Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not Much Of An Adventure

It's easy to see why POSEIDON was a summer dud. I can stay home and watch the original POSEIDON ADVENTURE on a DVD that looks and sounds just as good, but has a better story, better actors and better special effects. Who gives a rip about Josh Lucas, Emmy Rossum, Mia Maestro and castoffs from THE REAL WORLD? Warners really fell down on the job when it came to casting this thing. Yes, Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss (and Andre Braugher) are terrific actors, but part of the "fun" of a movie like this is watching stars navigate the obstacles and try to keep from drowning. Who cares if Johnny Drama (as Johnny Drama) gets smushed while trying to save his gin?! Russell and Dreyfuss aren't enough. Of course, who are today's equivalents of Ernest Borgnine and Roddy McDowall?

You probably know the story already. It's New Year's Eve on the S.S. Poseidon, and a "rogue wave" pulls its head out of the screenwriter's ass just long enough to tip the boat upside-down. Captain Braugher tries to hold things together, but a small group of survivors attempts to navigate their way to the propeller tubes. Among them are professional gambler Lucas, former New York City mayor Russell, gay Dreyfuss, Russell's daughter (Rossum) and her fiance, a single mom (Jacinda Barrett) and a little kid, Johnny Drama (Johnny Drama), a Latina stowaway (Maestro) and her hookup (Freddy Rodriguez). Some make it, some don't. You probably won't care who.

Wolfgang Petersen may be a better director than Ronald Neame, but he doesn't do a better job of telling a story than Neame did in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. For instance, why was everyone going to the top/botton of the ship? What did they expect to find? The question comes up in ADVENTURE, and Gene Hackman tells them: hope. No one asks in POSEIDON; they simply head to the top because the screenplay tells them too. Of course, if Josh Lucas had known all along there was going to be a large raft waiting that was just big enough to hold all the survivors, it would make sense. I mean, what kind of deus ex machina was that?

One scene that should have worked is the one in which Dreyfuss sacrifices another man's life to save his own. On paper, it may have been written as a powerful moment--what could be more emotional than a regular Joe "killing" another man in a desperate act of self-preservation? However, the setup is awkward (why would the guy tell Dreyfuss to go first?), the scene happens too quickly, and it occurs too early in the movie, so we don't know either character well enough yet to have sympathy for them.

I can't say I was disappointed by POSEIDON, because I wasn't expecting much (certainly not nine minutes of closing credits), but it really is an unexciting waste of time. It doesn't even have a Christmas tree! What the fuck, Wolfgang?!


Hal said...

I was puzzled by POSEIDON as well. Loads of potential in a remake with the better special effects...but this script was positively abysmal! Little fleshing out of the characters, if any....ridiculous contrivances like Russell's character being BOTH a former mayor AND a firefighter (???)....this movie actually should have been 20-25 minutes LONGER, a rarity for current films.

A real puzzle. Russell's interest in this project is puzzling to me as well; he's mostly made terrific decisions the past few years (MIRACLE, SKY HIGH, etc.) on which projects to take, but not this time.

Bottom line, I don't see how, in spending a reported $160 million on this, that someone couldn't have shelled out a buck or two for a GOOD script.

Anonymous said...

In fairness regarding the deux ex machina life rafts, I believe modern ships have life boats that automatically deploy in a catostrophic event, so its reasonable that someone knowledgable about ships would know that, they may even mention it in the mandatory safty class.