When it comes to remakes this film to me is the way to do it, you take the premise “ship hit by rogue wave, is flipped over, and a group of survivors must climb their way up to freedom”, and then populate it with completely original characters. There are some scenes that mirror the ones in the original, but overall Wolfgang Petersen has put his stamp on the story.
It’s New Years Eve and the immense luxury liner Poseidon cuts it’s way majestically through the waves. On board is Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) a professional gambler, Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell) ex-mayor of New York City as well as former firefighter, his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), her boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel), Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfus) whose boyfriend recently dumped him and is suicidally depressed, there is cute stowaway Elena Gonzalez (Mia Maestro), single mom Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett) and her son Conor (Jimmy Bennett). After our introductions to these characters, and a fairly painless “meet cute” moment between the gambler and the single mom, we find ourselves in the grand ballroom as the New Year is rung in…and then disaster strikes! And face it folks this is the moment that gets you in theatre, and like Irwin Allen before him Petersen doesn’t waste time getting to the good stuff. Practically effects and stunts abound, but of course much of the effects of the ship being hit by the wave and the results of it rolling over are liberally enhanced by CGI, and some times the effects look great, while other times they lean a little to the cheesy side. But all quibbling aside watching the Poseidon getting hit by the rogue wave, and all it’s occupants being tossed higgledy-piggledy is damn impressive. Once the ship settles upside down in the water, the survivors take stock of what happened. The captain (Andre Braugher) wants everyone to stay where they are and wait for rescue, while Kurt Russell wants to find his daughter who is one deck below (now above) at the disco. Josh Lucas has no intention of waiting around for a rescue, and upon hearing his plan the mom, her kid, the heartbroken Dreyfus and Russell decide, with the help of a crewmember, to make their way up to the bottom of the ship. Surprisingly there is no scene where Kurt Russell implores the rest of the people to come with them, the small group just decides to leave, and aside from an argument with the captain, they leave rather quietly. What follows is a torturous journey through deck after deck of death and destruction. Dead bodies are constantly floating by to remind the viewer of how precarious the situation is, and while not too grisly it may not be appropriate for the kiddies. The only scene in the movie that I didn’t like was when Elena the stowaway goes into hysterics when told she must crawl through a small air duct, sure claustrophobia is a crippling affliction, but in disaster films I’m sick of the screaming hysterical woman stereotype. Slap her, and if that doesn’t work leave her behind. Well I won’t get into anymore detail as to what happens to our intrepid cast of survivors, just to say that each hurdle they must pass will keep you on the edge of your seat.
This film caps off Wolfgang Petersen’s water trilogy, and though not as dramatically satisfying as Das Boot I did like it more than The Perfect Storm.