Sure, there will be plenty of heroes struggling for survival aboard the sinking cruise ship at the center of Poseidon, but the real star of this film may be the rogue wave that causes all the problems in the first place. Scientists believe that these ocean giants form when two wave fronts intersect. On rare occasions, the overlap focuses the combined wave energy to produce a wall of water up to 100 feet tall.
Naturally, narrative needs forced the filmmakers to stray from reality in places. For example, visual-effects supervisor Boyd Shermis notes that rogue waves typically form in turbulent seas, whereas Poseidon´s monster strikes out of nowhere. Shermis says they also created a 170-foot wave-nearly twice as tall as the largest rogue on record.
The Big Draw: The bulk of the filmmakers´ science homework went into making water behave as it would in a real ocean. The physics models that drive the effects account for the water below the surface, not only on the ocean´s skin. So when a wave breaks, Shermis says, â€You´re not just slabbing foam particles onto the surface. You´re actually spawning the foam from within the 3-D volume of water.â€
Worst Fear: The two hours that follow the two-minute wave sequence
EGQ: Low. All they want is a way out, not an explanation of what happened.
For more on rogue waves, visit PopSci's blog.