Poseidon (2006) / Adventure-Action

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and intense peril
Running Time: 98 min.

Cast: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett, Jimmy Bennett, Emmy Rossum, Mike Vogel, Mia Maestro, Andre Braugher, Kevin Dillon, Freddy Rodriguez, Stacy Ferguson
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Screenplay: Mark Protosevich (based on the novel, "Poseidon Adventure" by Paul Gallico)
Review published May 16, 2006

Poseidon is a remake of sorts of the 1972 disaster classic based on the novel by Paul Gallico, The Poseidon Adventure.  While the story and characters are completely different, the main emphasis is the same, with a tidal wave downing a luxury cruise ship that has a group of survivors trying to make their way out of the ship before the whole thing implodes on them.  The attractions are also the same, with a celebrity filled cast, heaps of special effects and stunts, and lots of human drama for our entertainment dollar.  Unfortunately, since it has been done before, and we’ve also already experienced Titanic in recent years, the novelty has pretty much worn off of this idea, leaving the upgrade in special effects as the only real reason to go back to the theaters.
The story is as basic as it gets – a luxury ocean liner is hit by a massive rogue wave, causing the ship to literally go belly up, trapping any not already killed by the initial impact in a bubble of air that is on the verge of collapse.  With only hours to spare, a group of the ship's elite survivalists try to make their way out to signal their location to the rescue crews that will surely be looking for them, although the way is fraught with terror and turmoil at nearly every step of the way.
Poseidon is a film that manages to deliver the goods for those seeking an engaging survival action thriller, enough to consider it worthy escapism for 98 minutes.  Essentially, you go to see the film because of the onscreen calamity, which at times really is awe-inspiring in how well it is rendered, with a truly harrowing vision of what it would be like in the midst of a disaster of this magnitude.
Director Wolfgang Petersen has made some similar films before, most notably in the submarine survival classic, Das Boot, as well as the smaller boat story, The Perfect Storm.  However, those films were about something more than the disaster, concentrating more on the characterizations and the interactions, allowing us to have a real rooting interest in their survival.  With Poseidon, we know that some will live and some will die, and the only real question is which among them won’t make it, and how they’ll be dispatched.  The way the film is set up, even this aspect feels a bit too predictable to be enthralled.
Almost all of the points scored in this adventure lie strictly in the technical arena, however, and not due to anything the characters really do or say.  There is a modest attempt at some character development early in the film, but not enough to make us truly care about them, except on the basest, most instinctual of levels.  It isn’t very dialogue-heavy, and if one could use any word to describe the amount of time and energy given to things not related to showcases of massive disaster, it would be “scant”.
In summation, Poseidon does definitely keep the interest level high, and at 98 minutes, it flies by relatively quickly.  However, as the credits start to roll, you’ll most likely come away with an empty feeling about it all, as if something vital were missing from the overall equation to make it truly satisfying.  Without the emotional core, it’s like watching Titanic's cataclysmic finale with the two-hour build-up removed.

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo