Based on Paul Gallico's best-selling novel, 'The Poseidon Adventure' first hit theaters back in 1972, riding the then-burgeoning "disaster wave" (along with such mega-hits as 'Airport' and 'Towering Inferno') to great box office success. It was followed by a 1979 sequel (which itself was a disaster), as well as two eventual remakes, Wolfgang Petersen's ill-fated 'Poseidon,' and this 2005 TV movie. Having read Gallico's bloated novel, I can't say that the story really warrants four separate treatments -- and nothing will ever be as much fun as the original 1972 'Adventure' -- but surprisingly, this TV version actually comes closest to capturing the complexities of the author's original story.
The scenario is probably familiar to anyone, even those who've never seen a 'Poseidon' movie. It's a classic disaster movie template, featuring a cross-section of various passengers setting sail on a luxury liner that's soon to be doomed by a giant tidal wave. After the obligatory set-up of the various characters and their bourgeois melodramas (infidelity, familial intrigue, etc), the majority of 'The Poseidon Adventure' is a race-against-the-clock escape flick, as the assorted characters-slash-victims must figure out a way to ascend to the top of the upside-down ocean liner, surmounting all manner of calamities as their numbers dwindle.
For a mini-series (it originally ran over two nights on Australian TV, and was later cut down to three hours for US broadcast by NBC on a single night), 'Poseidon Adventure' suffers as an action spectacle due to its limited budget, but that leaves more room to explore its characters than any previous cinematic adaptation. The 1972 'Poseidon Adventure' is way campier (and way more fun), and Petersen's 'Poseidon,' while bereft of a single interesting character, at least delivered top-notch destruction. The mini-series is weird amalgam of the two, with some funny soap opera plotting that actually grows to be somewhat entertaining as the film progresses, even if it all sinks into an utterly laughable tidal wave of destruction that boasts some of the most bargain-basement CGI you're ever going to see.
More than just cheesy effects, 'Poseidon Adventure' also delivers the classic TV movie trick of bringing together a cast of B- and C-actors like some sort of "where are they now" drinking game. No flick with Steve Guttenberg, Bryan Brown, Rutger Hauer and Peter Weller can be all bad -- especially since they all play their story arcs with utter seriousness, as if they thought they were actually auditioning for Petersen's 'Poseidon' and not some low-budget TV knock-off. Director John Putch also takes his time setting things up, so even if the characters are all archetypes, there is some empathy generated, giving all the chintzy action in the second half at least some sense of consequence. (It's also a credit to the technicians that some of the film's practical effects -- particularly a sequence in a flooded well -- are well done.)
None of this is to meant to suggest that 'The Poseidon Adventure' is a particularly good movie. Still, it is entertaining, and I'm going to go out on a limb and give it three stars because I think fans of dumb TV movies and disaster flicks will probably get a kick out of it. It's also funny to see just how far the art of creating CGI on a Mac laptop has come since the days of 'Jurassic Park.' This TV movie version of 'The Poseidon Adventure' is definitely inconsequential and unnecessary, but that didn't stop me from having a ton of fun watching it.
Echo Bridge presents 'The Poseidon Adventure' in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video (1.78:1), and crams the entire 173-minute runtime on a BD-25 single-layer disc. Although the film doesn't look bad, this is far from demo material.
The source is in good shape, with nice blacks and no visible print wear. Typical of made-for-TV movies, the photography looks a bit cheap, with video-ish lighting and hot whites. Colors are oversaturated, which causes some noise, and dark scenes in particular can look indistinct. Detail is fairly good, though, and there are some shots that have real depth. Softness suffers, however, particularly on the effects shots (the CGI is dreadful). Compression artifacts are also apparent, particularly bad posterization during slow dissolves, and some motion jaggies. The image also appears rather edgy. I may be being a tad lenient with 'The Poseidon Adventure' because it's a TV flick, but for what it is, it has some fairly good visual moments.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (448kbps) and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) options are included, and Echo Bridge also seems to have invented two new audio formats (at least according to the back packaging): "English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Uncompressed" and "English 2.0 Stereo Uncompressed." My receiver decoded these as PCM tracks, so kudos to Echo Bridge on great labeling.
In any case, 'Poseidon Adventure' sounds good for a TV movie. There is a decent level of surround activity, with some clear discrete effects during the more aggressive action scenes. Granted, rarely is anything close to a "wall of sound" effect created, but at least the mix of score bleed and some ambiance produces a fairly sustained rear presence. Dynamic range ain't bad, with a fairly prominent subwoofer and clean upper frequencies. Dialogue sounds fine, if sometimes cheap. Again, considering the material, this sounds better than I expected.
When 'Poseidon Adventure' first hit DVD back in 2006, it had a couple of extras, both of which have been ported over to this Blu-ray. It's not much, but at least Echo Bridge has bumped up the video to full 1080.
'The Poseidon Adventure' is a decent enough TV movie, one that's typically cheesy and overbloated (and with terrible special effects) but all the more enjoyable because of it. (And hey, Steve Guttenberg is in it!) This cheapie Blu-ray edition from Echo Bridge is also not bad, though the video is overcompressed and the extras are not nearly as extensive as they may appear on the back of the box. Still, taking into account the low list price, it's hard to complain.