There's got to be a warning after...(The Poseidon Adventure remake)
Tippetty-tappetty-type. It's too early to think, and I still have that nagging migraine, but I have a duty to you, my faithful reader, to fill you in on all the really terrible made-for-TV movies and remade-reheated-rehashed-for-TV-though-it-was-fine-the-first-time movies.
Guess which kind "The Poseidon Adventure" is.
In the interests of fairness, I have to tell you that the original TPA is one of my favourite disaster movies ever. It's got that perfect '70s mix of has-been movie stars, still-doing-okay movie stars, and people-who-might-be-famous-someday-if-they-can-erase-this-movie-from-their-resume stars.
And a prostitute. The prostitute gets semi-nekkid for most of the movie, so you know it's good.
The original's premise of a giant tidal wave that tips the boat is no longer something that anyone would find remotely believable, since there have been about three billion shows on the Discovery Channel about how tidal waves work, and while "The Perfect Storm" had some splendid waves, they were in the middle of, well, the perfect storm, and the original Poseidon was sitting in completely calm waters when suddenly - BOOM! - tidal wave.
Since we no longer believe that a giant pissed off wall of water will make a cruise ship turn turtle, the makers of "Poseidon Adventure: The Dance Mix" decided that terrorists were much more plausible.
While I applaud the attempt to bodily haul the premise into the 21st century, the plethora of terrorist-driven disaster movies and TV series has rendered the idea somewhat overdone, especially when real life terrorists tend to go for more brutal and immediate results by bombing places in crowded cities for maximum fear power.
Oooh - sorry, got a bit serious there.
Anyway, terrorists plan to bomb the ship and - what? Sink it? Make it sail in pathetic little circles? Explode it into little tiny bits? They never really explained what their intent was to my satisfaction, and why they wanted that ship in particular, and even what group they were with. Some of them looked vaguely Egyptian, but the casting people mostly seem to have gone for a type best described as "child molester with a deep tan".
As extremist religious groups are wont to do, they all work in the kitchen. At no point do they ever actually show any signs of religious devotion; I guess it's enough to yell "Allah!" at odd moments, because clearly, all terrorists are Arabic and extremist.
Unlike the passengers, who are the whitest damn bunch of people I've ever seen grouped in one place.
Now, I was sewing during the beginning cruise ship boarding scene, so I may have missed someone in the background, but I don't recall a single passenger of any hue but the whitest caucasian, leading me to believe that the ship is actually a front for the KKK, which makes it even easier to root for the terrorists. It was pretty easy to begin with, since the passengers are all INCREDIBLY ANNOYING AND I WISH THEY'D DIE RIGHT NOW.
The movie uses the ID cards of the passengers to introduce us all to the major players in our briny little drama, a narrative technique that is almost as annoying as the passengers, and was last seen on "The Love Boat", because it's a totally cheesy outdated trick.
The one passenger that sticks out like the sorest of sore thumbs is, of course, the guy that's supposed to be the undercover US Marshal. He's wearing a wooly hat (affectionately referred to as a "head condom" in some circles), dark glasses, and ratty clothes, completely unlike any of the other passengers (whose clothes are tasteless and hideous, but not ratty).
Well, we all know that there are Good Guys[tm] and Bad Guys[also tm] on board, but the rest of the passengers must have been huffing the free perfume samples at dockside, because they seem to have no idea that the shifty-looking people surrounding them are planning mayhem, so we get to spend about half an hour learning much, much more about the passengers and their pathetically dysfunctional lives than we ever wanted to.
It's a stock thing in disaster movies; make the players seem like real people with real problems, so you'll care when they die. This just becomes tiresome filler for me, because I know they're all going to die, so I don't bother to get attached.
Besides, identifying with people who have the cash to buy $50,000 state rooms for a cruise (the kind with a suite, a balcony, and a view of something other than the water line) is a bit beyond me. I'm all for comfort, but for me, the room is for sleeping in, and I'm spending the rest of my time in the casino.
