POSEIDON (Wolfgang Petersen, 2006)
Having helmed DAS BOOT and THE PERFECT STORM, director Wolfgang Petersen is no stranger to trouble on the water. POSEIDON, his remake of the 1972 disaster flick THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, is lean and mean yet waterlogged by the bland characters scurrying for their lives.
Petersen wastes little time having a rogue wave tip over the eponymous cruise ship. Most of the passengers and crew are killed, but a few withstand the capsizing and look for a way out. Although Josh Lucas’ professional gambler leads the escape, there isn’t a true main character in the cast, which includes Kurt Russell as a former firefighter and New York City mayor, Emmy Rossum as his dewy-eyed daughter, and Richard Dreyfuss’ heartbroken gay architect.
As a technical exercise in finding a path through an upside-down ship, POSEIDON works reasonably well. The film wastes no time flipping the ocean liner and dispatching most of its occupants. The small band of survivors is intently focused on their escape and work toward their goal with clock-like precision. POSEIDON has no video game roots, but it’s a video game film in the sense that it’s a multi-player game focused on completing several levels.
This also means that POSEIDON is mechanical in how it chugs through the challenges presented to the characters. The people in the movie are nothing but thinly drawn archetypes. Since we don’t have any reason to get attached to them, there’s little reason to feel anything for the danger they face.
Part of the appeal of disaster films is seeing characters you dislike get their comeuppance, but with few characters fleshed out, POSEIDON doesn’t deliver there. Then again, maybe it’s for the best since reveling in mass death and destruction seems vulgar despite being nearly five years removed from 9/11. Still, I hoped Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas would get a piano dropped on her head.
Petersen has good command of the action scenes, which is what one would expect from the veteran director. POSEIDON’S relentlessness is a virtue, but he needed more depth to characters who are little more than video game avatars.