Whether intentional or not, the original “Poseidon” (1972’s The Poseidon Adventure) was a cheesy good time. Star-studded and over-the-top, the film virtually invented the “who’s going to die next?” way of thinking that dominates so many of today’s films. I’m surprised that a remake has taken this long to surface (no pun intended), but it’s here and it wants us to approach it in a deadly serious fashion. That, among other things, is its ultimate downfall and the reason it is the second film in as many weeks to be a completely throwaway summer “blockbuster.”
The first ten minutes introduce us to the group we are supposed to care about. We have: Dylan (Lucas), a former Navy man turned gambler; Robert (Russell), a well-to-do former New York City mayor and firefighter; Jennifer (Rossum), Robert’s daughter who is involved with boyfriend Christian (against Robert’s wishes, of course); Nelson (Dreyfuss), a suicidal eccentric; Elena (Mia Maestro), a stowaway; and finally mother Maggie (Jacinda Barrett) and son Conor (Jimmy Bennett). As everyone knows by now, a “rogue wave” strikes the boat, turning it upside down and leaving our beloved bunch to find their way to safety.
While the film is successful in building tension and dread in several scenes, this is a largely predictable and unintentionally hilarious affair. Director Wolfgang Petersen has taken a Final Destination-esque approach to all of the climactic death scenes, which resulted in gales of laughter at the screening I attended. That nearly every death leads to inevitable life lesson dialogue leads me to believe that the film actually wants to have something to say, but no one signed up for that. The age-old death sentence formula is in full effect: It doesn’t matter how moronic you are, if you’re white, you live. Why is this still an acceptable way to craft a screenplay?
Petersen has made a fortune making peril-at-sea, special effects-laden pictures, and he recycles many tricks from A Perfect Storm and Das Boot here. The opening boat sequence is a humdinger, but after that nearly entire film is set in claustrophobic locales with infrequent, often phony-looking exterior shots popping up here and there. How could this film have cost $140 million to make?
It must have been the cast, who are all interchangeable to say the least. Kurt Russell does the thankless aging hero shtick while Emmy Rossum, who is far too talented for this stale role, stands around and looks really worried while being doused with lukewarm water. Richard Dreyfuss is the only one who brings some depth and feeling to his role. And what about Kevin Dillon (Matt Dillon’s brother)? This has to be the first time I have convincingly seen a man be the perfect “poor man’s” version of his own brother.
Poseidon is not a horrible film, but it’s time for Hollywood to wise up and face the fact that people demand more these days than ho-hum special effects, incoherent noise, and mannequin characters. There are a few thrills and laughs to be had, but that’s the extent of it. I shudder to think that this and Mission: Impossible III is an accurate representation of what’s in store for this summer.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 99 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of disaster and peril.
Theatrical Release: May 12, 2006
Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Written by: Mark Protosevich. Based upon the novel by Paul Gallico.
Cast: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Jacinda Barrett, Richard Dreyfuss, Jimmy Bennett, Emmy Rossum