How 'reel' is Poseidon?

Scene from Poseidon
Scene from PoseidonWarner Bros. / Warner Bros.
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Will it scare people from ever cruising?

How realistic is the set? (Smartly, no cruise line agreed to furnish a ship -- unlike, say, Seabourn did with the untenable "Speed 2: Cruise Control" -- and so the ship in the film was built as a stageset.)

And what's the chance that a rogue wave a la Poseidon could occur in real life?

After Cruise Critic's Dan Askin caught a showing this weekend he filed this report:

On Poseidon, everyone -- young folks in the disco, older folks in the main ballroom (inspired perhaps by QM2's Britannia), cooks, the captain etc. -- seem very pleased to be spending New Year's with friends and family in the North Atlantic. At least everyone except Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfus) -- looking slovenly and dejected following a breakup -- appears pleased. The passengers are well dressed; men in tuxedos and woman in evening gowns. People are dancing, drinking champagne and having a ripping good time. There is a group -- Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), Dylan (Josh Lucas), Lucky Larry (Kevin Dillon) and a few other folks -- playing high-stakes poker. And even though Robert's daughter Jenny (Emmy Rossum) costs her father over $60,000 by blurting out his cards to the rest of the table, no one is angry. In Las Vegas, pulling a stunt like that may result in felony cheating charges, but on Poseidon, they let it roll.

The Poseidon Set: Does it Look Real?
Sometimes very much so, and features of Cunard's Queen Mary 2 came to mind more than once.

We get a brief look at the Ramsey's lavishly furnished suite. The accommodations are large enough for Jenny to call her father patronizing, and then run upstairs to the second floor in a huff (more from Queen Mary 2?). The movie also includes a peek into the Bridge, where a large complement of officers pretend to know what they're doing - and that looks like quite bridge-like. In terms of whether or not the depiction of cruising is realistic, we're given little time to really know.

The opening shot of the movie begins underwater beneath the hull, before panning smoothly over the ship's entire exterior. The shot helps to give a sense of the size of Poseidon. It's certainly not of Royal Caribbean's world's-biggest-ever Freedom-class size, but a ship with 20 decks and 800 cabins is impressive nonetheless. In the context of the movie (the diagetic for film snobs), this shot creates a dramatic sense of openness that will be countered by a sense of increasing claustrophobia, as the survivors chances for escape shrivel.

Only minutes into the flick, one of the officers begins to sense a vibration, the crew sees the wave, they try futilely to bear the brunt in the best possible way, the wave eclipses the moon, the audience inhales -- impact. The scenes that follow are quite graphic. If anything remotely positive can be said for Poseidon, it's that the director didn't skimp on the depiction of death and destruction. Large steel parts are snapped off of the ship, and those pieces in turn destroy other parts of the ship. Glass shatters everywhere. Fires rage, wires are exposed, people are electrocuted. With the exception of the whole ship simply blowing up in a mushroom cloud, everything that can be destroyed is destroyed. Some of the gruesome deaths are so unnecessary that they take on a comic absurdity.

After the first wave of death by electrocution, death by traumatic falls, and death by impalement is over, the ship is now completely upside down. The captain insists that everyone is safe, and that if they'd just stay where they are, help is on the way. He explains that the large dining room, being a substantial air pocket, is actually responsible for keeping them afloat. Of course, at this point the passengers are somewhat hindered by the difficult knowledge that they are standing on the ceiling. Given such a situation, it seems like it would be almost impossible to maintain the natural sense of reason we all possess.

How would you react in this situation? Post your opinions on our boards.

Wave of Fear?
"Rogue" waves are certainly very uncommon, but they do exist. Just last year, three ships (including NCL's Norwegian Dawn, sailing along the eastern seaboard, and two others, one in South Pacific waters and the other in the Mediterranean) were smacked by rogue waves; some damage was caused and there were minor injuries, but the ships held firm. About a decade ago, a 95-ft. wave smashed into Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 while crossing the Atlantic, but officers reacted so quickly to the sight of the wave that they were able to steer the ship into it. While this particular wave was produced by a hurricane, there is a general consensus that rogue waves can form even in the absence of severe weather patterns. That they could capsize a cruise ship as large as Poseidon is typically dismissed by cruise ship officers.

To be trapped in a capsized ship in the middle of the night is a frightening proposition, but we all are aware that disaster can strike anywhere. Some of our members have indicated, however, that either they or someone they know, has had second thoughts about taking a cruise ("Jaws" and swimming, "Alien" and space travel?) following the release of Poseidon. See what our members are saying.

Worth a Trip to the Cinema?
As a film, Poseidon is a bit of a dud. The dialogue is often painful. Maybe I'm taking myself too seriously, but I felt insulted at times. Here's a little gem:

Elena (out of nowhere, with corpses bobbing about): "I feel like I know your dad"
Jenny (matter of factly): "He was mayor of NY."
Elena (with insincere interest): "Cool."
Jenny (annoyed): "It wasn't."

The actors, not that they have very much to work with in terms of the script, are fair at best. Emmy Rossum, in particular, has a few lines that are so simpering and forced, I needed to begin my deep breathing exercises to keep from collapsing. The action sequences are certainly grandiose, and they made up at least 75 percent of the two hours. Fortunately, the breaks between the impressive action, where the audience is subjected to torture by dialogue, were kept to a minimum. It's almost offensive to know that someone was given $160 million to contrive such a useless piece of frivolity. I did take solace in the fact that there were 15 people in attendance.

We want to know: Will you see Poseidon?
To read Poseidon reviews visit Rotten Tomatoes.

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