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It's New Year's Eve on the Poseidon. Partying voyagers lift glasses to toast the future. The future comes in a rush: a 150-foot rogue wave flips the cruise ship over... and a desperate struggle to survive begins.
For more about Poseidon and the Poseidon Blu-ray release, see Poseidon Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 2, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Mike Vogel, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett
Director: Wolfgang Petersen (I)
» See full cast & crew
Poseidon Blu-ray Review
It's a disaster. It's a movie. That makes it a disaster movie, right?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 2, 2010
Some people just can't take a joke, frankly. I was a long time Music Director for a "local" cruise line, you know, the kind where you pay your sixty bucks, are offered your choice of four entrees, eat a little, then settle in for a three hour tour that you hope doesn't include a multi-year detour to Gilligan's Island. I'm not sure if it was Gilligan's Sandbar we hit one day early in this boat's history, before the vagaries of the river we were plying had become second nature for the captains, but the fact is, we quite violently ran aground. The boat came to a sudden and lurching halt, all of the wine glasses, which were hanging by their stems on racks above the bar, went flying off, crashing to the ground and smashing into sharp slivers, a huge glass display case went flying and also broke into a million pieces, and several guests found themselves flat on their backs as their chairs careened over. I was sitting at the piano and indeed my piano bench started to tip over backward and only by quickly catching myself on the underside of the actual keyboard was I able to keep myself from toppling completely over. In a bit of an anti-climax, the Captain soon came on over the intercom and informed us, not really to much of a surprise, that we had run aground and would be there for a while until another boat could ferry us back to shore, but that we were in no danger of sinking. The Cruise Director came up to me and asked me to keep playing to keep the guests entertained. And so I figured it was the perfect time to launch (no pun intended) into a beautiful, John Tesh-worthy arrangement of "The Morning After," the Oscar winning song from The Poseidon Adventure. I personally found my song choice at least giggle worthy, if not downright hilarious, but it was greeted by an array of disapproving glances from paying customers who perhaps were less willing to see the humor in it all. Of course, this was years before Titanic hit multiplexes, or else I could have done an equally thrilling version of "My Heart Goes On." Be that as it may, there's something ineffable about boat disaster stories, as lovers of any number of films involving massive liners (and even personal craft) going down can attest. Whether or not we really needed a remake of 1972's iconic The Poseidon Adventure is a matter of personal opinion, of course, but 2006's Poseidon may require a sense of humor from audiences who will see it neither as camp, as they may perceive the original by this time, nor compelling enough to swim on its own two fins as a respectable standalone drama.
If the modern disaster film era started with Airport (though I personally consider it to be more of a Grand Hotel of the sky with a tangential disaster element), the idiom really started to make waves (I promise I'll stop soon) with The Poseidon Adventure. Big, glossy, with some slightly past their prime A-listers and several up and coming stars, the film drew the blueprint for what would be a slew of successors throughout the rest of the 1970's. We were introduced to a small sampling of the passengers, each one a "type" more than an actual character, whether that be the overweight middle aged woman, the gruff policeman, the heart of gold former prostitute, and so on and so on. What helped these early 1970's features is that they were cast with names that the audience knew, whether from films or television, with the stars rather artfully melded to the type they were playing. This allowed for a certain shorthand where the audience was already clued in as to what to expect from any given role. The disaster movie was not exactly a lesson in innovative screenwriting or incredible twist endings. We had a gaggle of well known stars caught in precarious circumstances. Probably one or two of them wouldn't make it to the end, but a happy ending was a foregone conclusion.
This time out Poseidon dispenses with any attempt at real characterization in even the halting manner of the "classic" disaster film, and instead we get literally one or two lines or moments which supposedly instantaneously give us the gist of our central players. We have the stalwart former Mayor of New York City (Kurt Russell), whose daughter (Emmy Rossum) has just gotten engaged to her strapping boyfriend (Mike Vogel). A gay millionaire (Richard Dreyfuss) is mourning a breakup with an unidentified partner. There's a stowaway (Mia Maestro) hoping to get to New York to visit an ailing brother. For heartstring tugging, we have the single mom (Jacinda Barrett) and her adorable son (Jimmy Bennett). And as our putative Gene Hackman this time out, we get a former Navy man and current professional gambler (Josh Lucas), who agrees to help get the survivors to the hull if they can "keep up." You may have noticed I didn't provide any character names in this précis, because they're really inconsequential as are, in fact, the characters themselves. We have a series of cardboard cutouts placed into perilous situations and we watch, admittedly breathless at times in some very well staged action sequences, to see who lives and who dies.
