|HD DVD Action-Adventure|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Friday, 01 June 2007|
In the original movie, “Poseidon” is struck by a tsunami and overturned. At the time, as pointed out in the History Channel episode on the disc, no one thought that was possible. Since that time, the world has learned how frightening that force of nature can be. In the NBC remake, the destruction was caused by a terrorist bomb to exploit the paranoia heightened by 9/11.
In Petersen’s version of the movie, the destructive force was changed to a rogue wave, unlike tsunamis, which resemble extremely fast, very high tides, and which cause destruction along shorelines; they’re not necessarily very hazardous to ships at sea. Rogue waves have been documented over a hundred feet in height and have totally destroyed ships as big as the “Poseidon” in the movie.
The plot is simple. A huge luxury ocean liner is overturned at sea and a handful of people that survived the initial destruction struggle to get through the maze of death that the overturned ship has become; they have to climb UP to reach the ship’s bottom. But it’s the simple plots that often work the best.
The opening scene of Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) running around “Poseidon’s” deck was actually done on green screen, a fact revealed in the special features section on the disc. Again, while the film is diverting, the effort it took to make it during the six months of filming is probably going to be more interesting to film historians. Lucas narrates the shoot and talks about everything that went into the scene to make it appear seamless. On screen examples show the work and differences between what was real and what shows in the movie.
Since the rogue wave puts in an appearance about eighteen minutes into the film and everything is a mad scramble from that point on, characters have to be rapidly and economically introduced.
Not much is revealed about Josh Lucas’s character, Dylan Johns. He’s a gambler, he’s single, and he likes looking out for himself without anyone else depending on him. He seems to know something about ships. Kurt Russell’s character, Robert Ramsey, he thinks Dylan was on a submarine. That’s never established and viewers have to wonder if his back story got cut when the movie was streamlined down to ninety minutes.
Kurt Russell’s Robert Ramsey is the stand-up, stalwart hero he’s done several times before. Given that he’s also played some pretty zany heroes (Jack Burton in “Big Trouble In Little China” and Captain Ron in the movie of the same name) as well as some super-serious (like Snake Plissken in “Escape From New York” and Todd in “Soldier”) the role offered no challenges. But it was a good fit for him because a film that moves this fast needs instant recognition.
Richard Dreyfuss has a vacuous role as Richard, a gay man whose lover just abandoned him and is contemplating suicide at the time the rogue wave hits. Dreyfuss has always been a powerhouse in movies, always loud and lively. In this film he seems almost sedated, but there was nothing for him to truly emote.
Jennifer Ramsey (Emmy Rossum) is there just to hold down the fort as the person her dad (Russell) would give his life for. There’s something of a triangle going on between her, her dad, and her boyfriend that doesn’t ever bring much to the table. Nor is their secret surprising.
Jacinda Barrett stars as Maggie James, the obligatory single mom with child-in-tow. Jimmy Bennett plays Connor James and it’s interesting to see how he matures over the six months of shooting. There are physical changes, but you have to look for them. True movie trivia buffs will remember him as the kid who wore the Flash costume in “Daddy Daycare” with Eddie Murphy.
Christian, Jennifer’s boyfriend, is played by Mike Vogel. He delivers a solid acting job, but there’s not much depth here. He’s the brave young jock that her father probably was in his day.
Mia Maestro plays Elena Gonzalez, the obligatory stowaway on the ship who also has claustrophobia and anxiety attacks at key plot points to complicate the group’s escape efforts and to bump up the tension.
Andre Braugher as ship’s captain Michael Bradford is strictly a throwaway role. He has no impact in the movie whatsoever except to deliver standard warnings to the passengers and the calm voice summarizing the situation. He has one argument with Robert when Robert says he’s going to look for his daughter, then gives the orders to seal the group away from the rest of the ship.
The captain’s orders to remain within the ballroom didn’t make any sense. It was a plot device to get the protagonists by themselves and the viewer’s nerves grate at the obviousness. There was no way to be sure the ship wouldn’t continue to sink, which it does. Everyone should have been trying to escape. Given that situation, most people would have bolted immediately for high ground. Titanic anyone? Of course, that mass exodus would have been a logistical nightmare for the director, and viewers wouldn’t have known who to root for. Maybe the star status would have given that away.
Once the separation has occurred and the way back for the would-be escapees has been cut off, the clock starts ticking. But it’s a finely made Swiss one in Wolfgang Petersen’s capable hands. The group is confronted again and again by challenge after challenge. There’s a little dissention in the ranks, but not enough to comment on. It’s all pretty much by the numbers. The problem was the numbers just kept falling. However, that’s also the movie’s greatest strength.
Given that the property had already been successful, Wolfgang Petersen would have been forgiven if he’d chosen to make a two and one half hour or three hour movie. He certainly had the starpower and the situation to warrant such an investment.
Instead, Petersen chose to keep the film as sleek and streamlined as a bullet. It’s that feature that ultimately saves the film. Anything more than ninety minutes and viewers would have wanted more for their investment. The way the film is laid out now, it’s visceral and moves like lightning from one impossible problem to the next.
Only toward the end, when Conor wanders off and turns up missing. does the viewer have reason to get irritated. That card, kid’s separation from mommy, is just played too often. In Gallico’s original novel, though, a child is lost in all the confusion, so this may have been to tense up the viewers familiar with the book.
The special features offer a lot. The background stories of how everything came together to make the film possible are interesting. Most fascinating of all, though, are the pieces covering the sound stages where the movie was shot. With all the computer-generated effects around, Petersen didn’t really have to use the large sets, but using them allowed the movie to have a look and depth that no one else has. The History Channel’s episode on rogue waves is interesting.
The video portion of the movie comes in clear and clean. The audio portion stands out even by comparison. A good surround sound system puts the reviewer right in the middle of the scenes and allows them to experience everything the heroes are dealing with.
“Poseidon” is a good film for an evening of light entertainment. It’s not going to change your life or give you meaningful things to think about. The movie is a solid hour and a half of B-grade action that movies along at a fine clip. None of the actors or actresses do anything outstanding, but the action delivers and keeps the story moving.