In yet another overblown attempt by Hollywood to create big box office from past blockbusters, Warner Bros. has launched "Poseidon," an update of the 1972 Irwin Allen yarn, "The Poseidon Adventure." Director Wolfgang Petersen takes the helm of this barge, giving it enough action and explosions to complete the standard Hollywood formula, but depriving it of all the campy drama and intrigue of the original. The ship now sets sail for DVD in a two-disc special edition by way of Warner Home Video.
Aboard the dazzling, elaborate luxury liner S.S. Poseidon, hundreds of ridiculously beautiful people gather together to celebrate the New Year. Their celebration is sufficiently ruined when a monstrous rogue wave strikes and completely overturns the ship. Refusing to wait for a rescue crew, determined survivor Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) begins making his way up to the bottom of the ship to get out. He is followed by a handful of passengers, including former firefighter Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), the suicidal Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), single mother Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett) and her son, Conor (Jimmy Bennett).
Beyond this, there's really not much to the film. As the survivors make their way toward the bottom, they depend on each other for strength and encouragement as they face one calamity after another. What little conflict there is arises mostly from Robert's clash with his daughter (Emmy Rossum) over her current boyfriend (Mike Vogel). However, there is so little character development before or after the disaster that these purportedly emotional scenes are hopelessly artificial. In place of narrative, we are bombarded with over-the-top action sequences that, in spite of their realism and grandeur, are empty without proper dramatic context.
The filmmakers have said that their intention was not to "remake" the original movie, per se, but instead to expand on the premise and make it more visceral for contemporary audiences. The biggest difference between the two films is that the new version is totally devoid of fun. Where the original had the distinct flavor of 1970s kitsch (not to mention Shelley Winters underwater), Petersen's movie has loads of CGI and a cameo appearance from Black Eyed Peas front woman Fergie. The film has no personality and exhibits a curious aloofness, leaving its considerably adept cast dead in the water.
As with most current DVD transfers, "Poseidon" is offered in a clean 2.35:1 anamorphic image that is free of dirt and blemishes. The print features excellent color saturation and deep blacks throughout. Overall, it is quite dark, but I presume this is intentional. In pretty much every way, this is a typically strong transfer from Warner.
The film benefits greatly from the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix, which sounds incredible. Action sequences are especially fierce, with blasts and the sound of pounding water thundering through the back speakers. Voices are rich and clear in the front, and the surround really makes this a special experience.
On Disc 1, the movie is followed by one featurette and a trailer. "Poseidon: A Ship on a Soundstage" is a 23-minute look at the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew and loads of behind-the-scenes footage. It's a nicely comprehensive supplement, giving us a good idea of the on-set atmosphere.
Three more featurettes are offered on Disc 2, beginning with the 11-minute "Poseidon: Upside Down." This follows the art directors and designers as they set out to construct the remarkable sets for the movie, which are upside down through the bulk of it. The 12-minute "A Shipmate's Diary" was created by Malona Voigt, a production assistant on the movie and recent film-school graduate, to document her first experience on a major Hollywood picture. It's fun, but superficial. The last feature is "Rogue Waves," a fascinating, 29-minute presentation from The History Channel that explores the title phenomena and their sketchy history.
Hollywood continues to drudge forward by rehashing its old hits, and like any recycled good, the new product is efficient but of lower quality. "Poseidon" fails to excite or engross with its by-the-numbers disaster premise and one-note characters. The days of "Das Boot" have apparently ended for Wolfgang Petersen, who seems to have shifted his attention from content to style. Promising sheer entertainment and thrill-ride screams, this ocean liner doesn't stay afloat for long and is quickly submerged in a sea of mediocrity.