Review by Mark Walters


If you've never seen the original movie THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, do yourself a favor and pick up the new special edition DVD.  It really is one of the best disaster films ever made.  What makes it so good is not only the incredible events and settings, but it's memorable characters.  Now Warner Brothers is releasing a remake of the classic film, simply calling it POSEIDON.  The story is fairly similar, though many of the characters have changed.  These days it seems like remakes fall very short of their potential, regardless of how good the source material may be.  The big plus this one has is it's director, Wolfgang Petersen, who has proven his ability to handle disaster storylines rather well.  But the major question remains can anyone truly improve on something that was so good to begin with.

 The movie opens with a fly around shot of the cruise ship Poseidon, where we see Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) jogging up and down the various decks.  We're quickly taken to the quarters of the wealthy Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), where his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum) and her boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel) are contemplating how to break their wedding plans to him.  From there we meet other characters, such as Elena (Mia Maestro) who has snuck on the boat with a cook named Marco Valentin (Freddy Rodriguez), a heartbroken gay man named Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), and a single mother named Maggie (Jacinda Barrett) and her son Conor (Jimmy Bennett).  The story speeds into a big party on the ship, where we're introduced to the ship's captain Michael Bradford (Andre Braugher) and a somewhat sleazy gambler named Lucky Larry (Kevin Dillon).  Before you know it a giant rogue wave hits the ship, turning in upside down in the water.  While most of the passengers remain in the party area waiting for rescue, a small group decides to brave the various passageways of the ship in hopes of escaping.  As the boat begins to fall apart, their journey may prove quite difficult if not impossible to complete.

 As a disaster film, this movie is done fairly well, properly conveying the extreme situations everyone faces, and realistically showing the inevitable dangers one would face if this sort of thing really happened.  Director Wolfgang Petersen really knows how to drop you in the middle of a claustrophobic setting, and keep you enthralled until the very end.  The action scenes are extremely well handled, which was no surprise considering Wolfgang's talents.  However the film fails in one very important area.  The original movie THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE worked so well because of it's memorable characters, and our interest in them surviving.  This film sadly spends an incredibly short amount of time establishing it's characters, which prevents the audience from caring much at all whether or not they make it.  The main protagonist Dylan (Josh Lucas) is presented as a mysterious passenger, and sadly remains a little too mysterious throughout the story.  We never get a sense of who he is (or was) and why he's even there.  Kurt Russell's character is explained in passing to be a former Mayor that failed in his job, and his survival skills are barely mentioned in spur of the moment fashion, as if only to let the audience know that's he's as competent as he acts.  In one scene he exclaims "I used to be a fire fighter" as if that's enough for everyone to accept that he knows all there is to know about what should be done.  Everyone else is just set dressing.  At no point do we get a sense of who anyone is, or why they're there.  Part of the problem is the film's running time.  Clocking in at about 90 minutes (rather short for a "disaster epic"), it appears as if the filmmakers were more interested in getting to the action than they were explaining the characters, and that's very unfortunate.  There are so many missed opportunities here.  Richard Dreyfuss has a moment early in the film which is rather devastating, and it easily could've led into an important emotional conflict, but instead is just glossed over and forgotten.  I was initially excited to see Dreyfuss back on the big screen in a big movie, but he's pathetically wasted in this role.  Lucas and Russell, who are the big heroes of the story, seem to just be going through the motions here.  There were opportunities for conflict in their leadership, but again the film doesn't bother with mixing things up, which in turn makes the storyline a little to straightforward for it's own good.

There are also some corny moments which hurt the serious nature of the script, such as a rather overblown inclusion of Stacy Ferguson (Fergie from the Blackeyed Peas) as the ships featured singer, and a somewhat ridiculous scene involving the young boy saving the group from certain death.  These scenes feel like little more than the filmmakers trying too hard to play to specific members of the audience, with Fergie being used as an obvious appeal to the younger viewers, and the kid being a ploy to tug at the heartstrings of parents.  In a storyline this serious, even the slightest bit of silliness can destroy the emotional impact of what's going on.  If you analyzed this film strictly for it's disaster elements, it's pretty good overall.  But the shortcomings in it's characters, and select script moments keep it from being a great movie, or even comparable to the original.  It's rare that I complain about a movie being too short, but this is one example where an extra 20 minutes of character development could've made a big difference.  If you're a fan of the original, chances are you'll be disappointed with this remake.  If this story is new to you, it probably won't impress you much past it's exciting action scenes.  I honestly expected better from a Wolfgang Petersen flick, but considering the overwhelming number of producers, this may simply be a prime example of too many cooks in the kitchen.  While POSEIDON won't go down as one of the best disaster films ever done, it's still pretty exciting to watch.  Too bad the overall effect wasn't more satisfying.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give POSEIDON a 6.

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