Tidal Wave [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Magnolia Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (30th August 2010).
The Film

Disaster films have been a U.S. phenomena mostly because they feed off of the gigantic budget, effects driven blockbuster image that only movies made by U.S. studios can. The sheer ridiculousness of movies like “2012” (2009) or “Armageddon” (1998) of the United States overcoming a natural disaster, or even defeating it leads to an over the top, hilariously bad, good time. And while foreign directors like Roland Emmerich have been getting it done to perfection in the U.S., other countries haven’t really done natural disasters (unless you count “Godzilla” (1954) in which case we were beat to the genre and sequels long ago). Now in the wake of “2012” comes ‘the first Korean disaster movie’ “Tidal Wave” (2009) that gets all of the silliness that goes into disaster sequences but seems to want to add on a little more by making it more of a romantic comedy with disasters than disaster movie with romance.

Set in the tourist beach town of Haeundae, the film picks up in 2009 where Man-sik (Sol Kyung-gu) is still dealing with guilt over the death of Yeon-hee's (Ha Ji-won) father aboard his fishing boat in 2004 during the tidal wave and earth quake in the Indian Ocean. Even though he and Yeon-hee have been trying to get together the guilt keeps Man-sik from returning her affections. Meanwhile Man-sik’s little brother Hyeong-sik (Lee Min-ki) has been dealing with romance of his own as he has an odd relationship with Hee-mi (Kang Ye-won) who he rescued after she fell off a boat and he was on coast guard patrols. Oh yeah and there’s a mega-tsunami about to hit but nobody will listen to the scientist Kim Hwi (Park Joong-Hoon).

If you pick up anything from the plot summary understand the breakdown of the movie, about 80% romantic comedy, almost “Love Actually” (2003)-esque in its many stories and ensemble cast, and 20% giant tsunami ravaging a coastal city and killing tons of tertiary characters. The tsunami doesn’t hit until an hour and a half into the film, but once it hits you really get into full blown disaster mode. It’s an odd mixture, almost like “Crash” (2004) but instead of racism and classism, people have a giant mega-tsunami to deal with. What’s amazing though is that even the romantic comedy side is still pretty entertaining, with jokes varying between total miss and home run. You have some typical romantic comedy moments and then some amazing slapstick comedy, which almost continues into the disaster section of the film with the Dong-choon (Kim In-kwon) on a bridge side story.

All of this makes a bit more sense since director Yoon Je-kyoon isn’t really an action director, his previous efforts have mostly been romantic comedies or slapstick comedies. But this means that once you get to the disaster section of the film some of the action is so intentionally over the top, it’s absolutely amazing. I cannot rave enough about the Dong-choon on a bridge side story that has some of the more hilarious action sequences in a disaster movie since “2012” except I feel these were more intentional. Of course you also have to have the dramatic side plots, with characters losing each other and crying as the tidal wave is about to take them under, which are cheesy but with the ridiculous romantic comedy feel of before and the silly action happening around them, it makes the dramatic content seem silly and fun in the context.

What makes this all the more amazing that the film was made for under $16 million and the graphics don’t look that much worse than something you would see done for $60 to $90 million through an American studio. If you enjoy disaster films for their over the top disasters, rescues, near escapes and ridiculous occurances, “Tidal Wave” manages to pack it all in the last 30 minutes of the film and is pretty amazing for that half hour. The romantic comedy aspect may lose some but there are some funny moments built in to keep you going until the all out mega-tsunami at the end. Really what it comes down to is that I just had a good time watching "Tidal Wave," it was everything it needed to be: silly, melodramatic, disasterous and above all hilarious.


Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with VC-1 encoding, the film actually looks surprisingly good on a low budget, the CG effects don’t get completely lost on Blu-ray, even if they are obviously fake their composition and lighting all seems to match up well enough to make it all seem visually acceptable. Part of this is the clean transfer that comes with little to no problems in terms of grain, artifacts or other messiness in the image that would be distracting. Everything seems to work well together even if parts seem a little under-budget, the image itself is nice and clean for the duration of the film while all the colors feel right and have nice depth and contrast to them.


Similarly the audio when presented in the original Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround at 48kHz/24-bit, is reasonably well mixed with the added sound effects giving it the right disaster movie feel and the dialogue coming through cleanly. The sound seems to move alright, it doesn’t have the all encompassing scope that I expected from the tidal wave, but for it’s budget it’s a really impressive audio track. The problems only really come up on the English DTS-HD Master Audio track 5.1 at 48kHz/24-bit because it has no real mixing or mastering to blend the recorded English dialogue with the Korean sound effects giving it a poorly layered feel that just makes the film less fun to watch.
There are also English, English Narrative, English for the hearing impaired and Spanish subtitles.


