Thursday, May 18, 2006
The Morning After Headache That’s Poseidon
Godzilla - Monster-sized Movies that can't be ignored
Read “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls”, Peter Biskind’s zesty celebration of ’70s cinema, until its book spine breaks but you’ll remain unconvinced that Hollywood’s golden age of mature moviemaking was free of turkeys.
‘The Poseidon Adventure’ rests atop the dream era trash heap, one of numerous disaster movies that have as much to say about ’70s moviegoers as any Al Pacino film.
Classic ’70s movies have resulted in misstep sequels; proof of just how difficult it is to recreate past glories. ‘The Two Jakes’ is something of a mess compared to ‘Chinatown’. ‘The Godfather Part III’ has half the emotional weight of ‘Godfather Parts 1 and II’.
A bad blockbuster like ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ is bound to result in something as lackluster as director Wolfgang Petersen’s noisy update ‘Poseidon’. The task of raising ‘Poseidon’ into something more than schlock is too much to ask any director, even a skilled entertainment maker like Petersen.
It’s New Year’s Eve and the party is underway in Poseidon’s giant ballroom. Kurt Russell, a meddling dad and onetime mayor of New York City, complains to his daughter (Emmy Rossum) about her revealing dress. Richard Dreyfus is an architect who wants to forget about a failed relationship by drinking lots of expensive wine. Josh Lucas is the handsome gambler who becomes the man of the hour once disaster strikes. Everyone dances well; sidestepping the countless hazards tossed their way. True dramatic performances would probably feel out of sync with the film’s fiery explosions.
‘Poseidon’ has an ocean’s worth of subplots but everything revolves around the big boat and the giant rogue wave that turns it upside-down. At night, with all its porthole lights blazing, the cruise ship looks stunning. Everything else about the movie, even the monster wave washing people out of the rooftop pool, leaves one with a sinking feeling. When action becomes this mechanical, it’s no longer any fun.
One unintended benefit of ‘Poseidon’ is its shattering of ideals about ’70s cinema as the perfect era. Just look at Kurt Russell, star of ’70s Disney comedies. Sure, there were amazing movies, serious fare far better than what hits theaters today. But they were surrounded by popular trash, like an epic about a sinking ocean liner. Of course it’s the trash that sticks around.