So, for no visibly particular reason, 2006 brought us a big-budget, big-screen remake of the classic Poseidon Adventure. With an all-star cast (Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfus), and an all-star director (Wolfgang Petersen); the stars seemed to be aligned for a spectacle that could possibly outshine the 1972 classic. Sadly, a nearly non-existent script and poor character development sink this remake.
If I were to nail down what bothers me about this movie most; it is that I don't care if any of these people live or die. In the brief time we get to meet them before the boat flips over, we meet a bunch of people being snarky to each other, and a gay man whose mate had found another man. He may be the only character that gets developed enough to really form any kind of emotional attachment with. And even then, just before the wave hits, he's getting ready to end his own life... apparently seeing a huge wave coming at you changes your outlook on life.
So, with barely any character development before the disaster, surely the script will remedy that with lots of sharp banter, and detail the rest of the journey right? Yeah, not so much. There's a lot of yelling and screaming, but nothing truly memorable. In the original, there were several great exchanges between Reverend Scott and Mr. Rogo in particular. Here there are a couple of sappy moments between boyfriend and girlfriend, and between boyfriend and girlfriend's father, but overall there's just nothing going on dialog wise to give us any depth to the people we are following.
The most notable scene where some dialog would have helped is near the end. In the original, Rev. Scott has a rather heated exchange with God, it's a very memorable and bittersweet scene I talked about last time. Here? Our hero (Josh Lucas' character...despite seeing the movie several times, I still can't remember any one's name) yells "I can't do it", grunts a couple times, and then saves the day. Wow. Stirring.
Now on to the stuff I did like, and I did like quite a bit. First of all, this movie is pretty unrelenting pace wise. There is one fairly long break nearer the end of the movie that gives you some time to breathe. Other than that, there is always something exploding, or something important just about ready to go underwater.
Second, the ballast tank scene may be one of the most tense I have ever experienced. As everyone is sitting, silent, waiting and hoping for this valve to open. You think all hope is lost, when suddenly it opens and everyone is thrown into the next tank...just to do it all again. It's a really well done scene.
Third, there are many nice moments that touch on scenes from the original (whether they were intentional or not). Most of them were small things, like tossing a sheet over a dead body with a horrified look. Others were more blatant such as the scene where the precocious young kid holds onto a bolted down item to survive the flip (changed from a table to a piano, but it's basically the same), and then has to jump into a sheet to join the rest of the people.
Overall though, this movie just seemed to miss the mark. It's not all bad, but it just pales in comparison to the original. I would be remiss if I didn't mention one thing Poseidon has that the original doesn't: Kevin Dillon and the worst acting job in the history of cinema as Lucky Larry. This over the top portrayal of a boorish, drunken, womanizer stuck in a 1970s that I don't think actually existed is so comically bad...it's actually worth the effort to see. Literally, the character is so bad, that when he dies about 10 minutes later, you actually feel better for the rest of the movie that they don't have to try and fit his shtick in anymore.
I give Poseidon a C-. It just does not have the magic that the original had.
Is there even more Poseidon? Why yes there is!
While there is a sequel to the original Poseidon Adventure, and a made for TV version of the movie as well (and possibly even more movies I don't even know about yet!). I'm going to come back to look at those at a later date.
Next time I'm going to answer the question of "When is a disaster movie not a disaster movie?" by looking at the recent DVD release of one of my top 5 favorite movies of 2007: Sunshine. Because, even though it does not fit my (or many other) definition of a true disaster movie...the movie wouldn't exist if the Earth wasn't in danger. Then of course, 1-18-08 is Cloverfield day. And when a movie trailer starts with a scene of New York City going up in a big ball of fire...THAT has my full and complete attention.