Making the Grades
Poseidon may have been the Greek god of the sea, but the cruise ship that bears his name is an aging vessel heading for dry dock as soon as her last Atlantic crossing is completed. Anxious for the end of this final voyage and its associated expenses, the owners urge the Captain (Leslie Nielson) to precede at full speed ahead--despite the fact the boat is dangerously top heavy.
However, differences in opinions over administrative and operating procedures are not the only heavy seas this luxury liner will have to endure, or so a report on sub-ocean seismic activity indicates. With no time to do more than send a mayday signal, the boat hits a wall of water and capsizes.
Meanwhile, the passengers in the main dining room are celebrating New Year's Eve. Their first indication that something may be wrong occurs when their whole world tips upside-down and people, furniture and decorative Christmas trees start falling from the ceiling.
Amidst the wave of panic that ensues, one calm head rises above the chaos. Revenand Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), an unorthodox man-of-the-cloth known for preaching reliance on self rather than God, takes command by suggesting those who survived the upheaval begin heading to higher ground-- which in this case means climbing to the bottom of the ship. Still, he only manages to convert a handful of followers.
His faithful include a retired detective and his ex-prostitute wife (Ernest Borgnine and Stella Stevens), an older couple who were traveling to Israel to meet their grandson (Jack Albertson and Shelly Winters), an aging bachelor (Red Buttons), a hip singer (Carol Lynley), a couple of children (Pamela Sue Anderson and Eric Shea), and a ship's steward named Acres (Roddy McDowall). Despite their diversity, the misfit company understands the perilous journey into the bowels of the boat will take a united effort. Unfortunately, some are more willing to work together than others.
Anyone who has ever seen a disaster movie knows the whole crew is not going to make it. The only unpredictable part is guessing who will and who won't. The other question is, what kind of obstacles will they need to overcome along the way? In this case, the group loses a few members as they struggle past dead corpses (who have been crushed, burned or drowned), debris, explosions, flames and rising waters. Very little attention has been given to scientific details (the electric lights keep working and the fire never consumes all the oxygen--to name a few examples), but that's really not the point of this film genre.
The point is... well, I'm really not sure. Perhaps it is the tenacity of the human spirit and its will to survive. Or maybe it's watching the best in human nature surface during a test of character. Then again, it might just be morbid curiosity.
Whatever the attraction, there are some content concerns potential spectators should be aware of. Besides some skimpy costumes on the female cast members (they had to ditch their fancy formal-wear before beginning their trek) and mentions about the past career choice of the wife of the former policeman, the script is also flooded with mild and moderate profanities, along with terms of deity. The gruesome appearance of the many bodies (some bloody and charred remains are shown) as well as the constant sense of peril will be problematic for many viewers.
When seeking stories of adventure and courage, families may want to look closely at the weight of this baggage before booking their passage on this voyage.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Poseidon Adventure.
Rev. Scott’s ideology is not always appreciated by his listeners. How do you feel about God? Do you think he cares about individuals? Do you believe you can call on the help of a superior being, or do you feel a need to rely solely on your own strengths?
How do the various members of the group work through their trails? What things are important to them? Why do you think some of them begin to help each other while others do not? What sacrifices would you be willing to make for the benefit of others?