The great thing about Wolfgang Petersen’s new remake of “The Poseidon Adventure” is that he doesn’t waste any time with long exposition before capsizing the ship. That’s also the new film’s greatest liability.Without really getting to know the characters before they get caught up in the disaster, it’s harder to care if they make it to the top of the upside down ocean liner and, hopefully, safety.
The original version of “The Poseidon Adventure” had its share of cornball moments but benefited enormously from some terrific performances from Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine and a slew of A-list stars.
Peterson’s “Poseidon” has some capable performers, including Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss as a jilted gay architect, but screenwriter Mark Protosevich gives them such sketchy characters that the actors have little or nothing to work with.
We learn bizarrely convenient details about the passengers as the film progresses. For example, Kurt Russell plays a fellow who just happens to be a former fireman and who later became mayor of New York. And it just so happens that Josh Lucas plays a bitter gambler who’s also a bitter former sailor and who can tell the ships capsizing is a bit, well, dangerous.
How’s that for coincidence?
Some of the other folks who are in danger of becoming fish food are a crass gambler (Kevin Dillon), the daughter of the former mayor (Emmy Rossum), her boyfriend (Mike Vogel), a single mom (Jacinda Barrett), her son (Jimmy Bennett), a stowaway (Mia Maestro) and the galley worker who smuggled her aboard (Freddy Rodríguez).
It’s hard not to get a sense that the actors are waiting for more interesting gigs to arise. Russell, in particular, looks bored throughout the film. It’s also eerie that ethnic minorities make up a disproportionate number of the casualties.
Maybe it’s because Protosevich makes easily predictable choices for who will end up taking permanent cruises. Without seeing the trailer you can tell that the dimply optimistic captain played by Andre Braugher and the singer played by Black Eyed Pea Stacey Ferguson are doomed. Playing a round of “guess who will die” isn’t much fun when the answers are obvious.
Petersen seems more interested in figuring out how to add explosions to the fires and the floods on the decks. It’s as if he, or some studio flunkie, assumed that merely tipping the boat weren’t enough to engage audiences the way it was in the 70s.
Worse, Petersen doesn’t seem content to merely remake only “The Poseidon Adventure.” He actually plagiarizes himself throughout the film. The giant wave looks as if was re-digitized from “The Perfect Storm,” and much of the wreckage comes straight out of “Das Boot.”
Once upon a time, Petersen made movies like those and “In the Line of Fire” that offered the thrills that audiences crave without insulting their collective intelligence. It’s almost as if the fumes from the blasts have dulled the filmmaker’s senses and the viewers’ interest in the film itself.Who knew that this much mayhem could be so uninvolving? This movie sinks faster than the ship itself.