Sunday, August 14, 2011

Clyde's Movie Palace: Poseidon (2006)

Poseidon (2006)
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Kurt Russell
Josh Lucas
Jacinda Barrett
Richard Dreyfuss
Jimmy Bennett
Emmy Rossum
Mike Vogel
Mia Maestro
Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell) has a problem. He was once a heroic firefighter. He then ran for and became mayor of New York City. He wasn’t a very good mayor though, and eventually lost that job. Now he is nothing more than an over bearing father trying to control every aspect of his daughter Jennifer’s life. They are on a vacation, taking a cruise on the Poseidon when suddenly, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, tragedy strikes.

Jennifer Ramsey (Emmy Rossum) has a problem. She has a new boyfriend. She’s in love with Christian (Mike Vogel) and her father doesn’t approve of him. Christian thinks she should tell her father how serious their relationship really is and that they will be married. Jennifer says she will at the right time when suddenly, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, tragedy strikes.

Elena Gonzalez (Mia Maestro) has a problem. Her brother is lying ill in a New York Hospital. She wants desperately to see him but does not have the money for transportation to get there. Her only alternative is to stow away on the Poseidon so that she can be with him. Everything is going well when suddenly, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, tragedy strikes.

Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss) has a problem. Richard Nelson is gay but that’s not the problem. The problem is that his lover and companion has left him for someone else. To try to come to terms with it, Richard has booked transportation on the S.S. Poseidon. He uses his cell phone to leave a message for his ex-companion hoping he will return the call at midnight. When the call doesn’t come, Richard tosses the cellphone
overboard, is about to dive in right behind it when suddenly, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, tragedy strikes.

Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) doesn’t seem to have a problem. He’s a card shark and poker player. He entices men on the ship to play poker, usually guys who are ticked off at their wives because they’re an easy mark. Dylan usually wins, but Dylan is a guy who really cares only about one thing – himself. We think he might need to turn his life around when suddenly, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, tragedy strikes.

Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett) has a problem. She is a single mom attempt to raise the cute but obnoxious kid Conor. (Jimmy Bennett) They always seem to find room for brats in movies of this type. We’re not sure if she’s divorced or a widower and if we are the information goes by so quickly we miss it. But all seems well with the world when suddenly, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, tragedy strikes.
I’m not sure how long it took you to read the above paragraphs but my guess is that it took a lot less time to read them then it took for me to type it out. And my typing speed is a none too paltry 95 wpm. Yet, the time you spent reading it is roughly equal to the same amount of time Poseidon spends on letting us get to know the main characters of this latest story. And after reading about their story, did you find them particularly compelling? Did you suddenly find yourself awash with a sense of sympathy, caring, or sadness? Or did you rush right on to this paragraph to find out what point I was trying to make? And that pretty much sums up the biggest problem with Poseidon. You just don’t give a damn what happens to any of these people. It’s the same as if you’re talking to your next door neighbor Hazel on the phone and she is telling you about her cousin Sam from Idaho, and you nod and say uh-huh as if you care but you’re really wondering how you can wheedle out of the conversation because American Idol comes on in fifteen minutes.

But there is one thing Poseidon does have that neighbor Hazel doesn’t have. It has one helluva ship wreck. In the original The Poseidon Adventure, when we first see the Tsunami that actually launches the plot, we think “Oh my gawd, dude, surfs up!” In this film when we see it, we think, “Oh my gawd and holy crap Batman, this spells trouble!”

And that it does. Director Petersen leaves nothing to the imagination. He shows everything in as much detail as possible. For instance, in the original film we only saw the dead crew in the galley after the fact. Petersen fills in that bit of mystery by showing the galley bursting into flames and everybody being burnt to a crispy critter. Elevators come crashing down, people are falling and dying all over the place, dead bodies float throughout the ship and outside the ship, and it’s one helluva mess. And I have to admit I was certainly enthralled with this aspect of the film. Of course it helps to know that everything is digital effects for the most part and the bodies aren’t real, so it’s okay to sit in the theater and think that this is really cool stuff.

Afterwards we have to have our group of intrepid ship explorers (see above paragraphs) decide that it’s better to try and make it to the bottom of the ship which is now at the top because as the ever observant Richard Nelson says, “ships weren’t made to float upside down.”
In the first Poseidon movie, the ship’s purser was the one who told everybody to stay put and they would be rescued. In this one we have the captain on hand to do it because unlike Leslie Nielsen who was billed in the credits of the original “as the Captain” which meant he had to die quickly, this edition has the Captain receive no such billing enabling him to hang around a little longer. But you know he’s dead meat just the same. And when the end does come, pay attention to what his last act as Captain is because it’ll certainly have you scratching your head in bewilderment wondering what was left on the cutting room floor.

Unlike the first film, where often it seemed as if the intrepid explorers had several days to go up to get to the bottom, this bunch knows time is of the essence. Petersen moves them systematically downwards, I mean upwards, from one part of the ship to the next. They pick up a couple of strays along the way, (humans not pets), because you always need a few more extras to meet their maker in a disaster film. And of course, you know that some will live and some will die so take your scorecard, map it out and see if you can guess right. If you follow the code of disaster movie film making you shouldn’t have too much trouble.

I will say I did like the journey through the ship quite a bit. The continual sense of urgency in that department was much more believable then in the original where the passengers were always stopping to argue, cry, whine, complain and pout. You won’t get much of that here and there’s not a lot of bickering or fighting at all, not even between Robert Ramsey and his future son-in-law. There is also one decision that Richard Nelson has to make to save his own life that I also found rather compelling. You’ll have to find out for yourself what it is.
The problem with Poseidon is that even in a disaster film, or any adventure film for that matter, you have to have reason to care about your characters regardless of how well made the action sequences are or how good the special effects are. It’s not the actors fault either, as they all pretty much do what is asked of them even if it isn’t much.
The fact is that despite the tragedies, you won’t care one iota nor feel any sense of loss whatsoever. I can appreciate the fact that Petersen wanted to make the trip through the ship have a sense of urgency and with a running time of just over ninety minutes it does have that. And you’ll probably be entertained by the goings on while they are happening, but when someone dies the only thought you’ll have is that, oh well, another one bites the dust. No time to grieve along the way.
If you remember what I said last week about summer popcorn movies, I wrote that by Labor Day you’ll probably have forgotten most of what you have seen but if it entertained you for a while the film did it’s job. The problem with Poseidon is, it won’t even take you that long to forget. By the time The Girlfriend  and I hit the parking lot, the only thing we could remember was that we hadn’t had dinner yet. And if that’s the only thing I can remember when coming out of a movie theater, then I have no choice but to give you my grade and for Poseidon it’s a C-.
Clyde Note:  When I wrote an abridged edition of this review for the IMDB, it had an approval rating of 176 out of 242, which I consider a decent score.

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