Review: Poseidon (2006)

2.0 / 5.0

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From the beginning Poseidon felt like a shameless and cynical cash grab attempting to dredge the depths for any ounce of profit left behind by Titanic (1997). Trying to ride the wave of Perfect Storm, Poseidon ends up feeling like the premise for Titanic was jammed into the universe of the Final Destination movies.

Death is fetishized in the first act, as the passengers and crew of the luxury cruise liner are brutally killed.  The film presents their deaths not with the dramatic and emotional impact of Titanic, but with the almost comical feel of a slasher, where the end goal is a pissing contest to see who can come up with the most creative and original way to dispatch their characters.

While not my cup of tea, the Final Destination series and many slashers films at least remain tonally consistent by leaning into this premise effectively. Poseidon, on the other hand, strays from this quickly.  The film turns from aquatic horror to dramatic action adventure, and I am expected to suddenly start caring for the remaining wooden, underdeveloped characters after just seeing the glamorized deaths of the other wooden, underdeveloped characters.

This unappealing tonal inconsistency is not aided by the poor script. Most of the cast have performed much better in other works, so it’s hard to place much of the blame on the acting, especially considering the poorly written dialogue. Every time characters are talking on screen the film feels lost and confused, desiring nothing but the next action set piece.

This is understandable though, as the special and practical effects are by far the greatest strength of Poseidon. While the cold indifference shown to the brutal slaughter of hundreds of people was incredibly off-putting, showing all the empathy and subtlety of a Michael Bay film, it is a visual marvel. The set pieces are incredibly complex, and yet the movement is captivating and easy to follow.

It must be pointed out that in addition to the technical genius displayed in the effects, Kurt Russell’s performance is phenomenal. He dazzles with his hallmark charisma and charm, giving a believable performance while the rest of the script falls apart around him. He genuinely seems to be just having a great time, while simultaneously being fully aware of what kind of movie this is. While it is by no means a good movie, watching Kurt Russell reprise his role as the quintessential action star in masterfully designed set pieces makes it at least an entertaining movie.

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