Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Starring: Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett, Emmy Rossum
Running Time: 99 min.
*** (out of ****)
When it was announced they'd be remaking 1972's The Poseidon Adventure I actually didn't think it was the worst possible idea in the world. While the original was campy, memorable fun it was far from a masterpiece. In fact, part of me wonders if the only reason we're so protective of the film is just because it evokes a goofy feeling of 70's nostalgia. The clothes, the unintentionally hilarious soundtrack, the performances. Ah yes, who can forget the performances? Shelly Winters as the rotund former swimming champion who sacrafices her life and Gene Hackman screaming at God as he plunges into a watery inferno. Let's not forget Ernest Borgnine overacting in, well, just about every scene. It was fun, but anyone who thinks it represents a pinnacle in filmmaking has some explaining to do. But since it was the original disaster movie it's no surprise everyone holds it dear to their hearts. However, I was curious what advanced special effects and a new vision of the story would look like.
My hopes were raised when I heard Wolfgang Petersen was directing the remake since he has experience with water-logged action films such as Das Boot and The Perfect Storm. If anyone was the man for the job it was him. This may not be as fun as the original, but it at least has it beat technically. This is a remake to its core and exactly how you'd expect The Poseidon Adventure to look and feel like if it was made in 2006. Poseidon does exactly what it sets out to do. It's a disaster movie and that's all it needs to be. Nothing more, nothing less.
The film wisely scraps all of the characters from the original film and creates new ones. Not as if it matters in a movie like this since the characters are only there to be involved in gargantuan action scenes. This time there's gambling addict Dylan Johns (Lucas), former fire chief and Mayor of New York, Robert Ramsey (Russell), his daughter Jennifer (Rossum) with boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel) and a single mother (Barrett) and her son (Jimmy Bennett) . Plus we have stowaway, Elena (Mia Maestro) and suicidal gay architect Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss) who's about to jump ship because his partner left him. The fact that Dreyfuss' character is gay is completely superfulous to the story as if they had to find some character trait to stick on him. To his credit, he makes the most of his part and looks like he's having alot of fun. I've never met a gay architect but I bet if I did he'd act something like Dreyfuss does here. He even gets to to deliver the movie's most unintentionally ridiculous line stating "I'm an architect and these ships aren't designed to stay afloat upside down." You learn something new every day.
The rest of the passengers on the ship? They all die when a "rogue wave" hits and they make the unfortunate mistake of listening to the captain (Andre Braugher) and staying in the ballroom instead of following the others to the top (bottom) of the ship. On the plus side, Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas bites the dust.
Amazingly this movie is off and running within the first fifteen minutes, a far cry from the original. In fact it moves at such a break neck pace you almost wish it would stop for air at times. Where the original film was funny and adventurous, this one is tension-filled. Although it's hard to take a film too seriously that features a villainous character named "Lucky Larry." Think he survives past the twenty minute mark? Still, there are some genuinely suspenseful scenes such as a trip through an air vent that's way too close for comfort and one of the most realistic drowning scenes I've ever seen. I never cared much for the ending of The Poseidon Adventure, because I felt it didn't really end. It just stopped. The ending here is only slightly better, but this type of film isn't going to be remembered for it's narrative stylings so it isn't a major issue.
Like the original, there's a huge death scene involving a major character, which I thought was actually better executed in this film. Not to give anything away, this person had more at stake and, as a result, made a greater sacrifice, deepening the impact of the death. I appreciated the effort (however small) that went into establishing the relationships between the characters, especially Ramsey's overprotectiveness of his daughter and his disapproval of her relationship with the boyfriend. It's a stock storyline, but it was played well by all parties involved. I also liked that there were two leaders (Lucas and Russell) this time around instead of just one (Hackman) in the original. It created a new, interesting dynamic for the story seeing two strong-willed personalities attempt to work together.
A movie like this isn't going to be strong on character development and it isn't, but anyone who thinks the original did a much better job at it is fooling themselves. The acting is fine all around but if I had one complaint it would be that it almost moved too quickly and could have used ten more minutes at the beginning or end. If you loved the original, this remake will do nothing to taint or disgrace your memory of it. They can stand side by side as a different take on a similar story. If you go into Poseidon approaching it for what it is, you definitely won't be disappointed.