After the infamous San Andreas Fault finally gives, triggering a magnitude 9 earthquake in California, a search and rescue helicopter pilot (Dwayne Johnson) and his estranged wife make their way together from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save their only daughter.
But their treacherous journey north is only the beginning. And when they think the worst may be over…it's just getting started.
You have to admire a movie like 'San Andreas' for knowing exactly what it is and exactly what it intends to do. It never pretends to be anything more than a big, lavish action-packed disaster movie, and that's precisely what's delivered. Don't come to this one looking for strong science or even strong acting. But if you just want to sit back and have a fun evening, you can do a lot worse than 'San Andreas'.
Although 'San Andreas' was directed by Brad Peyton, it really has the look and feel of a Roland Emmerich movie. Even though Emmerich had absolutely zero involvement with this production, I feel that's the best way to describe what viewers are treated to here. So if you're a fan of 'check your brain at the door' big-budget, loads of CGI movies, 'San Andreas' is probably right up your alley – or right up your fault line, as the case may be.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is the star here, and he does a surprisingly admirable job, playing first responder Ray Gaines, who has just been served divorce papers by his estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino). The two have a college-aged daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), and Emma has a rich boyfriend, Daniel, with whom she is about to move in as the story begins. If you've already guessed that the boyfriend is a jerk and the daughter will need to be rescued by her father, you too can write a Hollywood screenplay.
All movies like this need a character to help explain to the audience through exposition what is going on. Here, that duty falls to seismologist Lawrence Hayes (played by Paul Giamatti), who has created a computer model that is actually capable of predicting earthquakes in advance. Naturally, this happens at the exact same time a string of quakes heads up the San Andreas fault line – starting in Nevada and heading toward San Francisco, where Hayes predicts one of the largest quakes in recorded history will occur. Hayes is never aware of the Gaines character, nor vice versa, which is odd for a film of this sort (where main characters usually cross paths), and Giamatti takes his part so seriously one can't help but wonder if he thought he was in a film with a more somber (and smart) tone to it.
After rescuing his wife from a skyscraper in Los Angeles, Ray heads north with Emma in an attempt to rescue his daughter, who has found herself in San Francisco (along with a new friend, Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), and his young brother, Ollie (Art Parkinson). Intelligent viewers will no doubt pick up on the fact that Ray essentially abandons his duties as a first responder to prioritize his family, but you're thinking too hard – this isn't that kind of movie.
Even though this is a story focusing on earthquakes, the writers (the screenplay is credited to Lost and Bates Motel producer Carlton Cuse, which probably explains why this film is more entertaining than it has any right to be) have been creative enough to think up all the problems such a large earthquakes could cause, including a tsunami in the third act that puts our heroes in some underwater peril. 'San Andreas' doesn't outstay its welcome, either, clocking in at a brisk 114 minutes – keeping things tight and never extending action bits just for the sake of showing off the F/X work.
Yes, I had a lot of fun with 'San Andreas', and most of you should as well. It's a well-oiled machine of a movie that delivers exactly what is promised, no more but no less either. It's not going to win any awards for acting, logic, or even believability, but if the ultimate goal of a movie is to entertain and engage an audience, here's one film that delivers.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'San Andreas' shakes, rattles, and rolls its way onto home video in a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The three discs are housed inside a standard Elite keepcase with the DVD on the inside left hub and the 3D Blu-ray stacked on top of the standard 2D Blu-ray on the right-side hub. Also inside the case is a single insert with a code for an UltraViolet version of the movie. A lenticular slipcover with artwork that matches the keepcase slick slides overtop. The main menu on both Blu-rays is a standard Warners' one, with an image of Dwayne Johnson's character in his helicopter overlooking the city (this is the same image that is used on the standard Blu-ray release, but not this 3D release) and menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The 3D Blu-ray in this release is not front-loaded with any trailers; however, both the DVD and the standard Blu-ray are front-loaded with ads for the Warner Bros. Disc-to-Digital website and for Digital HD in general. There are no front-loaded movie trailers on the standard Blu-ray, but the DVD is front-loaded with trailers for Max, 'In the Heart of the Sea', Justice League: Gods & Monsters, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
In addition to the standard Blu-ray combo pack that is also available (without the 3D disc), there are a couple of retailer exclusives out there, should one wish to track them down. Best Buy is offering a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack (without the 3D disc) that features both exclusive bonus content and an exclusive lenticular slipcover. Target, meanwhile, has an exclusive steelbook to house its combo release (again, without the 3D disc).