And those sequences are, really, all that keeps Poseidon afloat. Wolfgang Petersen is a director who knows his way around the small, confined spaces of a watercraft, as well as the terrors and seductive beauty of water, as he has proven in films from one of his earliest (Das Boot) to one of his most recent (A Perfect Storm). This is a director who knows how to stage viscerally exciting set pieces, and Poseidon is full of them. From the survivors' harrowing attempt to cross an elevator shaft, leading to one actually emotionally involving moment when one of them has to be sacrificed in a rather horrifying manner, to repeated attempts to literally outrun encroaching water, Petersen stages Poseidon with an assured virtuosity that at least makes the film visually interesting and aurally explosive (literally), even while it's about as dramatically turgid as it can be.
The performances here are merely adequate, with only Richard Dreyfuss occasionally rising above the material to connect with the audience in a mercifully tic-free performance, something rather unusual for the actor. Lucas is dashing but dramatically about as deep as a puddle, and the rest of the cast is either left to scream hysterically, which is how Maestro and Bennett spend much of their screen time, or left to spew out ridiculous dialogue that only sounds a trifle better when emitted under water as a series of "glub, glubs."
Poseidon at least has the benefit of brevity, playing at only around 90 minutes. That's good news for those who want their action fast and furious, with nothing else getting in the way. Conversely, it's bad news for anyone wanting some real human emotion and drama to underpin the death and destruction. This is certainly as thrilling as any decent carnival ride, but it's about as forgettable. And that's no joke.
Poseidon Blu-ray, Video Quality
Poseidon arrives on Blu-ray with a generally very strong VC-1 encoded 1080p image with a 2:41:1 aspect ratio. The good news is there is abundant detail here, despite some omnipresent softness, and a very commendable lack of banding in the neatly variegated underwater shots, where luminous streaks of light cut through the murkiness. The subtly gradated colors in these scenes are beautiful. Unfortunately, the superior resolution of the Blu-ray also shows the patently fake CGI of the Poseidon on several occasions, ironically mostly when the ship is still upright and floating. The most impressive aspect of this transfer is the nicely varied color palette, which offers some abrupt changes, all of them well defined with no blooming, as we go from underwater haziness filled with blues and greens to explosive bursts of orange and red as various combustibles ignite. Grain is quite natural looking and while Kurt Russell may have had a bit of Botox, there doesn't seem to be any egregious DNR in this effort. There is some very slight crushing of blacks in some of the interior scenes, where, for example, the inky colored hair of Maestro temporarily disappears into the shadows.
Poseidon Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The best thing about this Blu-ray is undoubtedly the extremely robust and propulsive DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. This soundtrack has all of the fun the film should have exhibited. Filled with zooming pan effects and some wonderfully immersive watery sounds, this is a great example of a surround track actually enveloping the listener and making him a part of the film. From the first neat effect, when the muted sounds of underwater crystallize into above water clarity, this track is a model of fidelity and excellent range. Some of the explosions are wonderfully directional, with metal shards flying overhead and around the listener, and bursts of flame seeming to take the air out of the room as they fly from left to right and back and forth. Dialogue is clear for the most part, though truth be told I did have to turn on the optional subtitles once or twice to get a line or two that was buried beneath various sound effects. LFE gives a thundering workout to the subwoofer throughout this film once the boat goes under, as we ping pong between eruptions of water and explosions inside the ship.
Poseidon Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Some pretty soggy SD supplements are offered on this Blu-ray:
Poseidon: A Ship on a Soundstage (22:42) takes a look at the production of the film, featuring some fairly standard EPK praise of Wolgang Petersen by various cast and crew.
Shipmate's Diary (12:22) follows Production Assistant Malona Voigt around as she performs her various duties.
Poseidon: Upside Down (10:45) explores the challenges of building sets "upside down."
Rogue Waves (28:37) is an interesting History Channel program dealing with the phenomenon which has actually sent real life boats upending.
Poseidon Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you see only one film about an upside down ocean liner, make it The Poseidon Adventure, an iconic original that may play more like camp now than it was intended to, but which still delivers action and emotion in nearly equal doses. As for this waterlogged remake, it's all wet.
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Poseidon Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Poseidon Blu-ray Announced - January 6, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced Wolfgang Petersen's action/disaster movie 'Poseidon' for release on Blu-ray on April 6. This was one of Warners' last few titles released on HD DVD and still awaiting a Blu-ray release. As with other titles recently announced by ...
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