There’s nothing fair about who lives and who dies,” says manly KurtÂ Russell to manly Josh Lucas in Poseidon, trying to buck up theÂ younger guy who I am shocked'shocked!'to report starts out theÂ movie not giving a damn about anyone but himself but gradually beginsÂ to care about the people he reluctantly agrees to rescue.
Nothing fair, no, but it is plenty of fun'for the audience and,Â presumably, for the quite respectable cast slumming it just a bit inÂ this cheesy disaster flick. You almost have to place bets beforeÂ the film starts on who will die nobly and heroically in the cause ofÂ saving the lives of others, and on who will die ignominiously andÂ pointlessly, perhaps even in a cowardly manner. That must be why Serious Actors accept roles in movies like this: “Hey,Â cool! I get to plummet to my death into a fiery pool of burningÂ fuel!” And also it helps pay the mortgage and maybe the kids’ college.
Because this ain’t no Titanic. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you feel about Cameron’s epic, but whichever way youÂ swing, you have to admit that Titanic had serious ambitions about speaking to humanity’s arrogance in the face of nature, etc.; it’s not, whether it succeeds or fails, merely an exploitive disasterÂ movie. It practically anticipates the hand wringing and humility ofÂ the post-9/11 entertainment world with respect to violence andÂ disaster on film.
Poseidon has no idea that 9/11 happened, which is refreshing, in a way. It just wants to be Hollywood brainless and old-fashioned about putting gorgeous people in danger and blowing stuffÂ up real good'who knew there was so much on a cruise ship that couldÂ explode so spectacularly?'and thus harkens back to the day when weÂ could all enjoy seeing beautiful and handsome movie stars die dramatically for our entertainment. As mindless distraction goes,Â Poseidon is pretty unbeatable.
Sure, there is plenty horrifying imagery of bodies plummeting toÂ their deaths into, you know, fiery pools of burning fuel, and liveÂ people digging themselves out from under corpses and such after theÂ cruise ship Poseidon gets turned upside down by a “rogue wave,” killing almost everyone except the gang in the giantÂ ballroom celebrating New Year’s Eve on the high seas. But the real fun in Poseidon comes in the movie-geeky can’t-help-it comparisons to the 1972 flick of which is this sort-of-but-not-really aÂ remake. What, no giant Christmas tree inÂ the ballroom to climb up? What, no bow-or-stern argument? Who will beÂ the Gene Hackman stand-in? Is it Lucas, as Dylan, the pro-gambler-slash-total-realist? Who will be Red Buttons? Is it RichardÂ Dreyfuss as The Gay Guy who was about to jump off the ship over aÂ doomed romance and, seeing the wave approaching, decides heÂ wants to live after all? Who will be Ernest Borgnine? Is it Russell, theÂ former mayor of New York? Who will get to do the Shelley WintersÂ Memorial Swim?
And there will be a morning after, right? I mean, there’s got to be,Â hasn’t there?
It’s all so badly written, in a lot of ways: the hilariously awfulÂ dialogue, the convenience of Lucas’s gambler having been in the Navy andÂ so having all this information about ships at his fingertips, andÂ Russell’s mayor having been a fireman and so having all this info about how flash fires work at hisÂ fingertips. And then comes the can’t-help-it movie-geekiness that says, “Hey, wasn’t Russell a fireman inÂ Backdraft? Yes, he was. And wasn’t Lucas a naval officer in U-571?Â No, that was his evil twin Matthew McConaughey. And didn’t director Wolfgang Petersen use a rogue wave as his villain in A PerfectÂ Storm? Yes, he did.
Mostly, though, the question we are left with after Poseidon is,Â â€Damn, can Josh Lucas’ eyes really be that impossibly blue?” Why yes â€¦ yes, they can.