One of those great 1970s favourites which, under some legislation, can only be screened on TV at Christmas, 'The Poseidon Adventure' is a disaster movie that, no matter how many times you've seen it, you'll watch again. It had a great premise (rogue wave hits cruise ship and turns it upside down), cast (Oscar winners Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine and Red Buttons) and some brilliant setpieces where the survivors try to get to safety.
Take the box office potential out, and it's a mystery why any director would want to remake a film that works perfectly already. But if anyone could add anything to the storyline it was Wolfgang Petersen, director of 'The Perfect Storm' and the classic, claustrophobic submarine epic 'Das Boot'. Sadly, bang and splash aside, 'Poseidon' hasn't too much to offer and has been a major disappointment at the US box office.
The set up is the same: New Year's Eve on luxury cruise liner; disaster strikes; ship flips over and a group of survivors decide to disregard the captain's advice and climb to the top of the upside down boat. Among them is a former submariner-turned-gambler (Lucas); a one-time fire-fighter (Russell); his daughter (Rossum) and son-in-law-to-be (Vogel); a single mother (Barrett) and her child (Bennett) and an architect (Dreyfuss). Once again, their path to safety is littered with danger and, once again, not all will survive.
While the original film developed the story and characters before disaster struck, Petersen's remake feels like there's a half-an-hour missing. There's not enough build-up before the action begins and 'Poseidon's 99-minute running time suggests a determination to cram in as many screenings as possible at cinemas and that plenty of scenes ended up on the floor.
When disaster strikes, however, Petersen does a good job. There are some fine action sequences here and you won't be looking at your watch during the escapes from lift shafts, air vents and submerged rooms. Russell is as gung-ho, jaw-jutting dependable as ever; Lucas adds some clout to his burgeoning leading man status and while you can pretty much tick off who will reach the dinghy, 'Poseidon' is entertaining right to the end.
You wouldn't watch it every Christmas, though.