DIRECTOR: Wolfgang Peterson
May Contains Spoilers!
Wolfgang Peterson is a strange one. He made his name with the World War 2 drama Das Boot in 1981 and has gone on to make a wide selection of movies, as diverse as The Never-Ending Story to The Perfect Storm (2000). He also has a knack for creating some gems such as Outbreak (1995) which everyone seems to have seen and effectively but the Ebola virus on the map as well as managing to put Harrison Ford in the White House in Air Force One (1997).
Going back to The Perfect Storm for a minute, it was this film which broke new ground on revolutionary water effects at ILM, allowing visual effects artists to finally creating “convincing” water-scapes within a CGI environment. And Poseidon is the next step in that technologies’ evolution. The film is basically a showreel for water effects, whether it be in water tanks or an Apple computer.
And it looks pretty good in my opinion though there are many detractors. But Irwin Allen’s 1974 original offers more than this 2006 remake which is not so much a remake as it is just taking that scenario of capsizing a luxury liner and having a disparate group of passengers have to work together to escape, and placing it new setting. This film is also clearly attempting to respond to the post Indonesian Tsunami of 2004, by adding some scientific plausibility to the phenomenon, more myth that fact up until that point.
But Allen’s Poseidon Adventure was more than just this. Irwin Allen spent a lot more time exploring and playing around with the novelty of turning not just a cruise liner’s world upside down but ours too, with so many iconic images, such a the man falling into the light on the ballroom ceiling to climbing up the upturned Christmas Tree in order to escape the same room.
But is also puts together an actual disparare group, led by a priest (Gene Hackman) who had lost his faith, a New York cab driver (Ernest Borgnine) who was constantly bucking horns with him and a broad mix of men and women of different ages and classes. This was not the case here. Once the ship is upturned, the group of white and disposable Latino’s band together successfully within minutes and focus on their true enemy, the imploding ship itself.
Fair enough, Peterson chooses his focus but by doing this, he sacrificed the human drama which help make the original so much more than just “Escape from the S.S. Poseidon”. In truth, there’s was little reason to capsize the vessel here as that fact is pretty much dismissed in most aspects except for the fact that they are heading for the keel to escape. Oh and the lights are on the floor!
But if we forget about this being in any way being a remake, then this is a pretty decent disaster movie. The pacing is good, people are despatched reliably and the visuals are at time thrilling. The capsizing scene is particularly kinetic and graphic. The deaths and scenarios leading up to them are also quite brutal as well and the drowning of Kurt Russell is a particularly disturbing moment, a is the flash fire in the corridor and electrocutions in the night club.
Overall, Poseidon is a good watch but as a remake, Peterson missed some of the beats of Allen’s original and in doing so has only served to secure The Poseidon Adventure as an all time classic disaster movie and Poseidon as just another action flick.