Movie Review: Poseidon
Release Date: May 12, 2006
Distributor: Warner Bros.
· Wolfgang Petersen
· Josh Lucas
· Kurt Russell
· Jacinda Barrett
· Richard Dreyfuss
· Jimmy Bennett
· Emmy Rossum
· Official Site
· IMDb: Poseidon
· Cinema Spider - Poseidon
by Paul Schultz
Published: May 15, 2006
I was so looking forward to using phrases like "Poseidon sinks,"
"Wolfgang Petersen misses 'das boot' on this one," and "any characterization goes overboard," (okay, that last one was true), but unfortunately for my wit, the film was actually pretty good, in a brainless, escapist-fare sort of way. Director Wolfgang Petersen, veteran of such cinematic nautical tales such as Das Boot and The Perfect Storm, helms this disaster pic that is as shallow on character development as it is deep on heart-pounding thrills.
A dizzying introductory camera sweep shows off the immense luxury liner Poseidon in all its opulence. It doesn't take long, though, to realize this film is going to stray mightily from its source material (Paul Gallico's novel "The Poseidon Adventure") and from Irwin Allen's star-studded 1972 theatrical extravaganza. Sure, there's the big ballroom scene with revelers ringing in the new year with shipboard chanteuse Gloria (played by the lovely Stacy Ferguson, aka Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas). I was bummed to discover that she would not be getting all wet and dirty with the little band of survivors, but bite the dust with the rest of the trapped ballroom throng. In fact, the few people scrambling up and out of the doomed ballroom scene have way different back-stories than the assembled cast in the original movie, giving the human interest a completely different dynamic.
Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? Things are hunky-dory as the voyage commences with its vast complement of passengers (oddly devoid of any old folks I would expect to have the time and retirement resources to take this sort of cruise). We get the most cursory of introductions to various characters before the chief officer up in the control room starts getting a "funny feeling". Capt. Bradford (Andre Braugher), of course, is not in command as he is busy toasting to the god of the ocean
down at the New Years' Eve party. Before they know it, a rouge wave is
upon them and the crew suspensefully... nudges a joystick to turn the ship into it. Not exactly as dramatic as spinning a navigational wheel as fast as
they can, but that's what updated technology will take away from you. There's absolutely no explanation of where the wave came from (an earthquake causing a tsunami, in the original movie), or any mention of the ship being vulnerable to such an event because they are top-heavy (also mentioned in the earlier film). "They just happen sometimes" is all the captain offers as explanation for the destructive wall of water.
The gigantic wave slams broadside into Poseidon, and the ship capsizes in glorious CGI detail (water sloshes out of the top-side swimming pool and bodies can be seen tumbling along the floor through the small portholes). As far as special effects, some of the best are the underwater outside shots of the ship as it slowly disintegrates. In the grand ballroom, the partiers now find themselves sprawled on the ceiling, which has now become the floor. Despite the captain's assurance that they'll be safe and should await help, professional poker player Dylan (Josh Lucas) decides otherwise, and begins spiriting himself away from the carnage and to higher ground, which is now toward the bottom of the ship.
The clandestine beginnings of this journey make Dylan decidedly less heroic than Rev. Frank Scott in the same position of leader in The Poseidon Adventure, but he eventually grows into the role. Others notice him climbing for higher elevation and, through protests of "I work better alone," he ends up assembling the single mom Maggie (Jacinda Barrett) he was hitting on earlier, along with her young son Conor (Jimmy Bennett), fetching young stowaway Elena (Mía Maestro), Marco (Freddy Rodríguez), the waiter who hid her onboard, heartbroken gay architect Richard (Richard Dreyfuss), obnoxious drunk Lucky Larry (Kevin Dillon), and former New York mayor and ex-firefighter Robert (Kurt Russell), along with his petulant 19-year-old daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), and her boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel).
Things get dicey right off the bat as the band of survivors is forced to traverse across an elevator shaft on a narrow upturned table. If you're afraid of heights, this scene will be more than a little unsettling. In the process, one escapee is taken out by a plunging, fiery elevator car. Who? Let's just say helpful wait staff don't fair any better in this film than they did in the original. Dylan and Robert, predictably, have a battle of wills over which way they should go, but neither exhibits the screen presence to capture the leadership title.
This would be about a minute before Lucky Larry's disparaging
remarks toward our two heroes. © Warner Bros. Pictures
In their flight to safety, we get bite-size advances in character development. Elena mentions that Robert looks familiar to her. When Jennifer explains that her father used to be the mayor of New York, Elena exclaims, "Cool!" "No, it wasn't," comes Jennifer's flat response. Robert discovers that her daughter has become secretly engaged, then, climbing a vent later on with his soon-to-be son-in-law, he throws out, "I understand congratulations are in order."
Lucky Larry inexplicably picks a drunken verbal fight with Robert and Dylan, just as the latter two are heroically supervising a precarious improvised catwalk crossing over a flooded atrium. No sooner does he get "Assholes, both of ya" out of his mouth than I uttered, "Well, he's gonna die" aloud in the theater. Sure enough, he meets his demise in spectacular fashion shortly thereafter as a big hunk of engine dislodges and wipes him out on the catwalk.
Richard and Elena attempt to recreate the role of Martin and Nonnie in the original, but several factors, not the least of which is sexual-orientation, preclude things from unfolding in a similar manner. Richard's homosexual machinations seemed forced, as if occasionally Dreyfuss remembers, "Oh yeah, that's right, I'm supposed to be gay, so I should be 'acting' gay." The rest of the actors do fine with the limited material they are given.
Handy schematics of the ship seem to be mounted all over the place, especially at crucial physical and dramatic junctures. This, in turn, brings out latent engineering knowledge that no normal person could possibly be fortunate enough to have in that situation. A claustrophobic ascent through a tight A/C shaft ends with a grate bolted firmly in place. Just when they and the screenplay seem to have back themselves into a corner, they come up with the first of what would be several subsequent implausible solutions. I can't even free a screw using a proper screwdriver and putting my whole weight into it, but a kid can use a pendant to loosen a huge screw with dubious leverage. Riiiiiiiiiiiight.
The film is rated PG-13 for intense, prolonged sequences of disaster and peril... and they ain't kidding. Depictions of death could have been much more graphic, so I give the filmmakers credit for toning down the mayhem. Some drownings and near-drownings are rightly upsetting, but not unduly explicit. And, I'm happy to report, nobody tosses their cookies! Honestly, it's the first film I've seen in a while that I felt actually deserved the rating it received, rather than the ridiculous stretching of the PG-13 rating more and more often into territory that is obviously worthy of an R rating. There's been some scuttlebutt about the movie being "just like Titanic", but that's hardly the case and has to be coming from people too young to recall The Poseidon Adventure. It's the best sinking of a ship since Titanic, to be sure, but it's different on so many levels. Unfortunately, one of
those levels is caring about the characters enough to be concerned about who lives and who dies, but if it's a summer thrill-ride you're seeking, set sail on Poseidon.
Previews: Click, Invincible, The Devil Wears Prada, Cars, Superman
Returns. Oh, and a soft-porn commercial for a digital camera starring a nearly nude Kate Moss.