Poseidon (2006)

Poseidon opens with a CGI shot of the ship from the title. We rotate around the ship and it becomes quite apparent that it is all special effects. I figured at this point that we wouldn’t be getting many shots of the ship for the rest of the film, as it would be too costly. This is the good kind of CGI, looking almost lifelike, although with detail comes expense. I wondered if we would ever actually get to see characters wandering around on the deck of the ship. We don’t.

It’s New Year’s Eve on this ship, and there’s a massive party going on. We meet a large number of characters, most of whom are happy with their lives. After all, they can afford to go on a luxury cruise ship, so they can’t have too many problems in their lives. The exception is Elena (Mía Maestro), who is a stowaway. She wasn’t able to afford to get to New York, so she hooked up with a waiter (Freddy Rodriguez) who allowed her use of his cabin. She’s first seen wandering around the ship, although since she’s not technically supposed to be there, she’s told to go back into hiding.

Soon after Fergie kicked off the celebrations, the captains of the ship notice something strange: A huge wave is coming toward the ship. A huge CGI wave, I might add. We get to see the CGI ship being hit by a CGI wave. Is that particularly interesting? No, but it’s very impressive special effects work. The ship is eventually capsized, most of the people are killed, and we’re now stuck with a group of people who are trying to escape. They’re going to climb to the top (bottom) of the ship and then, I dunno, swim for their lives, I guess.

So, we have a goal. The ship is eventually going to sink, as the former architect, Richard (Richard Dreyfuss) explains to us: Ships “like this” aren’t meant to stay afloat once they’ve been flipped over. That had to be the funniest line in the entire movie — even more hilarious when you consider that the filmmakers decided that this had to be explained to the audience — but it’s included nonetheless. Despite being the oldest member of our gang, Richard is actually one of the most useful, surprisingly.

Other members include: Dylan (Josh Lucas), whom we first meet gambling; Robert (Kurt Russell), who is the father of Jennifer (Emmy Rossum); Christian (Mike Vogel), who recently became engaged to Jennifer; Maggie (Jacinda Barrett) and her son Connor (Jimmy Bennett), who are basically there to cause trouble for the group; the aforementioned Elena and her maybe-boyfriend, the waiter; and a couple of others who aren’t particularly important and probably die fairly early on.

Basically what happens is this: The characters will encounter an obstacle, they’ll have to figure out a way to overcome it, and one of them will probably die in the process, effectively sacrificing the character so that the others may live. Oh, and either Elena or the child will do something stupid to cause fake tension. Climbing through an air vent? Of course one of them is claustrophobic. We’re hanging around a room, waiting for something to happen? Where did Connor go?

I hate things like that in films. But, of course, all of the characters are going to risk their lives to save these people who are being difficult just because to cause havoc. The kid especially somehow manages to escape without anyone noticing him, run around an entire floor of the ship, and end up trapped behind a grate that’s about to fill up with water. One character asks how that happened, and the only thing that film can come up with is “I don’t know.” So, we have to save him despite this, making Poseidon another five minutes longer than it should be.

Despite that it is too long and ends up being fairly formulaic, I can’t deny that I had fun for most of the time it was playing. This is partly due to seeing a lot of stupid characters actually getting killed, but also because the action scenes themselves are fairly exciting. Some of the characters are smart, and there is some interesting improvisation in the film, meaning that even if you usually know how the scenes will play out, they’ll still be enjoyable. And seeing one character in particular die was so enjoyable for me. I cheered when that happened.

Things like characters and deep performances are largely forgotten about in director Wolfgang Peterson’s film. Many of these people are interchangeable with one another, with two of them looking so similar in the dimly lit interior scenes that I had trouble telling them apart. There is little depth to any of them, and if you’re expecting the characters to grow as the film progresses, you’ll be in for disappointment. But, then, I would have to ask you why you’re watching a disaster film in the first place.

Poseidon is formulaic, predictable, and doesn’t contain deep characters or impressive performances. Despite this, it’s still kind of fun. It also has very solid special effects, so if you just want to see some eye candy, you’ll leave happy. Seriously, the film’s opening scene is beautiful, even if it is all CGI. When we’re watching the characters try to figure out a way to escape the ship, it’s simply dumb fun. And seeing some of the hindrance characters actually die instead of costing the good characters their lives is probably more enjoyable than it should be. It’s not anything special, but for 100 minutes of escapist fun, it could have been much worse.

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