Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the newest entry in the Greed Won Over Better Judgement Awards... And the winner is "Poseidon".
Directed by Wolfgang Peterson, "Poseidon" is a completely unnecessary film. And it isn't a very good unnecessary film. Made because they have no original ideas and better special effects to display those ideas, Warner Bros. clearly wanted (needed?) a popcorn film to fill the multiplexes over the weekend. Someone suggested the 1972 film "The Poseidon Adventure" deserved to be remade (stop laughing, it happened.) and they called on Wolfgang Peterson to hammer out a special effects and action extravaganza. Apparently, Peterson has been typecast as the `Water' director; after "Das Boot", "The Perfect Storm" and now "Poseidon", he is clearly the guy to go to if your story involves water and your actors will get wet.
But why was "Poseidon" remade? The 1972 film is remembered for two reasons; the ship overturns and Shelly Winters in an evening dress crawling through small passageways. Last year, a television movie was made; this time, a terrorist's bomb causes the boat to capsize and one of the survivors is a Homeland Security agent. How timely. So why is this version hitting the multiplexes? Money and more money. Studios feel like they have to release two or three big budget "tent poles" every summer. These films cost a lot of money and will (hopefully) bring in a lot of money and ticket buyers. Sometimes, they hit it big ("Spiderman"), other times; they lose ("Poseidon"). Before these big films begin playing, the studio will get to show one or two previews for some of their other big summer offerings, trying to win potential ticket buyers. Before "Mission Impossible III", Paramount included a preview for "Nacho Libre", a film I suspect cost about a third of Tom Cruise's salary alone. Before "Poseidon", we saw trailers for "The Lake House", a new weepy romance starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock (probably cost about a third of "Poseidon") and "Superman Returns" (which probably cost more, a lot more.) So, long story long, it's all about economics. The studios would rather spend $120 million on a special effects filled offering rather than finance a dozen Wes Anderson or Woody Allen films.
For those of you that don't know... The Poseidon, a luxury cruise ship, is traveling across the Atlantic on New Year's Eve. Just as the guests reach one in the countdown, a `rogue wave', as the Captain (Andre Braugher, in probably the most thankless role of the film) later explains, catches the ship broadside, causing it to flip upside down. Many people die, but the survivors include Dylan (Josh Lucas), a gambler and former Navy man who was never happier than when he was broke, Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), a former fireman and the Mayor of New York and Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), a [...] architect who is trying to get over a bad breakup. The group also includes a single mom (Jacinda Barrett) and her `adorable' little boy, Jennifer Ramsey (Emmy Rossum, the musical "The Phantom of the Opera"), Richard's daughter and Christian (Mike Vogel), her boyfriend and new fiance. As soon as the ship capsizes, Dylan figures he can find a way out and this ragtag group of people follows him through various obstacles. Some of them will make it, some won't.
Josh Lucas and Kurt Russell are both good actors and the only reason I can think of for their involvement is money. Why would they agree to make a film in water tanks, soaked to the bones during the entire day, when their characters have little, if any, character? This is the type of film where character development is done in quick, broad strokes. Anything we learn about them is learned through quick, off hand comments. "I was never as happy as when I was broke". "May dad was Mayor of New York when I was young". "That must've been great." "It wasn't". Basically, the only way a film like this will help their careers is if it is a huge hit. The film doesn't require them to act particularly well, so it all comes down to money. And because the film cost so much, the likelihood of a huge hit diminishes.
There are many reasons for newcomers like Jacinda Barret, Emmy Rossum, Mike Vogel and Freddy Rodriquez to appear in the film. Exposure, exposure and more exposure. They are at the point in their careers where any film will help, no matter how bad. Appearing in a multi-million dollar film of this sort can only help their careers. Who knows? It might even help them stay away from the slasher/ horror films so many actors of their age populate.
Richard Dreyfuss? Just behind John Travolta for most career revivals, Dreyfuss' career could use a shot in the arm. Here he plays a [...] architect. You see, he's an architect so he can say things like "This ship isn't designed to survive underwater." Presumably, an architect knows about these things. But then again, wouldn't anyone? He seems to be a `[...]' architect to be merely pathetic. At one point, he calls his ex-lover and leaves a voice mail. "I'm begging, aren't I?" At another point, he calls Freddy Rodriguez's character gorgeous. This happens as they are trying to traverse an upside down elevator shaft. I guess this is why his character has an ex-lover.
For a moment, I thought Kevin Dillon's character Lucky Lou had been transported intact from the 1972 original. His character is so laughably over the top you will also cheer when he dies.
As the story progresses, the already spotty dialogue degenerates further as we get statements like "There is no other way!" or "I can't do it." "Yes, you can." "The water is rising." Yes, all serviceable, but because we know so little about the characters this dialogue only serves to make each person all the more two-dimensional.
Yes, the special effects are impressive, when the ship is turning over, but after this point, the film looks like it was filmed in water tanks. The cast encounter a series of obstacles, all of which take place in closed, confined spaces. But because we know so little about the characters, it is difficult to care if they ever make it through the obstacle course alive.
As in any disaster film, some of the recognizable faces will make it out alive, some won't. Some of the newer faces will make it out, some won't. But all will go on to appear in new movies and projects. Hopefully, much better new movies and projects.
If "Mission Impossible III" represents the best a summer can offer, "Poseidon" represents the worst; a film made to showcase special effects with little attention to character or story. Thankfully, this remake seems shorter than the original. Everything seems to move a lot faster without Shelly Winters holding them back.