This ship has sailed ... and sunk ...2/10
In the original POSEIDON ADVENTURE, the venerable SS Poseidon was on its last voyage, even before it had a wave of bad luck. Headed to port to be turned to scrap, the aging luxury liner was comfortably aged and loaded down with a bunch of amiable B-list movie stars playing rather endearingly ordinary people. POSEIDON, the remake, is apparently far from being on its last leg; sparkling new and lavishly decorated in nondescript, tasteless elegance, it is carrying a passenger list of dubious VIPs, who don't even have enough dimension to be cliches and are played by actors, who, though competent, would barely even rate being on the B-list.
But it does seem to have a healthy cargo of things that blow up. Indeed, it seems that more of the unfortunate victims of this seagoing disaster meet fiery deaths than watery ones -- explosions being far more photogenic than the inability to hold ones breath for very long.
POSEIDON the new movie is very much like Poseidon the new ship: cold, efficient, impersonal and doomed to sink like a rock. The most remarkable thing about this SS Poseidon is that it has a huge bridge full of technicians and flashing electronic gizmos, yet the 150-foot tidal wave that flips the boat sneaks up on everyone without warning. Apparently the wave spotting equipment they use is from the same company that created iceberg detecting equipment for the Titanic. Indeed, the first person to spot the tidal wave is a passenger played by a strangely subdued Richard Dreyfuss, whose impromptu suicide attempt is rudely interrupted.
The movie itself is pretty much an empty vessel, though it is certainly a product of its time. Trivial concerns such as story and character are jettisoned in favor of elaborate and expensive sets and CGI special effects. Indeed, the imagery of the new POSEIDON is most impressive and outshines the then-cutting edge productions values of the 1972 original. Yet, it isn't nearly as effective in any regard. The original film had its ragtag band of survivalists interacting with their topsy-turvy environment, where this time the stunts and sets and CGI simply overwhelm everything and everybody. Like so many CGI blockbusters, human interaction is merely a bothersome detail; the real focus being on the violent extermination of masses of nameless, faceless victims. And once again, Hollywood has mistaken technological gimmickry for storytelling skill.
When the film does try to escape from tired predictability it bites off far more than it can chew. At one point a main character is compelled to kill another character in order to save himself, yet this intense and perverse moment early in the film is never dealt with again. The surviving character must neither redeem himself or face karmic punishment for his act. The secondary character is just killed and forgotten -- presumably because the character and the actor playing the part weren't important enough to care about. After that, it is hard to care about the fate of anyone else. The film has no sense of humanity, let alone a sense of humor about the absurdity of the entire premise.
The cast, not unduly burdened with characters to play or chances to actually act, run the obstacle course with dogged professionalism. Kurt Russell is no Gene Hackman, but he is in the unfortunate position of being too good of an actor for this type of film, yet not big enough of a star to actually carry it. Young Jimmy Bennet is perfectly convincing as a terrified child and Josh Lucas has an impressive underbite perfectly suited for jutting out his chin in fierce determination. Other than that, the cast is unremarkable, sadly lacking even any Carol Lynleys or Pamela Sue Martins, let alone such wonderfully hammy pros like Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Ernest Borgnine or the inimitable Shelley Winters. None of the characters/actors stand out enough to be sympathetic, endearing or even memorable. Indeed, the three female leads -- Jacinda Barrett, Emmy Rossum and Mia Maestro -- are so interchangeable that it is hard to tell their characters apart.
I suppose that the filmmakers wanted this to be like the remake of KING KONG, an eye-popping, special effects reinvention of a well-worn story. But, instead, POSEIDON ends up being like the woefully unnecessary remake of PSYCHO: there was no need, demand or purpose for this film to exist and the filmmakers reveal they have no apparent clue as to why the original is loved in the first place. That's what happens when you set sail without a compass; you just get lost at sea.