The single Blu-ray is actually well supplied with special features including a making-of featurette, a gag reel and assorted featurettes.

First up are the deleted scenes which are just all mashed together in standard definition and run together for 13 minutes and 20 seconds, there’s a scene of the diplomatic conference getting ready, Dong-choon relaxing with Min-sik’s son, Hee-mi’s friends berating her romance, Dong-choon fighting with his mom, Min-sik’s drunken baseball rant in a police station, more Hee-mi with her friends, Min-sik and his mother fighting, Hee-mi and Hyeong-sik on a date, the two mothers chatting, Hee-mi after the breakup, Yeon-Hee crying over her father, Hyeong-sik readying for the tsunami, Americans on the container vessel when it gets hit by the tsunami, lifeguards getting stranded before the tsunami, one of Hee-mi’s friends trapped in the bathroom with a shark, and a couple about to have sex hit with a container.

Gag reel is next and pretty international, same flubbed lines, forgotten lines, and on set laughter.

“The Project” featurette runs for 9 minutes and 37 seconds, speaking with the director and creators and writers about the creation of the project and the ideas that inspired them. Of course I can only assume these are all creative people since the name cards that appear are all in Korean and the names of the people aren’t always subtitled with their positions.

“The Making of tidal wave” featurette runs for 45 minutes and 5 seconds, here’s where the meat of the special features really comes in with behind-the-scenes looks at the filming along with on set interviews with the directors and creative people involved with the making of the movie. What’s really disappointing is that the entire featurette is in standard definition. Still there’s some good behind-the-scenes shots and talk about the making-of different special effects scenes in the film showing all the water, green screens and stunts they had to go through to pull off the movie on a budget.

“Characters” runs for 5 minutes and 40 seconds, this featurette speaks with all of the actors about the characters and the director along with some behind-the-scenes shots and more looks at goofing around on set.

“Production Design” featurette runs for 6 minutes and 52 seconds, speaking with the people behind-the-scenes who designed the CG and effects shots for the film, composing the water effects and looking at how to best execute their conceptual drawings and models.

“Musical Score” featurette runs for 6 minutes and 11 seconds, speaking with the composer about the use of music in the film, the tension between composing a major theme for the film and individual themes for the different characters. It’s interesting to hear a little bit from the behind the scenes people on the musical work, since he seems to talk a lot about process and the idea behind his compositions in navigating Hollywood style themes and more traditional Korean music.

“Sound Mixing Part 1” featurette runs for 4 minutes and 25 seconds, dealing more with the sound effects and the movement of the tsunami tonally that would inspire the audience with the fear of a giant tsunami. Less interesting than the musical score but not bad.

“Sound Mixing Part 2” featurette runs for 9 minutes and 2 seconds, building on the previous featurette with an actual scene of the film with a small oval pop-up in the lower right corner talking with the sound editor about his choices and inspirations for different parts of the film. Its’ weird to see the scene without music or rushing water effects just mostly screams and shouting. The same scene is then replayed with the 5.1 audio mix, with just the music thrown in, and another time with just the sound effects of the tidal wave hitting the city and finally just an ambiance track. Really an interesting featurette on the sound mixing of a large scale disaster movie.

“Marketing” featurette runs for 11 minutes and 35 seconds, this may seem like the more unneccsary of the special features, speaking with the marketing people involved with the film in putting out the word and getting the marketing message right for the film. It’s a little interesting to hear the negative response to all the CGI in the teasers for the film and see the photoshoots for the actors in creating the promotional materials.

“CG special effects” featurette runs for 23 minutes and 11 seconds, speaking with the studio that did the CG work for the film and showing all the different layering efforts they did in order to create the look of the special effects shots in the film, going through the different alterations they did to different scenes to get the effects right. It’s a pretty impressive effort and a nice looking featurette to hear from them about the conditions and the extent of their special effects work in the film.

“Cinematography” featurette runs for 10 minutes and 50 seconds, looking at the cinematography of the film, speaking with the director of photography about shooting a disaster movie and shooting underwater. They talk about the cameras they use and the different workflow that they use, again comparing it to a Hollywood film, almost as if to distinguish their process from the U.S. style of filmmaking as well as legitimize themselves as disaster movie makers by showing the analogues to U.S. filmmaking for disaster movies.

Bonus trailers are for:

- “Red Cliff” runs for 2 minutes and 9 seconds.
- “D13: Ultimatum” runs for 2 minutes and 3 seconds.
- “Warlords” runs for 2 minutes and 7 seconds.
- “HDNet” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.

Finally there is a BD-Live feature that apparently has nothing on the servers yet telling you to check back for updates.


The Film: B+ Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: B+ Overall: B+


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