“It’s New Year’s Eve on the Poseidon. Partying voyagers toast the future. The future comes in a rush; a 150 foot rogue wave flips the cruise ship over. And a struggle to survive begins.”
Poseidon doesn’t waste any time getting to the action, so I won’t waste any time with an introduction to this review. Yes, it’s a remake of the 1972 film, The Poseidon Adventure. Yes, it is chock full of convenient cardboard characters (a former Navy man, a fireman, a nurse, etc…). But we don’t watch movies like Poseidon for character exposition, do we?
Poseidon is a rip-roaring 90 minutes of intensity and even delivers some gory goods. Yes, I said gory. I know Poseidon…is a PG-13 movie, but it is chock full of carnage. It’s also very exhausting. I haven’t had a movie leave me feeling beaten down in a long time, if ever. Does that make Poseidon an excellent movie? No. But it’s 100% effective for a disaster film – and deserved a better fate at the box office.
The plot is minimal: Poseidon is a massive Titanic-like ship that is struck by a rogue wave and flips over. After most of the passengers and crew are killed in a grisly extended sequence, a motley crew of survivors unite to race against the rising water to make it to the bottom of the ship – now the top – to safety. It’s really just a bunch of fancy set-pieces (crossing an elevator shaft on an aluminum kitchen table, rappelling across the flooded lobby, swimming under fire) strung together with some new-agey dialog spliced in between scenes. Luckily, it is kept to a minimum, and we’re not forced to watch something akin to Full House set against the backdrop of the Titanic.
Wolfgang Petersen directs a solid veteran cast of Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Andre Braugher – and mixes in some fresh faces – Emmy Rossum, Mike Vogel, Mia Maestro, Jacinda Barrett, and Jimmy Bennett. However, he directs them more like a war-hungry general sending his troops into battle than an actual film cast. Petersen flings them down hallways raging with water, makes them swim underwater for extended periods of time and crawl through claustrophobia-inducing vent shafts. Petersen knows claustrophobia – see Das Boot – and he uses that experience in Poseidon to good effect, which elevates this film above the standard disaster movie fare.
Poseidon is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with aVC-1 codec at an average 27 mbps. The high definition image looks pretty good most of the time. Detail is pretty good, but there are a lot of less than stellar moments here. The CG work is quite obvious. The picture is often dark or containing rather odd lighting. Of course, this is all intended, but the image sometimes suffers from this mixture of atmosphere and style. The print is in fine shape, but it all adds up to a pretty average high definition presentation.
The DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio is as ferocious as the rogue wave that tips the ship over within the film’s first 15 minutes. Once the action starts, the soundtrack never stops. The pounding score resonates well across the sound-stage, and while there isn’t a lot of great sound separation (a DTS track would have come in handy), the chaos is handled nicely, and no jumbling or distortion is present. Every speaker in your surround system gets a full workload with Poseidon. Sit back, turn up the volume (or down if it’s too loud, because this soundtrack is aggressive) and enjoy!
All of the features are in SD.
Poseidon – A Ship On A Soundstage: (22:42) A comprehensive behind the scenes look at the making of the film, with a focus on shooting the film primarily on a soundstage, shooting the film in chronological order – a rarity that makes film producers throw things – and how the cast dealt with the physical shoot. Highlights are the filmmakers discussing the decision to simply take the premise from the original film and reinvent it for today’s audiences and seeing the cast deal with doing a majority of their own stunts.
A Shipmate’s Diary: (12:22) Malona Voight was an assistant to Petersen and offers some production reports here.
Poseidon – Upside Down: (10:45) A brief look at the film’s production design.
2006 History Channel – Rogue Waves – The Sinking Of The Poseidon: (28:37) A History Channel look at the type of tidal wave that took out the ship in all of the story’s film versions.
Poseidon is a fun and exhausting ride. Who needs roller coasters when you’ve got this film? While there’s no doubting Poseidon’s intensity, the film is instantly handcuffed by being a disaster flick, thus forced to hit all the cliches that are required of films in the genre. That said, Poseidon is one of the best disaster films of this era. The picture and sound are impressive, but not perfect. It all comes down to this. If you’re looking for a film that allows you to turn off your brain and enjoy the ride, you’ll be hard pressed to find a film that does it better than Poseidon this year.
This review also features material written by Gino Sassani