Monday, May 15, 2006

Oh Poor Poseidon

Poseidon only brought in $20 Million at the box office this weekend, not too pretty considering it had a budget in the range of $150 Million. It didn’t even make the number one spot, and was surpassed by MI3 in its sophomore session. People have been mocking Poseidon for weeks now, maybe pun upon pun and predicting the depths that the disaster action flick would sink to on its opening weekend. I for one had no real expectations about the film. OK, I mean I had seen the trailer , so I knew it was going to be goofy. But it’s been years since I’ve seen the original The Poseidon Adventure, and I only had vague recollections of the 1972 picture going into the remake.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, and missed the trailers, the concept couldn’t be simpler. A large ocean cruise liner capsizes in the middle of the ocean. A few survivors band together and make their way through the ship, as they attempt to escape through the top of the boat. (The boat has flipped, so the bottom is now on top, etc.) The cast of characters is a rag tag group of people from all walks of life. There is Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), a former firefighter and New York City mayor. His daughter Jennifer, (Emmy Rossum, the lead in the feature film version of The Phantom of the Opera), has just gotten engaged to her boyfriend, Christian (Mike Vogel), much to the chagrin of her overprotective father. Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), an architect, who has just been dumped by his long term life partner, which renders him fairly weepy for most of the film. Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas), a former Navy officer who is “only in it for himself”. There’s also Maggie (Jacinda Barrett, that’s right, cast member of Real World London), a young single mother travelling with her ten year old son, Conor (Jimmy Bennett) and Elena Gonzalez (Mia Maestro), a funky Hispanic girl who is on her way to New York to visit her brother in the hospital. There are even a couple more, but I can’t bear to rattle anymore off. Actually I can manage just one more. Fergie of Black Eyed Peas fame, made a cameo of terrifying proportions. For those of you who are dubious about going to check this one out, it might be worth a rental just for that.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that character development was kept to a minimum, and the emotional moments in the film were played up extravagantly to make up for the fact they tentatively came out of no where. There was a lot of furniture chewing going on here. The Visual FX were a mixed bag. Every piece of exterior scenery in this entire film was done with CGI, it was all shot on sets and green screen. So the sky, the water, the clouds and the exterior of the boat were all animated. The seams were definitely visible at the beginning of the film, when the boat was cruising through the ocean in daylight. Luckily, night fell pretty quickly, and the interiors of the boat, which were shot on a sound stage, looked decent. The sequence of the boat over turning had some mildly entertaining moments, and I thought the FX of the Poseidon under water didn’t look half bad.

Here’s the thing about Poseidon. This was not, by any stretch of the imagination a good film. But it wasn’t that bad either. It was what I like to call a benign blockbuster. I didn’t hate this movie. I was bored at times, and laughed inappropriately at others, but out of the last couple years of summer doozies, this was not the worst by far. There just wasn’t a lot to hate. Poseidon was straightforward in its presentation, it didn’t pretend to be anything that it wasn’t. There were probably only about ten minutes of movie before the “rouge wave” came around and knocked the cruise liner ass over tea kettle. What followed was a series of action set pieces. The survivors crossing an elevator shaft on a piece of sheet metal. The survivors traversing the width of a humongous ballroom on a makeshift zip line. The survivors battling fiery explosions and rushing water at every turn. Of course not everyone makes it out alive, after all it is a disaster movie. But as suspected, a good number do survive and are happily rescued.

You can hate a film like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen because if took a brilliant concept and botched it royally. You can hate Van Helsing because it was bloated and tried to created complications where there didn’t need to be any (I defy anyone who says they can explain the plot of that film in a cohesive fashion). You can hate Planet of the Apes because it defiled the original classic film. But you can’t really hate Poseidon for just being. Sure the original was better, but it wasn’t an unforgettable film. And we’re talking about a disaster movie here, one of the most unpretentious, what you see is what you get sub-genres in Hollywood. Think of Poseidon’s peers; Armageddon, Deep Impact, Volcano, Dante’s Peak, Earthquake, Twister, etc. I mean none of these films are exactly mind blowing feats of cinema.

To those people who have been decrying Poseidon’s name for weeks on end, I ask, what did you expect?


Blogger DoorFrame said...

Dante's Peak! My favorite of all disaster films because of its reliance on 1950s film technology to create the effect. The volcano looms over the town for most of the movie, but when it starts erupting suddenly its right there, smoke billowing out. The ground is shaking, the camera is shaking, the smoke is oddly stationary.

It's just a big painting of a volcano with smoke pouring out. They thought that if they shook the camera, we wouldn't notice the stationary plumes of smoke. Yegads, who thought that was going to work?

8:01 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Truth be told, I've actually never seen Dante's Peak. But that usage of the shaky camera sounds awful. In a wonderful way.

8:04 PM  
Blogger The Moviequill said...

lesson be learned... don't fuck with the original if it was well done to begin with. People today are looking for remakes to flop

4:49 PM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I expected to be entertained, but that was just too much to ask from Mr. Petersen, evidently ... the dialogue was wretched, and much worse, long stretches of their quest to reach the surface were just excruciatingly boriing

12:06 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Yeah, it did get a little boring at times, but at least you could follow the actions sequences, unlike some where the cuts are so brutally fast you feel like you may have a seizure.

(but it is true things are said, when mere watchability is coveted)

4:10 PM  

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