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Warner Home Video presents
Poseidon HD-DVD (2006)

"You know, there's nothing fair about who lives and dies."
- Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 22, 2007

Stars: Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss
Other Stars: Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, Mike Vogel, Mia Maestro, Jimmy Bennett, Andre Braugher, Freddy Rodriguez, Kevin Dillon, Fergie
Director: Wolfgang Petersen

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of disaster and peril
Run Time: 01h:38m:30s
Release Date: January 16, 2007
UPC: 012569810341
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-A-A- B+

DVD Review

There are plenty of movies that are suggested for a remake and the only response is shaking your head and wondering why you would bother. One such picture is the camp classic The Poseidon Adventure (1972), based on the novel by Paul Gallico, featuring a flipped ocean liner. With an all-star cast populated by the hammiest character actors available, it's a classic of disaster kitsch, and it could hardly be the subject of a remake. Could it? Director Wolfgang Petersen, an old hand at intrigue at sea (Das Boot, The Perfect Storm) was retained to direct, but he denies that it's actually a remake at all, beyond borrowing the basic notion of a capsized luxury liner and a group of people trying to get to the top...err, bottom.

Petersen wastes no time in getting to what people came for: the ship goes over thanks to a rogue wave at about 18 minutes in, including the lengthy opening credit sequence. The vast majority of the picture is devoted to the action sequences that follow the initial disaster, with most of the survivors deciding to stay behind bulkhead doors that they vainly imagine will keep them safe. A group of ten who believe this to be submitting to a deathtrap, led by former firefighter/New York City major Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell) and roguish gambler Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) spend the rest of the picture trying to avoid fire, water and electrocution as they make their way from deck to deck, trying to reach the propeller tubes and the outside before the ship breaks apart and sinks.

One doesn't expect much character development in such a piece, especially with the economical running time of just over 90 minutes (and how many major effects movies manage to get their job done that quickly any more?) The screenplay cooperates, essentially giving each of the ten a single hook that makes them identifiable: Ramsey's daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), Hispanic stowaway Elena (Mia Maestro), single mom Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett), suicidal gay bajillionaire Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), among others. Even so, Petersen engineers the action such that the suspense is often excruciating. He uses cutting masterfully to increase the suspense factor and make sequences very harrowing indeed. For the perspective of a popcorn film, it's hard to ask for more.

However, Petersen's let down to a significant extent by his effects team and Industrial Light & Magic. While the interior sequences, a combination of practical and computer graphics effects work, are exceedingly realistic and substantial, the exteriors leave a lot to be desired. In particular, while the water itself is reasonably impressive, the exteriors of the ship itself are never even remotely convincing as anything other than computer graphics, from the much-hyped opening shot to the exteriors of the ship as it goes under. It's too bad, because it really ruins the suspension of disbelief whenever we get a glimpse of the outside of the Poseidon.

Because of the limited characterization, there isn't any need for the veterans like Russell and Dreyfuss to stretch themselves. Even when Dreyfuss' character is forced to sacrifice one of the other survivors to save himself, the moment passes as if it never happened. Dialogue tends to be cheesy, perhaps in tribute to the original picture. For the most part, however, the interest here is almost entirely devoted to the tension of the various set pieces (which pile on to an almost ludicrous degree) and the morbid interest in who will live and who will die. It's a testament to Petersen's skill that despite the script the audience actually cares.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The widescreen transfer generally looks excellent, without any artifacting even among all the smoke, fire and water. Detail and texture are first-rate throughout. Skin tones seem a bit on the reddish side. I didn't notice any edge enhancement or other problems.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
+
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 DD+ tracks are presented in English, French and Spanish, and there's also an English TrueHD track. Both are quite effective, with plenty of low bass and rumble once the wave hits, and atmospheric and directional creaking as the boat comes apart. Unsurprisingly, there is no audible noise, hiss or other issues. A very effective mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. In-Movie Experience
Extras Review: All of the extras from the standard special edition DVD are present here, though none of them are in high definition (and most of them aren't even anamorphic, other than the theatrical trailer). Poseidon: Upside Down (10m:45s) is an interesting look at the difficulty of designing a set that will have to be flipped upside down. A film school student who worked as a production assistant provides A Shipmate's Diary (12m:21s), most notable for thoroughly documenting Petersen's obsession with soup. Poseidon: A Ship on a Soundstage (22m:41s) is a fairly thorough making-of, with such tidbits as the film being shot roughly in continuity, and that many of the principals did their own stunts. Finally, Rogue Waves (28m:35s) is a History Channel tie-in to the picture that contains some intriguing information regarding the evolution of rogue waves from the realm of legend to well-documented reality in less than 20 years. It does have some nauseatingly breathless fawning over the computer graphics effects work, however.

The notable exclusive for the HD DVD is the In-Movie Experience, hosted by Josh Lucas. It contains plenty of commentary from various participants (some of which is duplicated in the documentary), text trivia and most amusingly, a map of the ship that traces the odyssey of the main cast from the bottom to the top...err, top to the bottom.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

While it has quite a few shortcomings, there's no denying that Wolfgang Petersen is a master of manipulating emotions and generating suspense, and he's pulling out all the stops here. It's a brainless survival picture but within that genre it's quite well done and quite the spectacle.

 


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