Lurid, CharacterLess, Better


Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Emmy Rossum, and Jacinda Barrett star in a film written by Mark Protosevich, based on the novel by Paul Gallico, and directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

Critics excuse our lurid fascination with disaster films by claiming the genre provides a gaze into the human condition while said humans are under considerable pressure. The formerly great Wolfgang Petersen has virtually stripped character from this film, or at least shrunk the exposition of it down to a few semaphore signals, so this is more like a soft-core porn film in which the ridiculous plot has been virtually excised.

To be fair, Warner Bros. is the studio of bean-counting, give-the-people-what-they-want thrills nowadays. Half an hour into the movie, the giant (virtually unexplained) CGI wave is hulking over the bow and the watch captain has said, “Oh my god.” Then the fun begins; featuring lots of death, no blood, and a little boy who, perhaps for the first time in cinema history, seems amply expendable.

The original Poseidon Adventure from 1972, which engendered a campy stage musical, was the first disaster flick to make the question of who dies seem unpredictable to answer. (Spoiler alert: This film likes picking off minorities, illegal immigrants, and drunks.) The big advantage(s) Poseidon has over its predecessor is sloe-eyed Emmy Rossum and her décolletage — it wasn’t just a Phantom of the Opera thing. Maybe it’s a lurid thrill, but it’s much more enjoyable than watching Shelley Winters swim into the arms of Ernest Borgnine.

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