Making the Grades
Wearing a lifejacket to this movie might be a good idea if you're at all uneasy with gallons and gallons of gushing water. Mostly because it appears everywhere in this remake of the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure.
Spending little to no time on character development, the script rushes through a New Year's Eve celebration on the luxury liner Poseidon. In the brief moments before a rogue tidal wave topples the ocean cruiser, we are introduced in rapid-fire succession to Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), his daughter Jennifer (Emily Rossum) and her boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel). Robert is worried the two young adults are involved in premarital sex and questions them. His daughter denies it and walks off in a huff.
We also meet Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas), a professional gambler who relieves unwary passengers of their money at the poker table. Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett), her young son Conor (Jimmy Bennett), a suicidal businessman (Richard Dreyfuss) who's been jilted by his male lover, a stowaway (Mia Maestro) and a few other minor characters (Kevin Dillon, Stacy Ferguson) round out the cast. The rest of the multitude on board seems to be there only for carnage purposes.
Unexpectedly broadsided only moments after midnight, the boat capsizes with disastrous results. Passengers are thrown from balconies, burned in flash fires, electrocuted by broken wires, crushed under falling debris and washed away in rising waters. Once the boat settles with its hull in the air, a shaken and bleeding captain (Andre Braugher) tries to reassure the guests that help is on the way. Sealing off the main ballroom, he plans to wait for help.
But Dylan doesn't like the odds and decides to head for higher ground. Although he's a notorious, self-centered loner, he finally agrees to take some others along. Fighting their way through jumbled hallways, past mangled furniture and around endless corpses, the small group tries to find safe passage. Yet it takes a while to develop solidarity among them. In the first few minutes of their escape, they ruthlessly sacrifice one person, for the sake of everyone else, by allowing him to fall down an elevator shaft and be crushed.
Although this catastrophe takes place in the deep end of the pool, it's splashing in the shallow end of reality. Natural laws, basic science and even common sense are ignored for the sake of the story. That is apt to annoy anyone with even a modicum of scientific logic (i.e. the guy sitting next to me in the screening).
Like the disaster genre of the past, Poseidon is fairly predictable. It doesn't take long to figure out who the most expendable members of the party are or who will be the redemptive force in Dylan's life, though by the end of the movie we still care very little about any of the survivors.
To compensate for the lack of character development, brief scenes of sacrifice, remorse and teamwork are shown among the relative strangers. For older teens and adults, those depictions, along with the human will to survive in the face of calamity, may be the only things to keep this sinking ship afloat.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Poseidon.
Who takes charge of the group initially? What abilities do the other group members bring to the venture? What sacrifices are made for the good of the whole?
What does this film say about the human will to survive? How does each person respond to the stress of his or her predicament?