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
'San Andreas' was shot digitally on Arri Alexa XT Plus cameras, and both the AVC MPEG-4 2D version and the MVC MPEG-4 3D version on this release are presented in the 2:40:1 aspect ratio.
The 3D version of this movie is an post-conversion, meaning the movie wasn't shot with 3D cameras. As conversions go, this is a fairly nice one, with some real depth to the image, as well as more a few shots that seem to have been designed by the filmmakers knowing they would 'wow' audiences in the third dimension. Detail is pretty good here as well, and while there are a few minor instances of aliasing and banding I detected, overall 3D viewers should be happy with the image quality. Perhaps not surprisingly, the best scenes in 3D are the ones involving special effects and 'cityscape' shots, while the more close-up footage is slightly more flat-looking.
When viewing the 2D version of the movie, viewers may notice how much more colorful the film appears. Of course, this has nothing to do with the color timing of the two different versions, but rather the fact that the lenses of one's 3D glasses dims the picture a bit. There's plenty of 'pop' to be found in the 2D version, and one can really appreciate the colors of the movie in the 2D image a little more than the 3D version.
Is it worth paying a few bucks more to get the 3D release (assuming your home theater is equipped to view 3D)? I think so. 'San Andreas' is intended to be a big, over-the-top disaster film, and viewing it in 3D certainly adds to that experience.
Note: Yours truly has not yet upgraded to the Dolby Atomos system (the featured track here plays in Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for the rest of us), so I enlisted the aid of Atmos guru and fellow HDD reviewer Michael S. Palmer to check out 'San Andreas's Atmos track and report back. What follows are his impressions of the Atmos audio experience.
'San Andreas' crumbles, cracks, and roars onto Blu-ray with a blistering, reference quality Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core) sound mix that boasts robust LFE, immersive sound effects panning, and copious use of height speakers.
While it doesn't dethrone Mad Max: Fury Road or Gravity as the best Dolby Atmos has to offer, 'San Andreas' delivers a monster of a mix that sounds even better in Dolby Atmos than 7.1, but let's first talk about the basics. Dialogue is clear no matter the on-screen chaos. Sound effects pan from front to back and left to right with great aplomb – everything from autorotating helicopters to crashing waves and crumbling concrete define the 360-degree sound field. And the LFE... never overbearing, but always supportive, delivering deep, room-shaking rumbles. Remember, this is a movie that features several dozen timbering skyscrapers, most of which land with a roaring thunder. Those that do not land with big bass are likely depicted in sequences where the track pulls back to revel in the somber musical score by Andrew Lockington. Bottom line, it all sounds great and offers a lot of whiz-bang-look-at-me sound design elements.
And then we add in the Atmos height speakers...
Which lifts the whole mix, and lean the audience into the screen. Helicopter rotors whirl overhead as do splashing waves, buzzing alarms, and two perfectly placed container ship propeller blades threatening to dice our heroes to pieces. Overall, this is a demo-worthy Blu-ray that will excite surround sound enthusiasts (particularly the Atmos early adopters), though if I had one note, it's that I wish the story had provided a little more diversity for its sound design. Everything sounds tip top, don't get me wrong, but for some viewers, you can only have so many helicopter sequences and crumbling buildings before it all begins to sound a little familiar.
Thankfully, after a semi-repetitive first half, the film's sound mix shifts environments some and shows a little more restraint (along with some very nice world-building atmospherics). For more info about the best 'San Andreas' has to offer, check out our other post, Top 10 Dolby Atmos Demos in San Andreas.
Thanks, Michael! As for the rest of the audio stats, both the 3D and the standard Blu-ray also contain a 5.1 English Descriptive Audio track, as well as 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in Spanish (Latin), French, Chinese, Portuguese, and Thai. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Chinese, Korean, Spanish (Latin), Portuguese, and Thai.
Please note that with the exception of the commentary track (which is also on the DVD, but not on the 3D Blu-ray), all of the bonus materials listed below appear only on the 2D standard Blu-ray.
'San Andreas' is big, loud, and stupid – but it never tries to be anything different. It's the perfect definition of a 'popcorn' flick, and often ignores logic and realism just to be entertaining…which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Dwayne Johnson may not be the world's best actor, but he proves he's leading-man material here, and the movie is just a whole lot of fun to watch, particularly in 3D. Recommended.