The sole concern of the revelers aboard the Poseidon is ringing in the New Year. What they don’t realize is that they are actually counting down to their doom - a ten story rogue wave bearing down on them is about to turn their world upside down. With hundreds dead and dying in the aftermath, professional card shark and consummate loner Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) is set on finding a way out. His concerns are confirmed by Richard (Richard Dreyfuss) a stern architect who intones “Ships aren’t made to float upside down”. The duo is joined by former hero firefighter/mayor Robert (Kurt Russell) who is determined to find his daughter before the Poseidon returns to the depths of its namesake.
I don't care what anyone says - these economy cabins are just getting ridiculous!
Irwin Allen was known as the Master of Disaster for launching the disaster genre with "The Poseidon Adventure" in 1972. In addition to an all-star cast and cheesy dialogue, the movie featured the now famous "man-falling-from-chandelier"stunt (performed by an extra who transformed into stuntman with the flick of a bonus). While essentially a polished B movie with some great special effects (for the time), The movie had engaging characters and didn’t take itself too seriously. After its successful run at the box office, Allen followed up with "The Towering Inferno", and embarked on a series of similarly themed romps on the small screen. After 30 years it appears Wolfgang Petersen is trying to establish himself as the master of marine mayhem.
Roundly praised as one of the most gripping films above or below the water, Das Boot is Petersen’s hallmark film. While his next outing may not have captured critics, the furious seas in "The Perfect Storm" gave audiences one more reason not to go in the water (not to mention my reliving the panic attack of having been on ship in a hurricane). It’s debatable however, whether Petersen should ever have allowed Poseidon to leave dry dock.
With the devastating tsunami of 2004 still fresh in many people’s minds, the scenario in Poseidon is no longer as outlandish as once thought and Petersen exploits those memories to devastating effect. The monster wave – which is simultaneously awe inspiring and terrifying - makes its entrance roughly ten minutes into the movie and as the behemoth breaker overtakes the ship the audience drew a collective breath. The thought likely going through everyone’s mind was "What the hell would I do?" Once the boat flips over, the situation becomes increasingly complicated – not only do you have to worry about explosions and drowning (I guarantee you’ll never look at an aquarium the same way again), but there’s also the nasty goings water-meets-electricity conundrum to contend with. The visceral impact of the disaster is enhanced by the special effects.
Rather than relying solely on CGI, Petersen had several huge rotating sets built on gimbals and employed the services of a legion of stunt people. Consequently much of the chaos onscreen happens in real time with real people. When CGI is utilized, it blends seamlessly with the live action shots and the results are pretty slick (of course for $120 million plus, they should be). Unfortunately appearance is all the Poseidon has going for it.
In spite of appearances, today’s moviegoers – due in large part to the usurious price of a ticket, not to mention snacks - actually expect to be entertained and a coherent storyline and characters you can root for always make for a good starting point. Sadly everyone in this version of Poseidon is a walking talking cliché and after a half-hour of vacuous dialogue, irrational plot points, and flat performances, I had nothing invested in their well being. In fact I became so annoyed with the non-stop whining –especially from Jimmy Bennet who is excruciating to watch - that I spent my time trying to predict when and how our plucky survivors would perish (preferably painfully). While it makes for an amusing diversion, alas, the novelty wore off after 20 minutes, which left me with nearly an hour more to suffer.
With Poseidon Petersen has succeeded in creating a disaster movie of sorts, however it is the viewers and the investors who will suffer the most. In spite of the promising opening sequences, Poseidon quickly loses its momentum and bobbles about like a wayward cork. It’s time for a new oeuvre Wolfie.