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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.81%
Worth A Look37.14%
Average: 34.29%
Pretty Bad: 18.1%
Total Crap: 6.67%

10 reviews, 45 user ratings

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by William Goss

"Full Bore Ahead"
2 stars

Rounding up, it only lasts about fifteen minutes. That is all the time that director Wolfgang Petersen takes to establish something resembling character development in 'Poseidon,' his streamlined remake of 1972’s disaster flick benchmark. In theory, this seems like a reasonable notion, since such details are something of a necessary evil: it is what we know about the characters but not necessarily why we care if they survive. If Petersen could have eliminated such an exasperating element while still forging genuine sympathy, it would have been an admirable accomplishment. However, he finds himself clumsily wedging in all of those pesky details in even less time and consequently eroding at the empathy that makes disaster films work beyond sequences of sheer spectacle. Regardless of costly effects and visual marvel, the bottom line results in characters of critical convenience, and just like that, the thrill is gone.

In those first fifteen minutes, Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One) and writer Mark Protosevich dispense about ten bland individuals, all aboard the luxurious liner on New Year’s Eve. Almost the instant midnight strikes, the captain opts to pick up those gargantuan binoculars, the ones ideal for spotting massive incoming walls of water capable of capsizing the ship and otherwise undetectable by all the high-tech equipment at the captain’s disposal. Of course, this hunch proves to be too little too late as the colossal wave proceeds to topple the ship and its passengers, leaving our cardboard crew to abandon the remaining survivors and make their way to the top of the ship, despite being assured by the captain that they’re safe in the “air bubble” created by the massive ballroom and located at the current bottom of the ship. Yeah, right.

So off go our ragtag team of rebels, led by the gambler/former Naval officer (Josh Lucas) and the ex-mayor of NYC/former firefighter (Kurt Russell), and including a single mother (Jacinda Barrett) and her son (more on him later), a suicidal-until-spotting-huge-wave-and-inexplicably-changing-mind gay architect (Richard Dreyfuss), the mayor’s daughter (Emmy Rossum) and fiancé (Mike Vogel), and a few more expendable roles to be filled by utterly obnoxious dudes who have it coming (Kevin Dillon) and ethnic employees (the film’s treatment of minority characters is staggeringly slanted). The group works their way up through submerged passages, perilous elevator shafts, and the like in a state of perpetual panic and momentary mourning, while either alpha male shouts at them that it’s going to be alright and that they have to keep moving, as if the rising water wasn’t motivation enough.

Even as the wave starts to overturn the ship, a significant supply of visceral fascination becomes apparently absent, and as the film plays out, it feels as if Petersen made a conscious effort to take all of the fun and excitement out of the initial disaster and the subsequent struggles of the survivors. Poseidon becomes cheese for the lactose-intolerant, with catastrophe and peril coming across as regrettably routine, regardless of our post-9/11 climate. Call me callous, but I think no less of The Day After Tomorrow as an entertainment simply because real tragedy had struck home before it opened, and I would still watch a remake of The Towering Inferno if they made it genuinely thrilling, which is where this film stumbles. P.O.S.? Not quite. S.O.S.? Yes, indeed.

Petersen’s direction seems intent on removing the audience from the action, starting with the opening shot which provides a 360-degree view of the ship-to-be-sunk and feels incredibly artificial, a special effect made less special by its unspoken objective to wow the viewer. Seeing the biggest wave money can buy doesn’t necessarily make it the most impressive wave (even Petersen did it better himself with The Perfect Storm, where a tangibly human scale made the behemoth that much more tragic). When rising flames threaten characters, one finds it hard to shake the feeling that, just outside of the frame, someone is opening a gas lever or pushing a button to produce suspense on cue. Protosevich (The Cell) doesn’t make matters any better with damp dialogue, phony relationships, and a general perfunctory approach to the circumstances.

Looming fire and water, confined spaces, and dangling wires feel more like inopportune obstacles than actually hazardous situations. Outside of the boat flip, there are no major set pieces, just minor setbacks that don’t feel nearly as urgent as they should be. Instead, we get fed a hokey line about how it was a “rogue wave” that hit them or shown an arbitrary shot of explosions below in an effort to justify the proceedings. Ultimately, it feels as if these people must survive not out of hope, but out of obligation. The ensemble proves their efforts to elevate such ham-handed presentation futile, as Lucas does his best to imitate a moist crossover of Kirk Douglas and Kevin Costner, and Russell does his best to imitate Lucas as such. Barrett and Rossum fare fine as damsels-in-distress, but Dreyfuss and Dillon both stumble in their trying roles. The disposable characters are given no depth, and the survivors no sympathy for neither their positions nor their decisions.

Then it all comes down to Barrett’s brat, played to grating necessity by Jimmy Bennett, doing the exact same role he had in Firewall. And The Amityville Horror. And Hostage. Since he is only ten, I wouldn’t hold his habits against him entirely. The fundamental flaw is with his character: we simply don’t need the kid, because whenever a child and/or pet are endangered, there is absolutely no doubt that they will survive. It immediately deflates the apprehension that much more, especially since he is employed in a borderline exploitative position, designed to purely push buttons and little more. No movie would ever be bold enough to actually kill off a young character, even so much as off-screen, because that would be sincerely surprising and truly upsetting compared to any other dispatch. Then again, it could be argued that would be even more manipulative, so ultimately, the character simply shouldn’t be there in the first place. People don’t pay to see safe, they pay to stay safe as mayhem occurs right before their eyes, so if you’re afraid to capture genuine tension and despair in a suspense story by doing something remotely devastating to fictional characters, then why bother at all?

