Friday 2 February 2007

Friday 2 February 2007
DIRECTOR: Wolfgang Petersen
WRITERS: Paul Attanasio & Akiva Goldsman (based on the novel by Paul Gallico)
CAST: Josh Lucas (Dylan), Kurt Russell (Robert Ramsey), Richard Dreyfuss (Nelson), Emmy Rossum (Jennifer Ramsey), Jacinda Barrett (Maggie James), Mike Vogel (Christian), Mia Maestro (Elena Gonzalez), Jimmy Bennett (Conor James), Andre Braugher (Capt Michael Bradford), Kevin Dillon (Lucky Larry), Freddy Rodriguez (Valentin), Kirk B.R Woller (Chief Officer Reynolds), Kelly McNair (Emily), Gabriel Jarret (First Officer Chapman) & Stacy Ferguson (Gloria)

Wolfgang Petersen loves water. From celebrated submarine war thriller Das Boot to true-story drama The Perfect Storm, the German director has earned a repuation as the King Of The Sea, so it should come as no surprise that his latest project owes its title to the God of the oceans himself -- Poseidon, a remake of classic diaster movie The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

You know the story: a luxury ocean liner is flipped upside down by a freak wave and we follow a group of passengers who decide to escape from the sinking ship. In the grand tradition of disaster flicks, familiar faces round out the cast; from relative newcomers Josh Lucas and Emmy Rossum, to veterans Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss.

Poseidon wastes no time getting down to business. The characters are introduced quickly, in broad strokes that give you a flavour of their personalities. There's dashing card shark Dylan (Lucas), ex-firefighter Robert (Russell) and his beautiful daughter Jennifer (Rossum), Jennifer's fiance Chris (Mike Vogel), gay architect Nelson (Dreyfuss), hispanic stowaway Elena (Mia Maestro), protective mother Maggie (Jacinda Barrett) and her son Jimmy (Conor James).

The wave hits very early on into the film, shortly after a New Year's celebration in the ship's nightclub. From thereon, the movie is a sequence of perilous situations as some survivors make their way up (down?) the flipped-over vessel.

As you'd expect, there are plenty of stunts and underwater sequences in flooded areas. The atmosphere is authentic, with plenty of dead bodies littering the corridors and constant creaking and dripping from bulkheads. The production designers have done great work with all the sets, particularly the impressive lobby area, and the sense of claustrophobia is palpable at times (check out the air vent sequence).

Indeed, the movie follows the disaster movie cliches to the letter. Did you really expect anything else, from a remake no less? While it gets zero points for originality, this is an entertaining and occassionally tense sequence of events. But nothing more. The characters aren't particularly deep, although the joint charisma of Josh Lucas and Kurt Russell keep things from going completely stale. Sadly, Richard Dreyfuss is completely wasted, almost disappearing into the background, and the wonderful Emmy Rossum also deserved far more than an unremarkable daddy's girl role.

The technical aspects of the $160 million production are excellent. But it's difficult to be impressed by a ship getting pummelled by the elements after Petersen's own Perfect Storm and Titanic (1997). The effects are certainly smoother and more believable than James Cameron's watery opus, but Cameron knew that it's the characters that really matter, not the effects. In that respect, Poseidon is the polar opposite of Titanic, favouring technical pizazz over characterisation. Blame the formulaic script by Paul Attanasio and Akiva Goldsman.

It'a a shame the script can't compete with the gorgeous visuals, but Poseidon is still worthy of your time. The actors are likeable, the stunts/effects impressive, the set-design excellent and Petersen crafts a few memorable moments (the wave, the lobby traverse, the air vent, a few underwater swims), but that's about it.

Entertaining enough, but there's nothing in the script to elevate Poseidon beyond mildly exciting eye candy. A damp squib.


PICTURE: The 2.35:1 widescreen image is generally very good, coping with all the visuals, although fire and water spray are a bit weak. But it's sharp and inviting most of the time, particularly with the CGI.

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is excellent, making full use of all the speakers and really grounding you in the situations alongside the cast. There's the expected creaks, hisses, sprays, bubbling and crackling, all wizzing around the speakers to great effect.


The 2-disc edition is packed with bonus material, but it doesn't justify purchase because the quality is pretty poor.

Theatrical Trailer: Very nice, as you'd expect.

Poseidon - A Ship On A Soundstage: A 22-minute look at the making of the film, from the source novel to filming and special effects. It includes interviews with the cast and crew. A brisk, entertaining effort.

Poseidon - Upside Down: A 10-minute featurette, basically a continuation of Ship On A Soundstage, that looks at the use of set-design to create the stricken ocean liner.

Shipmate's Diary: A 12-minute piece from film school graduate Malona Voight, who gives her personal insights after being on set.

Rogue Waves: An excellent 28-minute documentary, originally shown on the History Channel, about the types of wave that hit the fictional Poseidon. There are lots of experts, experiments and video footage, all ensuring you'll be extra nervous the next time you're at the mercy of the fickle oceans.

While there are a few nice extras here, this isn't a particularly special 2-disc set. The film's picture is good, the sound is excellent, but the extra's are mediocre. You might as well save yourself some cash and buy the single-disc edition, as Poseidon is an enjoyable disaster movie while it lasts, but not much more.