Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
An odd and unexpected word kept nudging its way into my mind as I sat watching "Poseidon." That word was perfunctory. I hoped that other words would replace it. I knew I was not enjoying the movie, but I hoped it would improve or, lacking that, discover an interesting way to fail. But no. It was perfunctory, by which I mean, according to the dictionary that came with my computer: cursory, desultory, hurried, rapid, fleeting, token, casual, superficial, careless, halfhearted, sketchy, mechanical, automatic, routine, and offhand.
Yes. And if you want to see the opposite of those qualities, consider some of the other films by the director Wolfgang Petersen, most notably "Das Boot" (1981) but also "In the Line of Fire" (1993) and "The Perfect Storm" (2000). It may have been the latter movie that won him the assignment to remake "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972). In "The Perfect Storm," he shows a fishing boat trying to climb an overwhelming wall of water, and failing. It is one of the best adventure movies of recent years, with vivid characters, convincing special effects and a tangible feel for the relentless sea.
Having made such considerable movies, Petersen does not seem to have been inspired by the opportunity to remake a movie that was not all that good to begin with. Everyone in his audience already knows the story, and much of the suspense depends on who gets the Shelley Winters role and has to hold his or her breath for a long time under water. "Poseidon" follows, as it must, the formula for a Disaster Movie, which involves (1) a container holding a lot of characters; (2) cameos to establish them in broad, simplistic strokes; (3) a catastrophe; (4) the struggle of the survivors, and (5) the loss of at least one character we hate and one character we like, and the survival of the others, while thousands of extras die unmourned. It might be interesting to add (6) deadly snakes on the loose, but they've all been signed up for the forthcoming "Snakes on a Plane."
The container can be an ocean liner, an airplane, a skyscraper, a Super Bowl stadium, whatever. Doesn't matter. This time it is an ocean liner, overturned by a "rogue wave" that leaves it floating upside down. The ship's captain (Andre Braugher) assures the passengers, who were just celebrating New Year's Eve, that they will be safe in the giant ballroom. A few daring souls think otherwise. They decide to save themselves by, essentially, escaping up the down staircase.