San Andreas 3D Blu-ray Review

Faulty

San Andreas features a body count somewhere in the millions, a multitude of those deaths insinuated, some not. As with any blockbuster disaster cinema, audiences are meant to care for a mere five of those people – the marquee value stars, and maybe Paul Giamatti too whose exaggerated, straight-faced scientist is too hokey not to love. So six out of a few million instead of five.

Dwayne Johnson stars. He’s a better action face than Dennis Quaid even though the pair share the same genre role. Quaid’s was in 2004’s global warming lark Day After Tomorrow as a father searching for his family. Johnson takes to land, sea, and air in a quest to rescue his daughter in the midst of San Francisco’s 9.6 big one and a resulting tsunami flushed with ludicrous visual effect bawdiness.

The violence is of course delectable. These movies exist for no other reason than to see broadly shaped characters either be smushed because they’re irredeemable jerks or test their implausible survivability if they’re heroic. San Andreas smashes a whole bunch of stuff in-between a preposterous “power of family” motif which could not have a tenth of the destruction’s memorable power. At least they tried.

Minimal necessary dialog is hopelessly alarmist. Giamatti carries this end of the feature, stone faced as he recites, “It’s not a matter of if, but when.” San Andreas’ writing team has no other disaster feature on their resume, but they have done research to squeeze out lines of that cliched magnitude. What remains afterward are quips designed predominantly for the audience – characters wondering where their families are, screaming names while extending hands, or spilling exposition of limited consequence.

Earthquakes fall over one another for screen time, stepping aside only to allow a tidal wave to ransack the Golden Gate Bridge – with a boat.

San Andreas does showcase the learning capability of cinema. Genre pictures of this nature used to front or backload themselves with highlights. San Andreas is persistent. There is little waiting. Earthquakes fall over one another for screen time, stepping aside only to allow a tidal wave to ransack the Golden Gate Bridge – with a boat. How nice of the earthquakes to share their spotlight.

Johnson and on-screen ex-wife Carla Gugino are characters who admire devastation. The pairing fly overhead as fires breakout, gawk from their boat, and stand in place for picturesque views of San Francisco post-ruin. Conveniently, the ‘quakes leave open pathways during Johnson’s/Gugino’s tireless hunt for daughter Alexandria Daddario.

Calling San Andreas moronic would be kind, but a showcase of intellect has never been the intent. Disconnected from sensible filmmaking, a key character can be humorously killed without any further mention. None of the surviving characters consider calling or finding the deceased despite a personal connection.

What matters is the lunacy and the scale, both of which San Andreas has, maybe more than any prior disaster jaunt. Thousands of hours of labor pour onto the screen to decimate an American city as only American studios know how. If we’re proud of anything in this country, it should be in how well we’re able to visually simulate our doom. And if San Andreas is any indication, we’re getting better at that part.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Checking out the destruction @ 1:19:09

Earthquake sequences are video bliss, with piles of debris and smoke flaring out into the far distance. Despite slight aliasing, Warner’s encode and transfer work appears otherwise invisible. Some noise is likely the source rather than the Blu-ray. Clarity in the major disaster sequences is splendid. There are zero impediments to the CG work.

Elsewhere, San Andreas’ digital cinematography is fine. Facial detail is evident if not striking. Inconsistencies are all over, based more on lighting schemes than any other factor. Sharpness is a better guide anyway. Resolution feels massive, matching the scale of the budget which brought this movie into being. It looks expensive.

Contrast is capable and thankfully the mass building melee takes place during the day. Black levels are at times quite poor. When Daddario is pinned in an underground parking garage, the screen features more blue than black. Depth is completely sacrificed for this lengthy sequence. Once back on high ground, the issue finds an auto-fix in the form of natural sunlight.

Impressive is how the disc avoids any instance of banding despite the typical scenarios where the issue appears. Underwater with flashlights, the images are able to hold together. Same goes for scenes covered in dirt or rushing debris.

For 3D purposes, this post-conversion works diligently to enhance the scale of San Andreas. A sense of height during shots at the Hoover Dam are immense, even disorienting. Johnson spends many minutes in helicopters or a plane. Those images from above are effective too, along with an opening sequence concerning a car dangling from a cliffside. Dialog scenes appear natural without boxing out the actors.

San Andreas requires more bite to be lauded and join the best of the live action 3D grouping. Expectations for the mega sequences need to be held in check. A tsunami rushing toward the lens is less thrilling in 3D than it should be. Stray pieces of debris strafing the front of the frame are frequent, if not aggressive in rushing into the frame. Aerials of the city – non-disaster- are routine.

2D-Video ★★★★☆ 

3D-Video ★★★☆☆ 

Notes for reviewing the TrueHD/Atmos 7.1 audio ran off the paper. There’s that much goodness. It would be blast to place a seismometer in the room as San Andreas plays to see if the disc registers a response. Bass is enormous, and better still, gives each jolt unique sonic separation. Some are instant blasts of wall shaking activity. Others stretch themselves into a long series of powerful shaking. Any devastation or skyscraper crumbling only adds to the weight.

Subwoofer use is an inarguable high spot, even if we may never reach Sensurround levels. San Andreas rarely gives the low-end any rest. Few films of any genre require support at this level. Dynamic range, again led nearly in entirety by the LFE channel, features spectacular eruptions in power. Each unexpected event is a literal blast. A few explosions extend deep too.

Characters in the center of the scenario become swarmed by active surround fields, shattering glass, metal, and concrete panning around them. Helicopters swoop in for rescues in all channels, while rescue operations blare sirens when the fault line finally slows down. Panicked citizens scream as they rush out of the frame, whatever death may befall them not far behind on the same audible course. How awesome this mix always is.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Brad Peyton sets himself up for commentary work, both for the main feature and a few minutes of deleted scenes. Additional bonuses are of limited success. The Real Fault Line discusses the design of the earthquakes, mostly for EPK purposes. Dwayne Johnson to the Rescue sells the actor’s work on set, a nice resume piece for him if not much for those seeking behind-the-scenes information. Scoring the Quake is self-explanatory as it delves into the musical background. Super brief gag and stunt reels are menial.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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  • Koroshiya1

    Saw this in the cinema, unfortunately on the normal screen, because they were rebuidling the ‘Dolby Cinema’ screening room. Didn’t expect much of it, but enjoyed it tremendously. Reminded me for some reason of the disaster movies of the 70’s in a good way, like ‘The Tower Inferno’ ‘Poseidon Adventure’ etc.