By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Do yourself a favor and rent the orginal version.
For those of you young 'uns, The Poseidon Adventure was released way back in 1972, and it was one in a string of very successful disaster-themed movies produced by Irwin Allen. It starred Gene Hackman in his prime and a handful of other actors who were popular at the time, including Ernest Borgnine, Stella Stevens and Shelley Winters. The plot was simple: Rogue wave flips ocean liner and a small group of folks try to survive by making their way to the bottom (now top) of the ship, hoping to be rescued.
So today we have Wolfgang Petersen's version of this same story. Now don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed his work in the past (with the exception of his most recent film prior to this: Troy). Here again, I have to say that this just was not very good. Sure, it had a few moments that were pretty suspenseful, but I almost attribute that to the personal phobia that I brought to this viewing: fear of drowning. Any suspense was not related to the characters specifically, since I really didn't care much what happened to them.
Wolfgang Petersen also did The Perfect Storm, which I rather enjoyed, so one might think that another sea-related flick might be right up his alley and turn out rather well. Unfortunately, this was not the case, with a movie that had characters that were not very fleshed out and that I really didn't care about. And call it personal bias, but having the non-standard sexual orientation of one of the characters featured so prominently and in my face didn't set well with me, either.
I also found it amusing that other 2006 twists to the characters included substituting a single mom and her son for the older sister and younger brother from the original, and an ex-Navy professional poker player for the conflicted priest of the '72 version. The only character that connected at all was Robert Ramsey, played by Kurt Russel, as the ex-firefighter and mayor of New York City. Russell always manages to bring something comfortable to a performance, whether he's playing Snake Plissken or a redneck.
The other thing that bugged me about the film was how brutal it came across in terms of the deaths of the passengers. For a PG-13 film I found it kind of disturbing. Both in regards to the dead bodies and the portrayals of people being killed. They really could have dialed it down a notch or two and not lost anything in my opinion.
As I stated above, there were some gut-cruncher moments in the film, but again, it wasn't related to any fondness for any particular character. The orginal version, although perhaps pretty hokey by today's standards, managed to make me care a lot more about each character and their deaths evoked a lot more sadness than here, where my thought was "Oh well, one more dead guy/gal." Even with the famous scene from the original, where as our intrepid gang has just climbed out of the ballroom and the flood starts coming in, I felt something for those who didn't make it. Here, the way the film was edited, we followed our escapees for about 10 or 15 minutes, forgetting about the ballroom folks, when abruptly we're taken back there just in time to see them all killed. Not nearly as effective as in the first film, where Hackman was looking down at them all with a sense of helplessness because there just wasn't anything he could do.
One scene I did find particularly effective was when one of the characters drowns in an effort to save the others. From what I've read elsewhere, it was probably the most realistic (and disturbing) portrayal of drowning I've ever seen. That one stuck with me for a while.
At the end, I didn't feel any sense of elation for those rescued, although they seemed to be pretty darned happy about it and didn't seem to give any thought to those that were left behind or that sacrificed themselves so they might live.
Do yourself a favor, skip this one and just rent the original.