The Rock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This became a good but not great presentation.
For the most part, sharpness seemed positive, as the majority of the flick demonstrated appropriate accuracy and definition. However, more than a few slightly soft shots popped up along the way, a factor not helped by some mild but consistent edge haloes. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and print flaws remained absent. I didn’t think digital noise reduction was a substantial concern, but the movie could seem a bit “processed” and not as film-like as I’d prefer.
Colors looked fine. Golden tones seemed strongest, but other hues showed fairly positive reproduction. Blacks were reasonably tight, and shadows were decent; those could be a little thick but usually appeared adequate. The image was pretty good overall but not as strong as it should be.
I felt more consistently pleased with the active and involving Uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack. All five channels get a terrific workout throughout the film, with little time off for a rest in between the movie’s many action scenes. Music spread cleanly and distinctly across the front speakers and also received some reinforcement from the surrounds.
Effects were the stars of the show, and they blasted from all directions during much of the flick. Audio seemed well-localized and accurately-placed, and the sounds also blended together smoothly to create a neatly-integrated environment. As far as highlights go, no particular scenes stood out in my mind, but the second half of the film functions almost as one continuous demo reel.
Audio quality also seemed very good. Dialogue appeared a bit artificial at times - obviously much of The Rock needed to be looped - but the lines were consistently intelligible and distinct, and no edginess appeared with the speech. Music could have been slightly brighter, but the score largely sounded clear and dynamic, with good bass response.
As was the case with the soundfield, the effects were the strongest aspect of the mix in regard to quality. The wide variety of sounds - from explosions to gunfire to jets to a myriad of ambient noises - were accurately reproduced without any signs of distortion.
When appropriate, bass response seemed tight and deep, and the louder scenes offered a real impact. The track provided a taut and engaging auditory experience.
How did the Blu-ray compare to those of the Criterion DVD from 2001? Audio was a bit smoother and more dynamic, while visuals looked cleaner, more accurate and vivid. Though I found some concerns with the image, it still marked a notable improvement over the DVD.
Most of the DVD’s extras reappear here, starting with an audio commentary. This piece includes actors Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris, director Michael Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and technical advisor Harry Humphries. As is typical of Criterion commentaries, all of the participants were recorded separately and the results were edited together.
This creates a lively and engrossing discussion of the film and many other subjects. We learn a tremendous amount of information about the production such as the approaches taken by Cage and Harris to their characters, Bruckheimer contributes some of his ideas on filmmaking, Humphries discusses the real-life aspects of the situation, and Bay chimes in with a variety of issues and anecdotes.
Although all five men provide interesting comments, Bay and Cage are really the stars of the show. Cage still appeared defensive about his move to action films, and he spends much of his time telling us of his inspirations and they ways he tried to make the character unique.
As is always the case with the director, Bay is an engaging and energetic presence who seems honest and blunt with his opinions, and he offers lots of solid information about the creation of the film. Criterion audio commentaries are almost always very good, but this one stands among their best; I’ve listened to it four times since I got the laserdisc in 1998 and I still find it entertaining and compelling.
After this we find Navy SEALs On the Range, a five-minute and 55-second piece that follows one of Harry Humphries’ classes on gun handling. We learn some nice tidbits about weapons training plus we also hear about requirements needed to get into the SEALS and the kind of rigors through which they must go.
Next up is Hollywood Humphries and Teague a program that features Humphries along with actor Marshall Teague. In this eight-minute, 18-second piece, they demonstrate the many mistakes found in movies that use guns and tell us how the weapons would work if used in the ways we see depicted. It’s a witty and informative piece that shows how unrealistically most flicks depict gunfire.
An episode of Movie Magic dedicated to The Rock provides seven minutes and 50 seconds of material about the special effects used in the film. Of primary focus are the cable car explosion and the computer generated jets at the end of the movie. It’s a superficial but generally interesting look at this component of the process.
Special Effects for Dive Sequence lasts seven minutes, 46 seconds and takes a moderately detailed look at the creation of that portion of the movie. Visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman provides commentary as we watch images of the different effects elements. Again, it’s not a terribly in-depth piece, but it seemed useful and entertaining.
In addition, we find footage of the film’s world premiere, which took place on Alcatraz. That piece lasts for one minute, 55 seconds and is mildly interesting but doesn’t offer much.
Quite stimulating, on the other hand, are the eight minutes and 51 seconds of Outtakes we find. Don’t look for the usual “actor flubs a line and laughs” junk here - these are absolutely terrific looks behind the scenes of the production.
Easily the best part of the set are the shots of Ed Harris’ multiple meltdowns. You know, I don’t think the intensity he displays as a performer is just an act! Anyway, after the commentary, the “Outtakes” are the best part of the supplements.
Secrets of Alcatraz provides 14 minutes and 39 seconds of background information about the island. The details are presented in a fairly dry, PBS-documentary style, but we do learn a lot of good information about “the rock”. It’s not required viewing to enjoy the movie - and it actually contradicts some “facts” presented in the film - but it’s a nice piece of history.
Finally, a Jerry Bruckheimer Interview occupies 16 minutes, seven seconds. Bruckheimer covers his early interests in film and discusses how he became involved in the business. He also talks about specific aspects of the production of some of his movies, with a logical emphasis on The Rock.
I’ve heard a few different interviews with Bruckheimer, and this one seems typical. As a speaker, he’s the opposite of Bay. While the latter is energetic and open, Bruckheimer feels like a politician. He’s always circumspect and although he offers some interesting details, his manner seems flat and not very engaging. While there’s enough good information to make this program worth a look, it’s not terribly fascinating.
The disc opens with ads for WALL-E, Gone Baby Gone. We also find the teaser and theatrical trailer for The Rock along with five TV spots.
The Rock remains one of the better offerings from the Bruckheimer factory, as it combines a typically fine cast with a more serious-than-usual subject and provides an exciting experience. The Blu-ray gives us generally good picture, excellent audio and a roster of bonus materials highlighted by a fascinating commentary. While I’d like a stronger visual transfer, this nonetheless becomes the best version of the film on the market.