Friday, May 12, 2006

Movie review: Poseidon - Throw it Back!

After seeing ads for Poseidon, opening today in theaters everywhere, the easy knock is that it's a Titanic retread. Just swap out the iceberg for a rogue wave, and bada bing, you’ve got yourself another $100 million.

However, what’s not mentioned in the ads is the fact that the film is actually a remake of the 1972 Oscar Winner The Poseidon Adventure, starring Gene Hackman. So it can’t really be that much of a “Titanic” rip-off, right?

Well, yes and no. Just because the original movie predates “Titanic” doesn’t mean the remake can’t take a page or 50 from the biggest movie of all time. And in any case, the actual sinking of the actual Titanic happened in 1912, so that event, which is clearly the antecedent for both, predates more or less every motion picture ever made. So I’m not sure what my point is here.

I guess it’s just that “Poseidon” is not exclusively ripping off “Titanic.” Inasmuch as it feels like a hastily thrown together Summer Blockbuster vehicle with a budget of approximately 20 gillion dollars, it doesn’t bother to come up with any original idea of any kind. Just bring on the CGI adventures, please. In other words, “Poseidon” has basically the same problems that every other Summer Blockbuster has. It’s all just derivative flotsam and jetsam, floating around like so many high-priced but tacky trinkets after a shipwreck. Or something like that.

Do I need to summarize the plot? Ship wrecks, people die, survivors fight for survival. I would give a rundown of “Poseidon”’s core characters, but I don’t want to bore you. They are all what I would generously refer to as Hollywood Cinematic Archetypes. You know – the depressed jilted lover, the aging lion and the sexy daughter he no longer understands, the daughter’s ne’er-do-well boyfriend, the hysterical mother and her high-pitched son, the ship employee with only two days until retirement (look at this photo – that’s the boat he’s going to own someday!), and of course, the tragic hero with the shadowy past and the tortured glint in his eye, angry at the world for what they done to him, and quietly yearning for a chance – just one chance – to set things right again.

I made a lot of that up. But you get the picture. And if I’d described the real characters in “Poseidon,” there wouldn’t be much to tell. You don’t even know whether you like them because they don’t seem real. They’re just sacks of potatoes that the director moves around his movie sets as a backdrop for the computer graphics (which, aside from the awesome crash sequence, aren’t even that good for a movie like this). They don’t even seem to have a discernible plan besides Escape. They just jump from expensive movie set to expensive movie set, splashing around in beautiful crystal-blue water and plotting out nonsensical exit strategies. One of the things that made “Titanic” kind of enjoyable was the fact that you believed those characters were freezing, dying, terrified, and utterly in the middle of nowhere, racing against time inside the creepy creaking hulk of a dying ship ready to drop at any moment below a thousand feet of icy water. With “Poseidon,” you never believe they’ve left that expensive movie set.

I guess the actors (including Kurt Russell, a totally wasted Richard Dreyfuss, and a very good turn by Jimmy Bennett as little boy Conor) were game. They just didn’t have much to work with. And if Hollywood is rooting so hard for Josh Lucas (“Glory Road,” “Stealth”) to take over for the aging Cruises and Willises and Hankses of the world and be the next big leading man, then maybe they should find a better leading role for him. The jury’s still out on that guy in a big way.

I suppose I didn’t really hate this film, but there was nothing to like either. It simply didn’t give me an opportunity to like it. Usually with these types of films, critics say “great special effects, but the story was lacking.” But not even that is true here. If you really want to check out a maritime thriller this summer, do what your instincts were probably already telling you to do anyway and check out “The Poseidon Adventure” or just re-watch “Titanic.”

Washington Post review link (which I completely disagree with)

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