed big action flick that could have looked stunning. Instead, the video quality looks more or less the same as the standard Blu-ray version, or dare I say it, a little flatter than the standard release.
When researching the source material, it looks like 'San Andreas' was shot at 3.4K and completed at 2K, which transferred over to this 4K UHD release. I expected a deeper and richer color palette here, but that wasn't the case. I expected to see the variations of the bright natural light shining through the broken windows and through the buildings, along with the many colors that came with all the buildings and people running down the streets in terror of San Francisco when the big one hit. Instead of a brighter image, full of deep color, it looks like the contrast and color tint was changed.
The image on the UHD Blu-ray looks much darker than the brighter standard Blu-ray. Whether you're in a well-lit building in downtown or in a rural area of California during the height of the day, things look muted. Nothing really pops anymore. The skin tones look more orange as well. That being said, the moments inside the closed off dark garage or other darker sequences look layered and well-balanced.
Moving on to the detail, which is never really heightened either is unfortunate. I noticed an up-tick in detail in the big closeups, which revealed skin lines, wrinkles and individual hairs, but other than those short moments, things look more or less soft, because of the darker picture here. You won't see the minute details of all the destruction of objects flying around or even beads of sweat on the actor's faces as much as you should here. Black levels are deep and inky for the most part, but it's never stunning. Overall, there doesn't seem to be a big level of an upgrade here.
This UHD release of San Andreas' comes with an excellent Dolby Atmos mix as well as a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, which again leave the usual DTS-HD 5.1 mix out. For this review, I had a 7.1.2 Atmos speaker setup with the normal 7.1 surround and two overhead speakers, plus a subwoofer powering the soundscape. This is an in-your-face explosion of sound from start to finish. If you want to test a new speaker system or show your friends how loud your speakers can go, this is the audio track for you.
Each sound packs a big and powerful punch and that's the name of the game with this audio mix of 'San Andreas'. The louder the better. That being said, it's not all about being loud, there is some great layering and overhead sounds that put you smack dab in the center of all the chaos surrounding The Rock. When buildings crumble to the ground, you'll hear every cinderblock fly towards you, people screaming in the background, and distant explosions that sound so precise, that you'll think they're happening outside your place.
When The Rock crashes the helicopter into the sporting goods store, you'll hear the water and oil dripping down to the floor, which will actually sound like an actual pipe burst in your ceiling from the overhead speakers. It was a totally immersive experience and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The bigger action sequences, such as the tidal wave or big explosions are ferociously loud, but never cross into rocky territory, which can be said also for the bass, which always sounds good.
The dialogue is perfectly crystal clear and easy to follow without any pops, cracks, or hiss, and the score is always pounding with suspense and never drowning out any of the boastful sound effects. This is a fully immersive action-packed soundscape, which I can't wait to listen to again.
The UHD Blu-ray Disc contains zero extras, however on the standard Blu-ray Disc that is also included here, all of the extras are carried over, which you can check out by CLICKING HERE!
'San Andreas' is one highly entertaining, over-the-top, thrilling movie. Sure, it's silly, stupid, and doesn't really make any sense, but that's usually the deal with these crazy natural disaster movies. The Rock is very funny and charming in the film and does what The Rock does in these situations, which is lay down the jabroni beat down on an earthquake. It's a lot of fun. Now I know my review of the video portion my seem harsh, but with this new UHD format, I expect a pretty big leap in terms of detail and color upgrades. Here, there really wasn't enough of that to warrant a new format. That being said, the video presentation is still good looking for sure, but just not a big upgrade. The sound however, is incredible and forceful at all times and puts you in the center of the action. There are no new extras here, but all of the previous bonus features are transferred over onto the standard Blu-ray disc.