One of the very first lines uttered is “We weren’t really surprised, sir.” Too true. While other disaster flicks may be equally predictable, at least there is an enthusiasm to them that makes the visuals impressive and the pressure palpable, that makes them worth picking up in a bargain bin, if only to fast-forward to all the good parts. 'Poseidon' flounders even in that respect, because without fun and without thrills, there is no point to watching it go down. Shallow, I can live with. Hollow, however, is a different story.

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originally posted: 05/20/06 09:47:29
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User Comments

3/19/20 Charles Tatum Sloppy and bored 2 stars
9/14/17 morris campbell exciting with good effects 4 stars
7/29/11 Bob Dog A great b-movie - best disaster movie I've seen in years! 5 stars
5/18/11 Ravenmad I wouldn't want to die like this, but almost did watching this film. 2 stars
11/23/09 Jeff Wilder Story's predictable, no real suspense and we don't care about the characters. 2 stars
11/03/09 Darryl Great sp. effects, stars & fast-paced! Dreyfuss miscast, Cary Elwes wouldve been perfect. 4 stars
8/14/09 Dan better than you've heard, if still imperfect 3 stars
3/26/09 Eric Much better than I thought it'd be - avoid comparing to original and judge on its own merit 4 stars
2/11/09 Stewart Worst movie I have ever seen! No story or characters, just special effects and bad acting. 1 stars
1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Very Interesting 4 stars
1/15/08 JM Synth Generic with paper thin characters, but great action and suspense 4 stars
1/12/08 Brian Mckay Better than Titanic - at least you don't have to sit through bullshit love story first. 4 stars
10/02/07 Rick Excellent action, but weak character development. Still, awesome f/x make it worth seeing. 4 stars
7/14/07 Vincent Ebriega Great effects, set design and action, but, like the Poseidon, sinks too quickly. 3/5. 3 stars
4/19/07 Stevo UK To sum it up, Battlefield Earth was better. 1 stars
2/28/07 Stanley Thai This film doesn't need character developement and has very good action scenes. 4 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega This remake is great to watch. 4 stars
1/23/07 Matt Lame,rushed,tooshort-and this time we don't give a shit who lives or dies. 2 stars
10/16/06 Mystique This movie really sucks; it's terribly cliché. You're better off renting "Titanic". 1 stars
10/13/06 Indrid Cold Suitably white-knuckle update of the original. 3 stars
10/07/06 Rhonda Heaslip In my opinion it was an awesome movie that kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved it! 5 stars
9/27/06 Anthony Feor I wish i had saw the origional before this, however it comes quite close to it 4 stars
9/03/06 Dragon The Artist A pretty good, ownable rehash of The Posiedon Adventure 4 stars
9/02/06 Danny Even without compairing it to 1972 classic, still merely average and pretty forgettable. 3 stars
8/29/06 David Hasslehof Not enough substance - could have been Titanic set in the modern era - Godzilla anyone? 3 stars
8/24/06 action movie fan sometimes exciting but seen it all before--ship is the only thing new 3 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant It feels longer than 'Titanic', and is a collosal piece of ass. Hated every frame. 1 stars
7/24/06 malcolm thrilling but ultimately forgettable 3 stars
6/05/06 Jon With excellent suspense and action Poseidon makes the already good old one perfect! 5 stars
6/03/06 MickOZ Are you over 14? If so you have seen this type of shite countless times. 2 stars
6/03/06 MP Bartley Fun for the moment but entirely forgettable. Wavers between average and worth a look. 3 stars
5/29/06 inty speed 2 was better 1 stars
5/24/06 Navi this movie just plain sucks. Maybe add a few details about characters, and make an ending. 2 stars
5/22/06 Jeff Anderson Waterlogged to say the least & cruel. Cast & effects are far better than film deserves! 2 stars
5/19/06 Staci Typical blockbuster filled with thrills and chills galore. 4 stars
5/19/06 Mase Quick and painless, if you are looking for great visuals and no depth...enjoy 3 stars
5/18/06 michael not too bad and close to the first if they would just think up some new ideas 4 stars
5/18/06 Gavin Bamber If you've seen Titanic, you've seen it already 3 stars
5/18/06 JOHN PETERSON When I saw this about 29 years ago, it was mediocre at best. This tiime special effects is 3 stars
5/17/06 Astro Boye THis movie Sucked- Homopphobia and racial bias sink this ship! 1 stars
5/16/06 pipe 10 minutes of decent special effects and 1-1/2 hours of mind-numbing plot and dialog. Glug 1 stars
5/14/06 Ron Green The special effects were great! It makes the original poseidon look like a sailboat! 4 stars
5/13/06 Captain Highcrime Moved so fast...Wolfgang must have been double-parked outside the post house. 4 stars
5/13/06 Mike C. Finally a movie that lived up to its preview. It kicked ass! Very intense! 5 stars
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  12-May-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Aug-2006



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