High definition geology
The French Blu-ray release of The Rock (or Rock, as it is simply titled in France) reached me today. As previously reported, it is indeed encoded for all regions (A, B, C), so I had no trouble playing it in my Japanese Playstation 3. It also includes all of the extras from the Criterion Collection release, barring the audio commentary - a shame, because it was a good one. I suspect that the commentary may be presented when this film eventually surfaces on Blu-ray in the US, given that the two Pirates of the Caribbean titles also had their commentaries dropped for their European releases, but were present on the American editions.
Anyway, you probably want to know about what really counts: the image quality. Well, the good news is that it’s a pretty nice-looking disc. I nearly had a heart attack when the opening Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Productions logo appeared, as it was so ill-defined that it looked like standard definition, but things picked up immediately after that. I suspect that the master used here is the same one from which Criterion sourced their standard definition transfer, which is a good thing in my book, because it is pleasingly unmangled, with only some light temporal noise reduction artefacts visible on occasions… and edge enhancement. Yes, the halos around high contrast edges are quite noticeable at times (look at the soldiers’ hats in the opening credits sequence, or the massive glow around Nicolas Cage as he stands against the sunset after Sean Connery leaves at the end), and, as with the Criterion, the footage during the opening and closing credits, plus any shot with location type, appears to have been taken from a softer source than the rest of the film.
Basically, this is a low- to mid-range 8/10 transfer in my book. Whereas the Criterion is in the upper echelon of standard definition DVDs, the master doesn’t quite cut the mustard as a contender against the best that the HD arena has to offer.