Poseidon (12A)

Start calmly making your way to the cinema exits
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The Independent Culture

Poseidon is a remake of The Poseidon Adventure, 1972's seminal disaster movie, and the snipping of two words from the title is a statement of intent: this one's a much faster and sleeker vessel than the original.

Both films are set onboard a luxury cruise liner that is overturned by a "rogue wave" during a New Year's Eve party. And both films have 10 survivors scrambling their way to the bottom of the boat, which, of course, is now at the top. But, in the new Poseidon, everything happens at such a rate of knots that the characters have barely delivered their potted histories ("I used to be a fireman", "I used to be in the Navy") before the ship flips over.

You'd hope for great things from Wolfgang Petersen, considering that he made Das Boot and The Perfect Storm, so he's hardly dabbling his feet in the peril-at-sea genre. But his high-speed set pieces go by in a blur, and his other method of accelerating things is to throw all the politics and themes overboard, thereby jettisoning the ballast which turned The Poseidon Adventure into a cult favourite. As you'll remember from your Bank Holiday viewings, the 1972 film features Gene Hackman as a survivalist priest, obsessive about saving lives, and fervent in his belief that we have to take charge of our destinies, not just wait around for God or someone else to fix them. Depressingly, Poseidon's selfish socialites scurry off without giving their fellow passengers a moment's thought, which makes it harder to care which of them is consigned to a watery grave.

For the record, the people getting their evening wear damp are Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss and several interchangeable brunettes, although Dreyfuss has so few lines that it's possible that he's not there at all, and that he's just another of the film's computer-generated effects. Their dialogue would be more suited to a cocktail bar than a floating death trap. In The Poseidon Adventure the characters fought over what their escape route should be. In Poseidon, when they're not dodging exposed wires and swimming down flooded corridors, they take time out to analyse Russell's record as Mayor of New York and to make ironic remarks about his daughter's engagement.

Maybe they've just forgotten momentarily that they're in mortal danger. It's understandable: by the time you've scrambled your way up to the cinema exit, you'll have forgotten, too.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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