Magnolia Pictures // 2009 // 120 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 17th, 2010
There is no escape from Nature's wrath.
South Korea tries its hand at disaster filmmaking...and kind of succeeds.
The Korean coastline is a tourist hot spot, with over one million beachgoers crowding the shores for a season of fun and sun and overcrowding. Well, no reason to worry any more about population congestion. The Ocean is ready to thin the herd.
A few miles away, an island is falling apart, and according to seismologist Doctor Kim, when the cliff face crumbles into the drink a "mega-tsunami" will be triggered, sending a colossal wave hurtling towards the mainland at 700 miles per hour. Of course no one takes him seriously and, of course, the island does fall apart and the tidal wave is off to the races. Then for about forty minutes it's Deep Impact meets Hard Rain.
If you're a lover of disaster movies and Roland Emmerich hasn't completely sandblasted your enjoyment of the genre, then I can recommend Tidal Wave for your mayhem digestion. Despite a title that screams "Awful Made-for-TV Movie," it's legit, a large-scale, well-orchestrated rendering of aquatic catastrophe, sporting some solid special effects and a handful of truly harrowing sequences.
Okay, not too harrowing. There are some tongue-in-cheek moments strewn throughout, and one of the characters most menaced by the wave and its resulting effects is a goofy uncle who runs around making blowfish faces. Which sort of defuses the terror aspect. It's tough to get wrapped up in the horror of a collapsing bridge and lethal, falling debris when the focal character for the audience is little more than a cartoon.
Whatever. The effects used in the film are more or less cartoons anyway, so there's a synergy. None of the mayhem hits until about 1:20 in and while the run-up to the vigorous water-logging can be a drag, once the Kraken is unleashed, so to speak, Tidal Wave turns fun. As you watch the disaster unfold you will no doubt be firmly rooted in the observation that these are in fact lots and lots of visual effects filling the screen, but I reckon most viewers will glide along with it. The CGI is good enough not to be laughed at, yet a few degrees shy of what Hollywood pumps out (though if we're being honest, even the big budget disaster movies ceased being believable years ago). My favorite scene is the exploding freighter that sends flaming containers slamming into skyscrapers.
Again, you'll have to claw through some lukewarm plotting to get to the pyrotechnics. Obviously the narrative trek is in place to get us caring about the characters and bumming over a demise or two, but it's a haul. If you skip to the tidal wave money sections I swear I won't tell.
Good Blu-ray. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is tight, a colorful, clean treatment that brings the massive effects to life. It's standard-issue stuff for the first hour and some change, but when the wave strikes, the high-definition upgrade flexes its visual muscles. The same goes for the audio (5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English and Korean), low-key in the beginning, but enveloping and aggressive during the meat of the show. If you're going to invest the time into it, Tidal Wave on Blu-ray is the way to go without a doubt. Extras are copious: deleted scenes, a gag reel, a substantial making-of documentary and a series of featurettes examining the score, production design, sound, marketing, cinematography and special effects.
It's not a non-stop thrill ride, but when Tidal Wave gets moving it has the juice for disaster fans.
Not Guilty. Surf's up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Korean)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel