Poseidon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though parts of the film looked terrific, too much inconsistency occurred.
Most of the problems related to definition. While I saw no signs of edge enhancement, I thought too many wide shots came across as a bit soft and indistinct. That didn’t happen constantly, as some broad images appeared pretty concise, and closer shots always offered nice sharpness. Unfortunately, the picture simply became a little too loose for my liking. Jagged edges and shimmering created no problems, and source flaws seemed absent.
Colors worked fine. Given the prevalence of dark interiors, the film didn’t get many chances to shine in this area, but it always created accurate, acceptably bright tones. Blacks were fairly deep and firm, but shadows could seem a little murky. Some low-light shots tended to be less dynamic than I’d prefer. Again, there was enough good quality here to make the movie more than watchable, but don’t expect a scintillating visual experience.
On the other hand, Poseidon offered the kind of Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that sells home theaters. I anticipated a terrific soundfield and that’s what I got. With all the explosions, water and other dynamic elements, the mix occupied my ears with tons of good material. The initial assault of the wave presented a sequence destined to demo many a system, as it used all five speakers to great advantage. I won’t directly specify the other standout moments since they’d reveal too much about the plot, but suffice it say that every speaker in your array will get an active workout from this broad, involving mix.
The track backed up the strong soundfield with excellent audio quality. Speech always remained intelligible and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other problems. Music was bright and full. The score played a backup role given the dominance of the effects, but the music showed good definition.
And how about those effects? They filled out the movie well. At all times they were accurate and vivid. No distortion or other concerns appeared, and bass response was amazing. Lots of deep, rich low-end occupied the mix and added a real kick to the proceedings. This was one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in quite some time.
When we head to the extras found on this two-disc set, DVD One presents a trailer along with a featurette called Poseidon: A Ship on a Soundstage. This 22-minute and 37-second show mixed movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from director Wolfgang Petersen, producers Mike Fleiss, Akiva Goldsman and Duncan Henderson, Gallico estate representative Jon Brown. NOAA meteorologist Mark Jackson, writer Mark Protosevich, associate producer Barbara Huber, co-produce Todd Arnow, visual effects supervisor Boyd Shermis, 2nd unit DP Mark Vargo, 1st unit stunt coordinator Allen Robinson, 2nd unit director Doug Coleman, director of photography John Seale, 2nd AD Basil Bryant Grillo, key makeup artist Gregory C. Funk, costume supervisor Bob Morgan, costumer John Voght, dyer Steven Porch, ILM visual effects supervisor Kim Libreri, special effects supervisor John R. Frazier, and actors Kurt Russell, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, Kevin Dillon, Mike Vogel, Mia Maestro, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss and Jimmy Bennett.
“Ship” looks at the adaptation of the original story and film and where this one fits in Petersen’s résumé. We hear about factual elements of the tale, the decision not to shoot on a real ship and the use of visual effects for the boat and other elements. We also learn about the use of real sets, filming in continuity, stunts, cinematography, Petersen’s ability to work on a large-scale project such as this, costumes and makeup, and dealing with all the water on the set.
Should you expect to learn a ton about Poseidon here? No, but you’ll get a program that seems more satisfying than the average promotional featurette. “Ship” gives us a reasonable overview of the various filmmaking elements. Though it doesn’t come across as fulfilling, it’s a decent teaser.
Moving to DVD Two, we open with Poseidon: Upside Down. The 10-minute and 40-second featurette includes statements from Petersen, Russell, Lucas, Dreyfuss, Henderson, Grillo, Arnow, Barrett, Frazier, illustrator Daren R. Dochterman, set decorator Robert Gould, production designer William Sandell, art director Bradford Ricker, set designer Kevin Loo, assistant art director Luke Freeborn, construction coordinator Gary Deaton, location manager Michael John Meehan, and property master CJ Maguire.
“Down” looks at the design and creation of the titular ship. We learn a little more about why the film never uses a real boat, and we then get into the elements of the movie’s Poseidon such as challenges related to the sets and their construction. As with the first featurette, “Down” offers some good moments, but it’s too quick and superficial to go as far as I’d like. We get a decent glimpse of ship-related issues and that’s about it.
A Shipmate’s Diary goes for 12 minutes and 18 seconds. As implied by its title, “Diary” consists mainly of behind the scenes footage. We follow Petersen’s assistant Malona P. Voight as she leads us around the set. We also hear from Seale, Sandell, Frazier, Coleman, Lucas, Russell, Dreyfuss, Petersen, Henderson, and various cast and crew members such as makeup department head Edouard F. Henriques III, video and graphics supervisor Dean Striepeke, lighting programmer Scott Barnes, set PA Ryan Bonner, dummy wrangler Dirk Rogers, driver Dester Stowers, assistant production coordinator Michael Steinbach, staff assistant Sean Dennehy, extras Andy Deal, Rachel Vander Woude, Bob Buckingham, Adam Jones, Jesse Henecke, and Anthony Konopski, 2nd unit stunt coordinator Rick Avery, cablecam inventor Jim Rodnunsky, 2nd unit production manager RJ Mino, craft service’s Nick Mestrandrea, editor Peter Honess, supervising sound editor Wylie Stateman, and actor Stacy Ferguson.
“Diary” doesn’t become terribly in-depth, but it manages to spotlight some elements of the production these shows don’t usually address. Those moments allow “Diary” to become reasonably informative and interesting. Voight’s frequent comparisons of Poseidon to student films get old, though.
Finally, DVD Two ends with Rogue Waves. A History Channel documentary, it runs 28 minutes and 35 seconds. “Waves” features remarks from Petersen, historian James Delgado, author Frank Delaney, the University of Miami’s Dr. Brian K. Haus, Professor Susanne Lehner and Professor Hans Graber, Texas A&M at Galveston Professor Vijay Panchang, NOAA officer and scientist Cdr. Mark Pickett, NOAA deputy director Geoffrey Fuller, and GKSS Center’s Dr. Wolfgang Rosenthal.
We get some facts about the concept of rogue waves and look at their damage over the years. We also learn about possible explanations for how these waves develop, how they fit in with mythology, scientific attempts to detect and observe them, and designs to create ships more able to handle the force of the waves. The show also looks at the waves created for Poseidon.
With the imprimatur of the History Channel, you might expect “Waves” to take a serious look at its subject. However, it prefers a hyperbolic take on matters as it throws out soundbites and quick cuts. It also often acts as little more than an ad for Poseidon. Clearly the film’s promotion was the impetus behind this show’s creation and airing. We get a passable summary of the issues created by the waves, but this doesn’t present satisfying science or history.
A thin disaster flick too concerned with effects to involve us, Poseidon comes as a real disappointment. Despite its solid production values, the movie never creates any drama or tension, mostly because we simply couldn’t care less what happens to the sketchy characters. The DVD offers amazing audio but gives us inconsistent picture quality along with mediocre extras. Combine a bad movie with a less than stellar DVD and I can’t recommend this one.
Note that you can buy either this two-disc Special Edition of Poseidon or a single-DVD edition. While this one retails for about $35, the more basic release lists for $29. The cheaper set loses the second platter of extra but still includes DVD One’s featurette. I’d advise purchasers to go with whichever one they find for the least money. The extras on DVD Two are not substantial enough to merit much additional cost.