© 2006 Ray Wong
The Sea God is at it again... No, I am not speaking of the Greek god Poseidon, but of director Wolfgang Petersen, who gave us seafaring extravaganzas such as Das Boot and The Perfect Storm. The new film, Poseidon, a remake of the 1972 film based on Paul Gallico's bestselling novel, should have been an easy feat for Petersen. The result, however, is rather underwhelming.
It's New Year's Eve, and the passengers on the luxurious ocean-liner Poseidon are in for a shock. Dylan Johns (Lucas) is a charming professional gambler who is rather a loner. Robert Ramsey (Russell) is an ex-New York mayor who is rather old-fashioned, especially when it comes to his daughter Jennifer (Rossum) and her boyfriend Christian (Vogel). Suicidal architect Richard Nelson (Dreyfuss) just broke up with his longtime companion. Single mother Maggie James (Barrett) and her son Connor (Bennett) are having a grand time on the ship. Stowaway Elena Gonzalez (Maestro) is on her way to see her sick brother, thanks to the help of cruise employee Marco Valentin (Rodriguez).
Then on the brink of the New Year, a rogue wave hits the Poseidon and turns it upside down. Captain Bradford (Braugher) ensures the surviving passengers that they would be safe and should sit tight and wait for rescuers. Dylan and the others are not convinced, and they decide to find their own way out through the bowel of the ship. As the ship starts to sink, it's a race against time to save themselves.
The cast is adequate when you consider the genre. Lucas (Glory Road) handles the conflicted but heroic Dylan with intensity, but there's always this "pained" look on his face, as if the director keeps telling him: "Now, look distressed." Russell (Sky High) is an old pro. His curmudgeon of an ex-mayor is one of the more-rounded characters in the cast. Dreyfuss (Silver City) doesn't really have much to do. His early, pre-disaster scenes are his strongest dramatically.
Barrett (Ladder 49) is very endearing as Maggie and Bennett (Firewall) is fine as her son. Rossum (Phantom of the Opera) is adorable as Russell's rebellious daughter, but Vogel (Rumor Has It) is rather bland as her fiance. Maestro (Deepwater) is sympathetic as the sweet stowaway, and Rodriguez (Six Feet Under) has a minor but good role as the doomed waiter. Rounding out the cast is Braugher (Thief) as the confident Captain Bradford, and Dillon (Out for Blood) as the cocky Lucky Larry, both too minor to make any significant impression.
The real star of the film is, of course, Poseidon itself. The ship is a marvel to behold, thanks to state-of-the-art CGI effects and busy but effective sets. Unfortunately, we don't get to see the ship enough to appreciate its grandeur.
The script by Protosevich (The Cell) rehashes the original movie while changing almost all the characters. Gone are the old fogies like Shelly Winters. Except for Russell and Dreyfuss (who are still in their 50s), the cast consists of mostly young, attractive actors like Lucas and Barrett. Protosevich sticks to the genre conventions. The result, unfortunately, is that "been there, done that" feeling. Granted, he has a tough job -- we all know the story; the only suspense is that who get to live and who don't. There are some fine moments, such as Dreyfuss's fateful decision in the elevator shaft, or the escape through a vent duct. Unfortunately, those moments are far and between.
Director Petersen (Troy) rushes through the production. It would have been better if he had spent more time exploring the myriad of characters and showing us the magnificence of the ship before its demise. Part of the charm of the original movie is that we got to care about the characters, and that there was a sense of awe in the destruction of the ship. In this film, we are never allowed enough time to get to know these people, let alone care about whether they live or die. The conflicts between and within the characters are superficial. The special effects are impressive, but also forgettable because there isn't much emotional investment. I think if Petersen had slowed down the pace and refrained from rushing toward the big finale, Poseidon could have been a better, more emotionally satisfying film.
Stars: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett, Jimmy Bennett, Emmy Rossum, Mike Vogel, Mia Maestro, Andre Braugher, Kevin Dillon, Freddy Rodriguez
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Writers: Mark Protosevich (based on novel, The Poseidon Adventure, by Paul Gallico)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief intense and prolonged sequences of disaster and peril
Running Time: 99 minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 6.8 out of 10