Poseidon (2006)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett, Emmy Rossum, Mia Maestro

Written by: Mark Protosevich and (based on the book) Paul Gallico

Running Time: 98 mins

Original UK Cert: 12A

Original UK release: 1st June 2006

There are some films that scream out for a remake, or as they are now called, reboot. Others should be left well alone. The Poseidon Adventure is one of them, a rip-roaring, fight for survival disaster movie from the king of the genre, Irwin Allen. In 1972, this was a monster hit and without it, we wouldn’t have had The Towering Inferno or Earthquake or the hundreds of other disaster movies, good or bad, from the 70’s. They were of their time. So after being remake for television once before, what was the point in remaking it again for the cinema. From what I can tell, no reason whatsoever apart from maybe bringing it to the attention of a new generation. Well, the new generation wasn’t interested and neither were those who remember fondly the original. It may have a bigger budget and better special effects but that doesn’t always make it a better movie.

New Year’s Eve and the party is in full swing aboard the luxury liner, Poseidon. With its mix of passengers; Dylan Johns, a gambler and loner, Robert Ramsey, a former fire fighter and protective father to Jennifer, travelling with her boyfriend, single mum Maggie and recently separated from his partner, Richard Nelson. As the party gets closer to counting down the last minutes of the old year, a giant tidal wave hits the ship, knocking it upside down. Refusing to stay in the virtual safety of the ballroom, Dylan decides he wants to escape by making his way through the ship to the bottom, which is now the top. The others decide to tag along and so the group must battle rising waters and other obstacles in order to reach the propeller, the only way out.

One of the things that made the original such a blast and still a favourite for many, including me, is that the sense of danger was fully realised without once getting nasty or too graphic. When the ship topples over in the 72 classic, the stunt team go to work and we do get some pretty spectacular deaths, even if they are often cut off before the audience can see them. Here, director Wolfgang Petersen decides that maybe we should see every gory detail and so we get bodies being burnt to a crisp as explosions occur, the faces of the dead close up and if there was one thing that the Poseidon Adventure didn’t have, was a nasty taste to it. This one does and so the entertainment is instantly removed due to realism.

Petersen couldn’t have been a better choice of director for this, having helmed the excellent Das Boot and another sea-faring adventure, The Perfect Storm but here he gets everything wrong. There is no tension, no real sense of peril. The effects, while incredible, do nothing to push the film along and the characters here are incredibly drab and one-dimensional.

The original had stock characters to follow: Gene Hackman’s faithless vicar, Shelley Winters’ former swimmer etc. Here we have characters with little or no back story: the loner, the fire fighter, the gay guy, the single mum and the annoying, brattish kid, so we feel no emotion for them and we don’t really care if they do make it. When Shelley Winters’ character dies, it was sad yet iconic moment. Here when a lead dies, there is absolutely no emotional punch for the viewer to relate to. These characters are just one-dimensional and so wooden, you wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t float.

The cast aren’t strong enough or drawn out well enough to really care. Josh Lucas is a fair actor when he is playing a supporting role but give him a lead and he struggles. He comes across as too oily and self-assured and when given a role like this, you need to have some empathy with him. You don’t. Kurt Russell seems to be reprising his role in Backdraft and while he has done some solid work in the past, he’s not given anything to get his teeth into here, just shouts a lot. Same applies to Richard Dreyfuss, who’s only character trait is that he wears an earring, thus he must be gay.

With all the gurning, shouting, screaming and flashy effects, the 98 minutes drag on, then as you leave, with a shrug of the shoulders, you find yourself instantly longing to watch the much more memorable original and forgetting this. Yes, it’s spectacular but that just isn’t enough.


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