Poseidon (Single Disc Edition) (2006)

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Released 26-Sep-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-A Ship On A Soundstage
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 94:09
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (45:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Wolfgang Petersen
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Kurt Russell
Josh Lucas
Richard Dreyfuss
Jacinda Barrett
Emmy Rossum
Mike Vogel
Mía Maestro
Jimmy Bennett
Andre Braugher
Freddy Rodríguez
Kevin Dillon
Kirk B.R. Woller
Stacy Ferguson
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Klaus Badelt
Mary J. Blige


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Director Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot and The Perfect Storm) decides to get his feet wet again, but Poseidon is essentially the unnecessary remake of 1970s classic disaster flick The Poseidon Adventure. This time, unlike the critically and commercially successful original, we have a boat load of characters that the audience never cares about. Sure it's cheesy, but so is camembert. Enjoy it for what it is - some entertaining, white-knuckle fun, and a completely mindless escape thriller. Welcome to one of 2006's guilty pleasures.

    The original film, The Poseidon Adventure, was based on Paul Gallico's best-selling pulp-fiction novel, and was released theatrically in 1972. An immediate critical and commercial success, The Poseidon Adventure had all the hallmarks of the 1970s disaster film genre. The most obvious of these was the all-star ensemble cast, including Gene Hackman, Ernest Borginine, Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall, and Shelley Winters. And as with 1974's The Towering Inferno, the plot was based on the device of giving an audience a group of interesting and varied characters to care about, and then putting those characters in a dire and deadly peril they must escape. The Poseidon Adventure also launched an oft-forgotten, ridiculous sequel in 1979, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, that starred Michael Caine, Sally Field, Telly Savalas, Peter Boyle, Shirley Jones, Karl Malden, and Mark Hamon.

    However, the audience of 2006's Poseidon is warned pretty early on in this version that genuine disaster (in terms of the film's plot) is looming, with the extensive focus on the cruise ship's lounge singer character (Stacy Ferguson of the Black Eyed Peas). Why spend so much time on someone that's not even a character in the story? Well, because there's nothing else interesting to see onboard. There's certainly not much in the way of genuine dramatic conflict or conversation. Indeed, there is no attempt in this film at any character development, except for one lame plot device, designed to emotionally manipulate the audience into caring about two of the characters surviving: They're getting married. So what?

    The movie opens with a very impressive seamless tracking shot that establishes the enormous size of the the 13-deck, 20-stories tall, luxury cruise ship Poseidon. (Indeed, this two and a half minute opening shot by Industrial Light & Magic is one of the most expensive opening shots in the history of filmmaking.) That evening  it’s New Year’s Eve, and the passengers are in a very festive mood. The champagne corks are popping as the passengers swan about wearing black tie, formal gowns and big smiles. Amongst all this revelry and hubris it takes us only about 15 minutes to meet all of the film's principal characters: An ex-fireman and former NYC mayor, Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), a grizzled Navy veteran and debonair professional gambler, Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas), a single mother with a heart of gold, Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett), and her precocious but oh so cute son, Conor (Jimmy Bennett), the suicidal, broken-hearted gay architect Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), the outrageously obnoxious card-playing drunken loud-mouthed lout, Lucky Larry (Kevin Dillon), the sexy and sad Latino stowaway, Elena (Mia Maestro), and the doe-eyed pair of young lovers - Ramsey’s innocently sweet but sassy daughter, Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), and her decent and devoted fiancé Christian (Mike Vogel).

    All the actors do their jobs, and to be fair to them, script-wise they are not given much to work with. As soon as any of the scenes become too chatty - boom - there's another mini-disaster. Fire, water, an explosion, anything to interrupt the conversation. They all play it pretty straight, and only Dreyfuss makes any attempt to do something more with his character. But while still being his flamboyant self, Dreyfuss thankfully avoids playing his gay character too camp. Rather, he makes the most of his scenes with Maestro, displaying a touching sense of empathy and understanding toward another outsider. And an outsider she is - as with most Hollywood disaster and horror films, despite all the token black and Latino characters introduced at the beginning, expect only to see smiling white faces surviving to the end. But exactly which ones, I won't say.