While the passengers are demonstrating why it's a really good idea to get a divorce, planning infidelities, and getting into things they shouldn't, Mr. Marshal Guy finds out that his cover has been blown by the cruise Activities Director, who was played by a troll that looked (we swear!) like the love child of Tim Curry and Gimli (as played by John Rhys-Davies).
Since the Activities troll was so completely troll-like, we pretty much pegged him as the asshole who's going to make everyone stay in the ballroom to meet their certain death.
While some of the characters and situations had been changed, the basic core of the original was kept, allowing us to peg who was going to do what at which time. It was fun seeing who they picked for each part - especially when they dug up Rutger Hauer from some cemetery somewhere and made him play the Gene Hackman character.
Keeping in mind that GH was a young, dynamic, progressive priest, and Rutger is somewhat more fossilized.
After about an hour of eye-rollingly stupid plot development, things finally got going. I don't know why they fill an entire hour with meaningless exposition when they could be killing people, but there you go.
The action starts with everyone eating dinner while acrobats hang from long ribbons on the ceiling. Now, I don't know about you, but having someone twirl around above my plate of food seems a bit off-putting. It did seem like an odd choice for a theme night - a sort of "Cirque de Filet". Really, the acrobats were there just so they could go crashing spectacularly to the ground when things got going.
There's also a bit where one guy promises his girlfriend that he'll love her forever. Clearly, he didn't know that promising to love someone forever in a disaster movie is signing, stamping, and hand-delivering your death warrant.
(The Angel of Death by the door will endorse your ticket to disaster movie death. Enjoy your last few minutes on this earth, and thank you for sailing with Certain Doom Cruiselines.)
Meanwhile, two terrorist guys roll big ominous looking beer kegs into strategic hiding spots and text each other on phones. Mr. Marshal Guy stops one of them, but seems perfectly oblivious to the idea that there might be more on the ship, because he then goes to dinner. When the other keg goes off, he gets this "Oh, I am so fired" look on his face.
The boat flips, thanks to some completely made-up scientific explanation. The man who's being unfaithful to his wife with the ship's masseuse (and the masseuse herself) get thrown naked around the room they're having sex in, the ballroom contents and people get tossed around, and the terrorist guy who was threatening everyone a minute before (for no real reason, that we could tell), goes arse over teakettle and gets beaten up by Mr. Marshal Guy who is attempting to salvage what's left of his career.
It's nice throughout the movie to see what they kept from the original - one of my favourite bits is when the guy crashes into the stained glass ceiling fixture, and I wasn't disappointed by the remake. Crash! Scream! And there goes the sugar glass!
Here is the point in the movie where people split ways - they've added in a whole subplot of Navy people at some unidentified command center somewhere getting a posse of Navy SEALs out to rescue the passengers, but that bit's rather boring.
Back on the ship, the Activities Troll has determined that since the Captain has been shot by the terrorist guy (I didn't tell you that the Captain was shot? Oh, Mr. Marshal Guy is so fired), he's now the ranking officer in the ballrom (where they eat dinner, no, I didn't understand it, either), and everyone has to listen to him, despite the fact that he looks like Tim Curry's shorter fatter brother, and acts like Sir Richard Attenborough on crack.
Of course, Mr. Marshal Guy and Rutger Hackman are not in the least bit interested in taking orders from a troll, so they organize a party of people who will bravely get killed one by one as they go through the ship, rather than cravenly die all at once in the ballroom when the water crashes in. That way, they get more of a mention in the credits than "first guy to get drowned".
They kept the Christmas tree ladder, too. They didn't keep the theme song, which was a pity, since I rather like it (especially the backwards version in that episode of South Park where Chef gets engaged to a succubus). Instead, they had a girl who's the girlfriend of the producer of some "Pop Idol" clone sing some totally forgettable song. Since they always show the teaser for the 11pm news over the credits, I couldn't tell whether they used it again there, but it was very forgettable.
