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HTF HD-DVD Review: Poseidon


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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

PatWahlquist

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Posted February 17 2007 - 04:16 AM


Poseidon (HD-DVD)

Studio: Warner Home Video
Rated: PG-13
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: Dolby True HD English 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; English SDH
Time: 98 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date:2006
HD-DVD Release Date: January 16, 2007


Based on the novel of similar name, and a re-imagining, if you will, of the classic film from the 70’s, Poseidon sails toward us free of the silliness of excessive plot or character development. I had a tough time figuring out how to stretch out my comments about the movie itself, but here goes: The luxury liner Poseidon is on a voyage on New Years Eve when it encounters a massive rogue wave. The wave capsizes the ship, leaving it turned upside down. The surviving passengers, specifically a core group of seven or so, decide they’re not going to wait in the ballroom with the rest and they make their way through the ship to reach the bottom, or top, as it is now, to await a rescue. During this trip, they encounter fire, water and all manner of peril, and not everyone survives.

That is really about it. Not much time is spent on who these character are outside of there types: a scoundrel, a caring father, a single mom and her kid, a couple pretty girls, and a gay man to show the cast is PC approved. The movie moves along nice and quick from cliffhanger to cliffhanger, and once I accepted that, the movie becomes quite fun. You will not need to put on your thinking caps for this one, just sit back and enjoy the ride. I’m sure you will find yourself holding your breath along with the characters as they swim through the corridors of the ship. Director Wolfgang Petersen completes his water trilogy with Poseidon, adding it to the far better [/i]Das Boot[/i] and the arguably mediocre [/i]A Perfect Storm[/i]. As the bonus materials show, Petersen is the man for the job when it comes to big budget, summer fare, and he delivers on this picture.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

The picture is in VC-1, encoded at 1080p and it appears to be properly framed at 2.40:1. Colors are rich and bold and leap off the screen. The picture uses a very wide color palate from the intensity of numerous fireballs, to the spooky reds of under water control rooms, to the cool blues and greens of rushing water. I love to get video images like this to test my display for color accuracies, and this is a picture that really put it through the ringer. Colors remained natural, regardless of the various filters they were subjected to. Detail was very good keeping background details in focus during several fast moving sequences. Black levels were exceptional showing nice detail in the shadows. Edge enhancement was not noticed.

Audio:
The Dolby Digital True HD and DD Plus soundtracks are attained by a 5.1 analog connection.

I watched the movie with the Dolby True HD 5.1 track engaged, and it provided perhaps the best soundtrack of any of the HD-DVD releases I’ve heard so far. The True HD track provided a near perfect surround field dropping you in the middle of the action with the characters as the water rushes in around you and the ship creaks its deathly moans. There even seemed to be good imaging above and below me to make you feel the peril in the scene when the main characters are climbing across the lobby. There was no imaging issues noted among the five channels either. LFE’s are natural and smooth and the blend in well with the other channels. I had expected the bass to be cranked up and boomy for this soundtrack, but it tightly flowed around my room enhancing the numerous aural effects. This soundtrack, specifically the rogue wave scene, will be my new demo scene when showing off my theater. I switched over to the Dolby Digital Plus track for comparison and, while it is still a great soundtrack, it lacks the presence and robustness the True HD track provides.


Bonus Material:
With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG-2 encoding unless otherwise noted.

In-Movie Experience with Josh Lucas: I’m really starting to dig these IME’s! Having watched a few of them now, it is such an interesting way to get much more out of the normal commentary. Lucas takes us through the feature making his notes while other participants talk about there roles in the production: Petersen, the producers, the visual effects crew, the stuntmen and many more. Each time they do, they pop up in little video windows and have accompanying, behind-the-scenes video with them. A lot of what these folks contribute is part of the other docs on the disc, so you can get a more cohesive background on the making of the picture by watching the IME. I only wish Petersen had been more involved in this; he only pops up a few times and it’s the clips we see on the other docs. It’s fun and informative and worth the time if you’re into the technical aspects of putting together a big budget Hollywood picture.

Poseidon: Upside Down (10:45): Petersen, the crew and the cast discuss the conception of the ship through computer pre-viz up through the shoot. They spend a lot of time on the ballroom set and the challenges they had to go through to maintain an accurate, upside down set.

A Shipmate’s Diary (12:21): Malona Voight was a production assistant on the picture, and she took her video camera around to document what many of the behind the scenes crew does and her role on the set. As the doc progresses, it unveils a very interesting attitude on the set, one of “when Hollywood throws money around”, or, as one of the crew says, “Ask for the money, spend the money.” Petersen and the crew project an image that they are there only to spend Warner’s money and give them the biggest bang for the buck. There is no discussion on this doc or any of the others, really, about the story. Everything is about what they could spend money on. And this is silly stuff, too: Petersen has a love of soup, especially at 11:00 am every day. Craft services were tasked with providing him and the crew with gourmet soups each day, and Petersen would rate them. When I’m now spending over $10.00 for a ticket to a movie, I’m so glad to see my money is going to the director’s soup budget!

Poseidon: A Ship on a Soundstage (22:41): Now we get into the huge scope of filming an action epic such as this. Petersen and the producers talk about the original novel and the history or rogue waves. They all agree their role was not to remake the original picture, but to strip it down to an overturned boat, then insert new and modern characters. The doc moves into more details on the stunts and effects, most of which you will see if you watch the far more efficient In-Movie Experience track.

Rogue Waves (28:35): This History Channel special details the history and mystery behind rogue waves. This special is very good counterpart doc to the movie.


Conclusions:
While lacking in anything as heady as character development or plot, Poseidon should be viewed as what it is: an action picture. The HD-DVD does an exceptional job of reproducing the theatrical experience with a stunning, colorful video transfer and an exceptional, reference quality Dolby True HD track. The supplements uncover an irritating image of Hollywood these days, but the In-Movie Experience is well worth the time.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.