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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Tidal Wave

May 11th, 2010

Tidal Wave - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Tidal Wave, a.k.a. Haeundae, is a South Korean movie. This hardly makes it unique, as the South Korean film industry is immense and diverse. However, this was reportedly the first South Korean disaster flick. It was also reportedly the most expensive South Korean film ever made, while it became one of the biggest all-time hits in that market. This is good news for its prospects, but how will the disaster flick fare here, where it has a lot more competition?

The film starts on Christmas day in 2004 with the tsunami that devastated the Indian Ocean. On board a fishing vessel, a crew is desperate to get out, but rescue efforts are hampered by the extreme weather. One of the crewmembers is pinned to the deck by some fishing equipment and is unable to be rescued.

Flash forward five years and it's summer 2009 in Haeundae Beach, a resort town in southern South Korea. We meet one of the survivors, Man-sik, as he punches a little boy in the face. In his defense, it was a poorly thought out plan to remove his son's loose tooth. He is called in to break up a fight between Yeon-hee and Man-sik's mother, Yeon-hee being the daughter of the lone victim when the fishing boat sank. Yeon-hee is fighting with Man-sik's mother, because Yeon-hee is selling fish in front of Man-sik's mother's seafood restaurant. Yeon-hee is waiting for Man-sik to propose to her, but he's wary because he blames himself for her father's death.

Meanwhile, Man-sik's neighbor, Dong-choon, decides to used Man-sik's son in a scam to pretend they are a blind father and disabled son to beg money from tourists. Apparently the cops frown upon this and they are thrown in jail. Dong-choon mother is worried about her unemployed son and tries to get him an interview.

Meanwhile, Man-sik's uncle is trying to develop the area by getting rid of the smaller merchants and building a giant mega-mall to cater to all of the tourists.

Meanwhile still, there are a group of three female tourists at the beach: the snobby one, the mean one, and the smart one we are supposed to like. The meet up with three men and go on one of their boats only to have the smart one fall into the water. She's rescued by the lifeguard at the beach, who just happens to be Man-sik's brother. The rescue goes... poorly (he accidentally hit her in the head with the lifesaver, and it only gets worse from there.)

Even more meanwhile... there's a scientist, Kim Hwi, who is trying to warn some politicians that a "Megatsunami" is bound to happen sooner or later because they live in a geologically active area. Despite the fact that this is bloody obvious, they all ignore him. After getting the brush off, he runs into his ex-wife and his daughter. His ex-wife is re-married and his daughter doesn't know he is her father, so his day basically sucks.

All of this happens in the first 20 minutes. Yep. They introduce characters and relationships fast and furious in this movie, and then for the next hour we deal with interpersonal relationships.

Yes, in a movie about a giant tidal wave, the actual wave doesn't hit until 80 minutes in.

No offense to anyone involved in the making of this movie, but in the time I took writing the first 20 minutes of the plot synopsis, it became very clear that writing the plot synopsis was pointless. This is a disaster flick, which is a genre audiences here know very, very well. Its cast is not necessarily unnecessary, but they are little more than archetypes that have been seen in many films made by Hollywood. There's the budding romance, the scientist whose warnings are being ignored, the business man who puts his financial interests ahead of safety, the ne'er-do-well that needs redemption, etc. Granted, these characters are well done and the acting is better than the average disaster movie, but fans of the genre might grow restless waiting for the action to start.

When the action finally does start, there's a lot of it. Granted, it's not as big as 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, but those movies cost between $100 and $200 million to make, compared to this film, which cost between $11 and $16 million to make. (Sources vary.) The scenes of citywide destruction are impressive, some of the rescue scenes are thrilling, and the cargo ship ending up perched on the bridge was original. And the way that guy survived (no names to avoid spoilers) was a perfect mix of action, humor, and just plain over the top stupid. There's no way you can take that scene seriously, but I'm pretty sure that's what the filmmakers were going for.

I do not have the DVD, but the Blu-ray has a number of extras. Things start with deleted scenes; there are in one large chunk, but at least there are chapters. There are also 6 minutes of outtakes.

Next up are a series of making of featurettes: The Project, The Making of Tidal Wave, Characters, Production Design, Musical Score, Sound Mixing Part 1 & 2, and Marketting. All are between four and a half minutes and 45 minutes in length, and all are in standard definition. There are two featurettes that are in High Definition, CG Special Effects and Cinematography, which run a combined 34 minutes. In total, the making of featurettes are longer than the movie by a significant degree.

Looking at the film's technical specs, again the scores depend on your point of comparison. If you put this film up against the Blu-ray release for 2012, this one doesn't look or sound as good. However, that film cost ten times as much to make. The video is good, but not great, and it is hampered by the low budget at times. Some of the effects shots have too much grain, likely as a way to disguise the budgetary constraints. The sound is slightly better with solid use of surround speakers and the subwoofer is put to good use.

Finally, the Blu-ray is actually cheaper than the DVD, at least on Amazon.com. Even the list price has the Blu-ray only 11% more than the DVD. It's hard to argue with that price.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of disaster movies as a genre, then Tidal Wave is a mixed blessing. There is almost nothing here that stands out as entirely original; however, as the filmmakers stated in the making of featurettes, they were going for the feel of the classics of the genre. The South Korean film does manage to capture the feeling well, both the good and the bad, so the end product is worth checking out. There are enough extras on the DVD that it is worth buying, but the Blu-ray has some exclusive extras and it is actually cheaper. Obviously the better deal.


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Filed under: Video Review, Haeundae