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Disaster films have been around for some time, however when you are on land there are several ways you can save yourself. What happens when you are in the middle of the one thing that covers ¾ of the Earth’s surface? Your instincts better kick in. Wolfgang Petersen (Troy, The Perfect Storm) has taken the classic novel of Paul Gallico and weaved a new version that brings a modern twist to this classic tale.
Just what would you do if you are on an amazing luxury ship and you are hit by a freak of nature called a rogue wave? A wave so powerful that in actuality one out of 100 ships a year are lost at sea to such a wave. This story is based on Gallico’s personal experience with one such wave that he then took and expanded upon and was first presented on the big screen as “The Poseidon Adventure” in 1972. Petersen did not wish to do a remake but more of a re-imagination of the story. As Petersen notes in one of the special features, “Why would I want to remake such a well done classic film? There is only one Shelly Winters. You cannot have someone redo her role, so I wanted to have different characters deal with the situation at hand.” And that is where we begin our journey of survival.
Peterson brought together a star studded cast of Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, Glory Road) as the professional gambler with a history on ships, Kurt Russell (Sky High, Miracle) as the former Mayor of New York who is on board with his daughter and her secret fiancée played by Emma Rossum (The Phantom of the Opera, Mystic River) and Mike Vogel (Miami Medical, She’s Out of My League), Jacinda Barrett (Ladder 49, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) as the single mother with a son played by Jimmy Bennett (Evan Almighty, Star Trek 2009), and the always charming, no matter what movie he does, Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Mr. Holland’s Opus) as the eccentric business man who feels he has lost everything. Not to mention great parts by Mia Maestro (The Box, Deepwater), Kevin Dillion (Hotel for Dogs, Platoon), Andre Brougher (The Mist, Men of a Certain Age) and even am appropriate little role for Stacy Ferguson (Nine, Grindhouse), yes Miss Fergie herself.
Now we know the story, so let’s get to the details. This was a production more like old school Hollywood. Huge lavish sets, on several soundstages on the WB lot, with one big problem, the sets have to be upside down. You could say the ship and the sets that represent the ship are the star of this film. Since no cruise line company is going to just allow you to flip and sink their ship, Petersen assembled a masterful group to create not only huge physical sets but some of the most creative digital effects work of the time. A huge ballroom that is upside down and eventually is flooded to one of the longest single shot of digital created film at the time, 2:30 minutes, to open the film. We will also not forget that Petersen strives to bring out the best in people. The actors took to his thoughts like any true student would listen to their master of art. When it came to doing stunts, in most cases the actors did it themselves. Being a student of Scuba Diving and continuing to learn it brings a new found respect for these actors to lean more of their craft than just saying a few lines and pretending to be in harm’s way. Congratulations go to those individuals who took the time to help teach them to be safe while performing.
To really enjoy the process of this film and what went into its grandeur there are three fun filled special features. First we have ‘Poseidon: Ship on a Soundstage’ where we get that in depth look at the filming process, from the multiple soundstages, to the costumes, to the special effects crew and their countless testing for that right water effect. It is here that we also learn of Petersen’s passion for 11 o’clock soup. Don’t ask watch the feature and see how passionate he is about keeping his crew happy. Second we take a look at filming through the eyes of a production assistant or PA as they are know as in the industry in ‘A Shipmates Diary’. And last but definitely not least is ‘Poseidon: Upside Down Unique Set’. This is where you get to meet the set designer, special effects technicians, production designer and computer effect designers who put countless hours and test all of their knowledge of film making to bring us this adventure. As an added bonus to the Blu-Ray there is included the History Channels presentation of ‘Rogue Waves’, a scientific look at the phenomena of these sometimes, killer waves.
In the end sit back relax and why not watch both films and see for yourself that they truly are different in their own right. The one thing that will stand clear in both films is that you can never know when something tragic may cross your path. We all have in us the instinct to live and solve any problem that may compromise that instinct. “Poseidon” also showcases that you can never be to prepared. I say this in that not one person or persons knows the answer to a problem. Sometimes you have to step back and look at the big picture and work together and you can accomplish just about anything. For me, one thing that I may do from now on is carry a bottle of Spare Air with me on a cruise. That’s a scuba joke.