    With the finished film clocking in at barely over an hour and a half, one has to assume that all of the characters' back-stories have been cut from Mark Protosevich's script. For example, while much is made of the fact that Ramsey "used to be" the NYC Mayor, no real explanation is given as to why he isn't any more. What happened? Why is this such an issue? Also, what lead to Johns becoming a loner gambler? Why is he so self-centred and selfish, only to become selfless and kind? How did Maggie afford the cruise? And what happened to Conor's father? All these questions and many more remain unanswered.

    On the other hand, all this heavy trimming does mean that Poseidon is a very tightly-paced action movie that wastes little time. And it is here, once it gets going, that Poseidon works well enough, provided you don't think about it too much. After all, as soon as the brief character introductions are done, so is all the character development and we then move on to a series of lavish set pieces (shot with no less than seven cameras concurrently), and some wonderful, SFX-heavy cliffhangers.

    Petersen happily trades character development and emotional investment for creating tension, claustrophobia and a sense of urgency. While the original film had an all-star cast, with no less than five Oscar winning actors in the line-up, in the 2006 version the ship's sinking much faster, and none of the characters are given enough time to make an Oscar-award winning speech.

    As for the story, the cruise ship Poseidon is hit by a gigantic 150 feet “rogue wave” while out at sea. The mighty cruise ship struggles, flounders, and eventually flips over. The ceiling becomes the floor, and at this point all of the character's emotional baggage, along with some of the passengers, are promptly tossed overboard. We then get treated to watching many faceless extras (both real and CGI) getting killed in a number of horrible ways, ranging from fire to drowning; from being impaled to being crushed.

    The ship's Captain (Andre Braugher) advises the surviving passengers to all remain in the grand ballroom, which he wants to seal off, to make a giant air bubble. But a "rogue wave" calls for rogue survivors, and when all the dust, debris, and bodies settle after the Poseidon capsizes, some passengers aren't willing to stay put and wait to be rescued. Thus, Ramsey and Johns lead a small group of hardy passengers out of the ballroom in a desperate attempt to struggle through all the fire, water, and floating corpses to reach safety. Their plan is to make their way to the top (formerly bottom) of the ship, and find a way out. Along this perilous route they will be forced to face most of the disaster film clichés ranging from electrical wires dangling spastically from walls, seemingly impassable chasms to be crossed, and being trapped in deadly rooms that suddenly become locked and flooded.

    Fortunately, while neither worked on a cruise ship, both Ramsey and Johns seem to know their way around an upside down one intimately. They also seem incredibly resourceful, and unbelievably lucky. After all, while lost, they manage to continually stumble across signs, ship plans and charts which they both decipher immediately, shouting out the odd bit of exposition such as "those are the valve doors!"

    In the 1970s, Hollywood provided plenty of disaster movies, as audiences loved them. After all, back then, giant tidal waves or infernos collapsing giant skyscrapers were all improbable fictions. But today, when real-life disasters such as 9/11, the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina have all played so vividly, with live and graphic coverage on our television screens nightly, I'm sure movie audiences have become more jaded, and certainly more cynical. Surely the age of the disaster movie genre, at least 70s style, has finished?

     Okay, so no one is looking for great profundity in an SFX-driven disaster movie about a cruise ship, but fortunately Poseidon makes no attempt to disguise itself. Poseidon has no delusions of dramatic grandeur, nor abstract artistic aspirations. Its style and presentation freely admits to it being just the latest mechanical multiplex cash-cow, straight from the Hollywood factory floor. And I respect that - it is what it is. Petersen seems to have no pretensions he's making great art - he seems to clearly know and understand what he's being asked to deliver, and he delivers it.

    However, to be perfectly honest, I would have preferred if they had given Russell an eye patch, a few one-liners, and titled the film Escape From Poseidon.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   Generally speaking, the transfer of the DVD is excellent, and faithful to the look and feel of the film's theatrical print. Obviously, there are many underwater scenes in this film, and the VFX, supervised by Boyd Shermy, and the excellent photography by John Seale, is top class. I encourage you to view Poseidon with a good quality projector if you have the opportunity to do so.

