Retro Review: Poseidon

I am a huge fan of the disaster film genre.

Who can forget that scene in “Towering Inferno” where Robert Wagner wraps himself in a wet towel and tries to run threw the burning flames to save the woman he loves?

Or how about that dynamic sequence in “The Poseidon Adventure” where Gene Hackman is hanging from the value and using every muscle in his body to turn the crank so that his fellow man can escape? I will never forget that sequence as long as I live because I think it was that scene that made me fall in love with disaster films.

“The Poseidon Adventure” was the greatest disaster film ever made and because I remember that film so vividly it was so hard to enjoy the 2006 remake, “Poseidon”.

The remake is basically the same premise as the original where a giant cruise liner is flipped over by a “rogue” wave and it’s a desperate struggle to survive. A rag-tag group of passengers have to make their way to ship’s hull and find a way out. Overcoming obstacles, fires, flooding in an upside down world, they must bond together to survive.

Going on the journey, in the remake, are a former fireman Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), her fiancé Christian (Mike Vogel), a gay architect Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), a single mother Maggie (Jacinda Barrett), her son Conner (Jimmy Bennett) and they are lead by a professional gambler Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas). There are about 3 others but does it really matter?

What was so great about the original film was that you got to know all about the characters before and even more so during their ordeal. Then there was the priceless friction between Borgnine’s cop and Hackman’s priest. Their locking of horns and constant struggle was utterly brilliant and unforgettable.

In the remake there is no real tension between the survivors. Sure you have spoiled brat Rossum and the free-thinking gambler but we never get to know how anybody actually ticks. The film’s introduction felt so much like a “Love Boat” re-run that it was hard to take anybody on the cast serious.

What I did like about the remake were some of the teeth-clenching, jaw-dropping survival sequences. The pacing, tension and desperation in the actors was brilliant. The giant disaster type scenarios were fun but not feeling for the characters and the overly cluttered sets made the film hard to enjoy. How many times did we have to see a dead body and have a cast member shriek?

If they were going for a modern up-to-date version of this film then more people should have died. At least half the people who survived should have died and we needed to know more about the internal struggle in each character as they are faced with their own mortality.

The original film’s core essence was about sacrifice and the will to survive. Not an overly clichéd Hollywood ending.

As for modern day disaster films, the 95-minute Poseidon is one of the weakest I have seen.

(2.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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