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It is New Year's Eve, and over 2,000 passengers & crew are ringing in the New Year aboard the huge cruise ship 'Poseidon' when it capsizes on the open sea in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean! A small group of survivors find themselves unlikely allies in a battle for their lives. Preferring to test the odds alone, career gambler Dylan Johns ignores captain's orders to wait below for possible rescue and sets out to find his own way to safety. What begins as a solo mission soon draws others, as Dylan is followed by a desperate father searching for his daughter and her fiancée--a young couple who hours before couldn't summon the courage to tell him they were engaged and now face much graver challenges. Along the way they are joined by a single mother and her wise-beyond-his-years son, an anxious stowaway and a despondent fellow passenger who boarded the ship not sure he wanted to live but now knows he doesn't want to die. Determined to fight their way to the surface, the group sets ... Written by
Anthony Pereyra (hypersonic91yahoo.com)
It all starts off so well too. The opening shot of Wolfgang Petersen's Poseidon is beautiful. A single take that begins beneath the surface of the ocean that swings up and out of it as the underside of the ship slices through the waves, before pivoting round the colossal cruise liner and zeroing in on Josh Lucas running on the deck. With the sun setting in the distance and the immense size of the vessel itself contrasted with the deep blue of the water, this is a visually astounding entrance to a movie that is unfortunately very shallow indeed.
A remake of the classic disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure, this tells much the same story with a small group of passengers trying to escape a doomed ocean liner after it capsizes due to a freak wave. Given the beloved status of the original, besting it was going to be tricky from the start so how to do it? Bestow the characters with as much depth and humanity as possible, arrange it so that you don't want any of them to die just as the original film did? No. That isn't the 21st Century Studio Approach to blockbusters at all, the trick is explosions! Lots of explosions! And dangerous stunts that happen in very quick succession with no set up whatsoever.
As a result, things happen very quickly. We've hardly got to know anyone on the ship before the wave strikes and sends their world tumbling upside down in a hail of glass and debris. Trapped beneath the waves, there is no debate on the best means of survival but instead a bull headed rush to escape as soon as possible and before you know it, barely any time has elapsed before we have our luckless nobodies dangling from lift shafts, diving through burning oil slicks or scrambling up air vents rapidly filling with water. This could all be very entertaining if it wasn't so empty and if only they'd eased back on the throttle a little bit, we could have had a much more successful film.
Kurt Russell for instance is wasted. As an ex firefighter and former Mayor of New York with a failed marriage behind him, they could have crafted the image of a troubled man going through a midlife crisis who finds himself tested beyond his limits. Instead, the only hints at any characterisation are him protesting his daughter's cleavage bearing dress to leave no doubt that theirs is a strained relationship. Then there is Richard Dreyfuss (who has finally found a bigger boat), whose character might as well be listed in the credits as "depressed, elderly gay man." Everyone else is just as vacuous and while Josh Lucas is certainly a charismatic focal point, it cannot make up for the two dimensional stereotypes of Kevin Dillon's gambler Lucky Larry or Mike Vogel's performance as Christian, the fiancée of Russell's daughter who manages to put in perhaps the worst attempt at acting you will see in a blockbuster this year.
It does have a few commendable points though. One death scene involving a lift shaft, jagged metal spikes and an explosion is an adrenaline pumping crowd pleaser and the aforementioned scramble through the flooding ventilation shaft is really quite tense, the ensemble cast squeezed together in a claustrophobic nightmare as the water bubbles up around them. Ultimately though, it is not enough to save it. Poseidon may make for a diverting hour and a half but Hollywood needs to learn a valuable lesson about plotting: bigger explosions and insane stunts are nowhere near as impressive if we don't care about the people involved. The original version made an entire generation terrified of getting on a boat with Ernest Borgnine, this is just laughable.
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