    Shot on Super 35, and released with a theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, the DVD's transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    Despite all the underwater work, the sharpness of the transfer is great throughout. Consider the detailed shot of the expansive cruise ship ballroom at 7:40. The black level is excellent, with true, deep blacks. The shadow detail is also excellent, as can be seen in the dimly-lit scenes at 19:55 and 27:16.

    The colour is excellent, and an important part of the story telling. Poseidon uses a number of coloured lenses throughout, and perhaps some digital grading as well. The transfer exhibits a well-saturated palette of colours, and the skin tones of the actors are accurate.

    This is a well-authored disc, and while some scenes look a little grainy, there are no problems with MPEG artefacts, or Film-To-Video Artefacts. A recent pristine print has been used for the transfer, and film artefacts, such as tiny black or white flecks are very hard to spot. Some edge enhancement is noticeable from time to time, but considering the vast amount of green screen work in this film, this appearance might actually lie in the source material.

    There are only two subtitle streams provided: English and English for the Hearing Impaired. They are both accurate.

    This is a Dual Layer disc, with the layer change placed at 45:53. It is during a scene, so the pause is noticeable. The feature is divided into 22 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Originally released theatrically with dts, SDDS, and Dolby Digital audio, the audio options on this DVD are: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), and English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The default audio track is the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Sadly, this has been encoded at the inferior 384Kb/s, as opposed to a 448Kb/s 5.1 EX track. Considering that there is no dts track on the DVD, the film's relatively short running time and the lack of extras, I find this compromise very disappointing.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent on the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. There is a lot of ADR work in Poseidon, and sometimes the use of looped dialogue is recognizable, but it was never distracting.

    Poseidon features a sweeping orchestral musical score credited to Klaus Badelt, with additional music provided by Mary J Bildge. There are a number of character-based themes, and the score works quite well in underlining the drama and tension on screen. Stacy Ferguson also performs a few songs near the beginning of the movie.

    Poseidon has an awesome sound design and the DVD boasts a very immersive surround presence and activity. The surround sound mix is cleverly done, and the rear speakers are used to help carry the score, which is very effective. A nice touch is that the rears are not only used in the obvious scenes, such as the noisy disco at 12:00, but also subtlety, such as the background ambience of the dining room at 44:48. There are also a few rear directional effects, such as panning between speakers with the ship creaking at 19:25, which adds spatially to the sense of impending doom and tension.

    The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively to support the film's many sound effects, such as the explosion at 44:29.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This review relates to the single disc edition of Poseidon. Obviously the Two-Disc edition has a second disc with many additional featurettes, but in terms of a one disc edition, the few extras here are genuine and good.

Menu

    A series of animated menus with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Forced Anti-Piracy Commercial

    This overly loud and completely annoying advertisement plays when the disc is loaded. Ironically, the only way to avoid it is to watch a pirated copy of this DVD.

Featurette - Making Of - A Ship On A Soundstage (22:41)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo sound, this featurette is described as "The Complexities Of Making A Modern Adventure Movie", and features interviews with the cast and crew, and some behind the scenes footage. There is also a look at the challenges of filming, and some of the many stunts of the film. An interesting fact presented is that one ship per year is lost in the North Atlantic due to "rogue waves".

English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0

    Presented in Dolby Digital Stereo Surround, this audio track features a narration of all the action that happens onscreen.

Theatrical Trailer (1:39)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo surround sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Poseidon was also released on DVD in Region 1 and 4 with the choice of a Single or Two-Disc edition. They are both pretty much the same.

    The second disc for R1 and R4 adds:

Summary

    Poseidon is an enjoyable and reasonable attempt at Friday night escapism. There's nothing really wrong with it, it's just that it's rather ordinary.

    The video quality of the transfer is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent and very immersive.

    The extras are genuine and good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
The sinkable has arrived. -
Excellent Review! - REPLY POSTED
Why does everyone hate this film? -
skipping anti piracy annoyance -