Think of “Poseidon” as sort of the anti-“Titanic”, a film it aspires to be but fails utterly in every conceivable way. There is no great romance, no epic special effects, just a lot of terrible dialogue spoken by wooden actors in a film so CGI dependent; I felt like I was watching a video game. “Poseidon” is actually a remake of the classic 70’s film “The Poseidon Adventure”. That film looks dated by today’s standards, but had an emotional gravitas that had you rooting for the characters. This version is so contrived; it was obvious in the first ten minutes what characters would survive. Director Wolfgang Petersen, who’s made a career of good mega-budget action films, delivers a real clunker this time.
The plot, and I use that term loosely, kicks into high gear five minutes in. A towering wave, defined as a ‘rogue’ wave in the film, flips over the gargantuan cruise ship “Poseidon” in the open sea. Most of the passengers die horrific deaths, but a few lucky ones manage to survive in the overturned boat. Ignoring the Captain’s (Andre Braugher) advice, a small group decides to try to escape out of the ship’s propeller shaft. Dylan (Josh Lucas) is the heroic ex-Navy gambler who takes on the survival of a single mother (Jacinda Barrett) and her son (Jimmy Bennett). Kurt Russell is the heroic ex-firefighter turned ex-New York City mayor leading his daughter (Emmy Rossum) and fiancé (Mike Vogel) to safety. They’re joined along the way by the wealthy flamboyant homosexual (Richard Dreyfuss), a stunning stowaway Latina (Mia Maestro), and the prerequisite jerk (Kevin Dillon). The ragtag group face peril at every corner as they painstakingly inch towards their goal.
The characters in this film are completely devoid of exposition or character development. We get bits and pieces of their story over time, but there’s really nothing that makes you feel any attachment to them. I think the screenwriters believed that the inherent urgency of the situation would somehow draw the audience into their plight. That doesn’t happen whatsoever. I couldn’t have cared less who lived or died because nothing about the characters was endearing. That’s a real shame when you have actors like Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas as your lead actors. These guys are good. They can play the tough guys and have tremendous depth to their performances. Unfortunately they’re given nothing to work with here and they end up as caricatures on screen.
The biggest disappointment in “Poseidon” is the dismal special effects. The CGI is so obvious and poorly done. Budget considerations are key here, but what made “Titanic” look so good is the fact that they actually built the ship on set. James Cameron was skillfully able to mix in CGI effects with the external set to provide for a highly realistic effect. “Poseidon” has its fair share of internal sets, but the ship itself is all CGI. It just doesn’t look real. You’ve automatically lost the audience when the pivotal story element is not accepted. Photo-realism is key in the world of special effects. The ship looks like it was taken out of an Xbox video game.
Just like the captain, director Wolfgang Petersen goes down with the ship. This is a really lackluster effort from him. I wasn’t really a fan of “Troy”, his previous film; but that at least was entertaining. “Poseidon” is an incredibly tedious film to watch. Its runtime is a scant 90 minutes, but it feels much longer. The summer of 2006 is off to a deplorable start between “Poseidon” and “M:I:3”.