When it comes to remakes the danger of incurring the wrath of fans of the original is ever-present and in the case of Irwin Allen’s The Poseidon Adventure, a beloved classic of the disaster genre, the danger was even greater, so director Wolfgang Petersen took the basic premise of “A ship hit by a rogue wave, is flipped over, and a group of survivors must climb their way up to freedom” and then populated it with his own characters to fill in the story’s prerequisite group of survivors, but did these changes Petersen made still result in a good film?
It’s New Year’s Eve and the immense luxury liner Poseidon cuts its 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 a former firefighter, his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), her boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel), Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss) whose boyfriend recently dumped him and is suicidally depressed, there is cute stowaway Elena Gonzalez (Mía 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, a big rousing spectacle, and like Irwin Allen before him Petersen doesn’t waste time getting to the good stuff, in fact, we only have to wait 17 minutes before the carnage ensues. And we do get a lot of carnage and the production pulls out all the stops as we get some pretty spectacular stuff here, particularly in the area of stuntwork, sadly, while practical effects abound much of the effects used to depict the ship being hit by the rogue wave were liberally enhanced by CGI, which sometimes the effects look great while other times not so much and leaned a little towards the cheesy side. All quibbling aside watching the Poseidon getting hit by the rogue wave, and all its occupants being tossed higgledy-piggledy, is damn impressive and once the ship settles upside down in the water we get the classic situation of the survivors taking stock of what happened and it’s here where our movie gets underway…or underwater.
Captain Bradford (Andre Braugher) wants everyone to stay where they are and wait for rescue, on the other hand, Ramsey wants to find his daughter who is one deck below (now above) at the disco, nor does Dylan have any intention of waiting around for rescue. Upon hearing his plan the mom, her kid, the heartbroken Nelson, along with Ramsey decide to make their way up to the bottom of the ship. Surprisingly, there is no scene where Ramsey implores that the rest of the people join them on their trek through the bowels of the ship, the small group just decides to up and leave, and aside from a brief 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 any more 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.
- Wolfgang Petersen’s remake has a taught running time of 98 minutes, as opposed to the original’s 117 minutes, and I give Petersen credit for not bloating the length of the film beyond the needs of the story he was trying to tell.
- This could be considered part of a water trilogy for director Wolfgang Petersen sitting nicely alongside Das Boot and The Perfect Storm as good examples of why not to go to sea.
- The ship is crossing the North Atlantic, travelling from London to New York on New Year’s Eve, but this means the water would be extremely cold and hypothermia should have killed off our cast of characters long before the end credits rolled.
- It’s never explained how the ship has working electricity after being capsized, the generators wouldn’t have been able to maintain a fuel supply, not to mention generators were falling and the fuel was burning up and exploding.
One of the strongest aspects of the film is its special effects, the scenes of the ship being overturned and flooded are visually stunning, and the level of detail in the destruction and chaos is impressive, and as mentioned, the use of practical effects and miniatures created a sense of realism that is rarely seen in disaster films. However, the film suffers from a lack of tension and suspense as we pretty much know who is going to live and who is going to die, with maybe one death being a little surprising, but when our band of survivors do make it to freedom I find it was well worth the trip as we do get a satisfying conclusion, which cannot be said of all disaster movies. That said, the film’s biggest problem is its lack of character development as the ensemble cast, including Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, and Richard Dreyfuss, is made up of one-dimensional characters who are difficult to care about. The script doesn’t give the actors much to work with, and as a result, their performances feel flat and uninspired, making this a bit of a waste of a great talent pool.
Overall, Poseidon is a visually impressive film with solid performances and while it fails to live up to the suspense and tension of the original film I’d say fans of the disaster genre will still find this one more than entertaining, and despite its flaws, the film does have some redeeming qualities. The action sequences are well-choreographed, and the film’s pacing is brisk, keeping the audience engaged throughout. However, these strengths are not enough to make up for the film’s overall shortcomings. While it has some entertaining moments, it lacks the emotional depth and character development necessary to make it a truly compelling film.
Movie Rank - 6/10
In conclusion, while Poseidon has some strengths, it ultimately fails to deliver on its potential as a gripping disaster movie. The lack of character development and predictable plot prevent the audience from fully engaging with the story, and the impressive special effects become repetitive and lose their impact. If you’re a fan of the disaster movie genre, you may find some entertainment value in Poseidon, but overall, it falls short of its predecessor and other films in the genre.