Warner Bros. | 2006 | 98 mins | Rated PG-13

I admit, I’m a fan of 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure. Granted, like most of producer Irwin Allen’s films (The Towering Inferno), the story is only so-so, but the star power he could bring to a project often made his projects better than they should have been. The Poseidon Adventure boasted an all-star cast that included Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson, Roddy McDowall and Leslie Nielsen among others. It was wonderful to see all those accomplished actors together in one film, but I think most will agree it isn’t a film that needed an update. In the case of the 2006 remake, Poseidon, reviewed here, it lost money big time, earning back only about a third of what it cost to make.

PoseidonDirector Wolfgang Peterson’s (The Perfect Storm) film follows the same basic premise as the 1972 original. It’s New Year’s Eve aboard a super luxury liner at sea when a huge rogue wave hits the ship and turns it over. Most of the passengers are at a party in the main ballroom as the disaster strikes, and when some of them hear the captain say, “We will be safe,” they know it’s time to head for higher ground. With the captain trying to comfort the passengers in the ship’s ballroom, a small group of people decide to forgo the warnings and escape on their own by making their way to the bottom of the ship, which is now the top of the ship because it’s upside down, and get out through the propeller openings before the ships sinks.

The biggest problem with Poseidon is that the disaster occurs too quickly. At least in the original, we were given enough background on each character to care about what happened to them by the time disaster struck. As I pointed out earlier, the original also established a tradition of using big-name actors in main and even minor roles. Here we get only two well-known faces and a collection of sort of familiar, faces.

Film fans will certainly recognize Kurt Russell as an overly protective father on a cruise with his nineteen-year-old daughter and Richard Dreyfuss as a gay architect, saddened that his partner has left him for another man. Unfortunately, the film gives Russell precious little to do, and Dreyfuss’ character is portrayed as a sulky wimp throughout most of the story.

Though Josh Lucas gets top billing here, I’m not sure I would consider him a star. You may or may not recognize him from his roles in films including Glory Road and Hulk. From there on, the actors will probably get a little more obscure for many viewers. Emmy Rossum plays Kurt Russell’s daughter, and viewers may remember her from The Phantom of the Opera. Jacinda Barrett plays a single mother, and Jimmy Bennett plays her little boy; Mike Vogel plays Ms. Rossum’s character’s boyfriend; Mia Maestro plays a stowaway; and Kevin Dillon plays a slimeball. I bet you can already guess who dies first!

Poseidon is a movie all about special effects. The characters are an obvious afterthought. The rogue wave hits, and then we spend the next 85 minutes watching this small group of people fight to survive. They swim, they jump, they climb; and as viewers it’s hard to care a whole lot about any of them.

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. When I say nothing, I truly mean nothing. I would stick to the original.

Warner’s 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p high definition presentation looks pretty good; even if it makes the already dated CGI scenes look exceptionally phony. The underwater scenes look surprisingly clear and there aren’t any obvious authoring issues like edge enhancement or compression artifacts to complain about. Detail levels are noticeably improved over the standard definition release and color reproduction looks great. There are a couple of spots where shadow detail isn’t quite as strong as it could be and things get just a little bit murky but overall this is a solid transfer.

More impressive is the film’s English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Right from the beginning scene we know that there’s going to be a lot going on in terms of surround activity and we get plenty of detail to listen for throughout the movie. The scenes in the ballroom where Fergie is performing sound great with all the different instruments easy to pick out, while the scene in which the wave first hits the boat has all the power and punch you’d expect. As the boat starts sinking, all manner of eerie creaking sounds surround you from all sides. If there’s one fault here it’s that the dialogue can periodically get a little buried in amongst all of the chaos.

Optional Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are supplied in Parisian French, French Canadian, and Spanish while subtitles are offered in English SDH, French and Spanish.

All of the special features are presented in standard definition:

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.

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