Our intrepid bunch goes off, then unfaithful dad appears in the ballroom with masseuse chick, and his daughter, who stayed in the ballroom to help the wounded, gets all mad at him (and her), and then they decide to follow the other bunch, which includes Mom and bratty little brother.
Of course, as soon as they get to the top of the giant metal tree (Activities Troll screaming invective at them in one last desperate attempt to get more screen time), the ballroom gets violently flooded, killing everyone (they're all a bit too stupid to tread water and try to get to the upper level, but that's okay), and ensuring that the Troll isn't going to annoy any of us ever again.
RIP, Tim Curry Troll. We won't miss you.
Our intrepid band goes off, they meet up with the other even more intrepider band, and the girlfriend of the "Pop Idol" producer strips, and stands in a very fetching red set of undies. They bumble around for a bit until they get to the next bit where someone dies.
I found it rather sweet that they were keeping all the events that kill people from the first movie - it's kind of like listening to a cover band that keeps the quirks from the original song. In this particular bit, they kill the unknown actress who was picked to play the Shelly Winters role of the fat woman who saves Gene Hackman and then dies of a heart attack.
...Except that, as Bob pointed out, in the original, Shelly saves Gene Hackman, who's gotten stuck underwater and is in danger of drowning before it's his turn to die. In the new, more pointless version of TPA, Rutger Hackman is never in trouble, so basically, she dies for nothing, except that someone had to die.
Fat people always die. Bad people, too - mostly.
(Yes, Ma'am, that's the Angel of Death you give your ticket to at the door. Keep the line moving, folks, we've got a lot of customers to deal with tonight.)
So, they get to the top (bottom) of the ship, and mirabile dictu, the SEALs are there! But there's a problem.
Of course there's a problem.
The problem appears to be that the producers are no longer satisfied with a ship capsizing, people making it through insurmountable odds to get to the hull and being rescued, no. They need more explosions!
So, they are trapped behind a bunch of stuff, and they're going to blast it out. Big boom! But nooooooo - it's not big enough. And the ship is sinking. And there's still 30 minutes left to the movie.
(Well, 15 minutes if you count commercial breaks and the credits.)
...And Rutger Hackman's not dead yet.
Since they couldn't blow the debris out, and everyone's still trapped, they all decide that the way out is to go across the width of the ship, find the unexploded keg bomb, and use it to blow another hole in the hull.
You know, because blowtorches never work, and they're really heavy, so none of the SEALs brought one.
Of course, the trip across the ship cannot be uneventful, so they end up having to cross a catwalk over a fiery inferno of DOOM.
Putting aside the whole applied physics problem of what happens to metal when it's over a fiery inferno of doom, there's really no way they'd be able to be anywhere near a conflagration of that size - the heat is searing. But they all have to cross it, since there are too many survivors, and someone else must die.
Bob and I put in a vote for unfaithful husband (played with the most amazing whininess by Steve Guttenberg), especially since he chooses the fiery catwalk (of doom) moment to have a heart-to-heart talk with his son. I mean, seriously, I'd be pushing him into the flames just to get him to shut up and get a move on.
Terrorist guy also chooses this moment ("everyone's taking a break while that guy talks to his kid - I'll try and escape now, instead of waiting until we're off the ship") to get loose from Mr. Marshal Guy (who is soooooo fired), and plunges to a fiery CGI death after a brief (very brief) struggle. One death clearly not being enough, the script writers chose this moment to demonstrate once again what the world thinks of the "other woman", and the masseuse goes into the fire (of doom) when the catwalk collapses under her.
Bad people always die in disaster movies. There's always at least one "fallen woman" who has to die to satisfy outmoded puritan values. I bet wifey divorces unfaithful hubby anyway, and he'll be all alone, haunted by the memory of the chick with the magic hands plunging to a flaming death (of doom) that he did nothing to prevent.
Bob says that this clearly demonstrates that if you have sex with the wrong person, you're going to burn, and he's right. The status quo must be restored, and the poor little masseuse must be sacrificed on the altar of fidelity so that the perfect family can be together again.
(Wifey is so divorcing him as soon as they get to dry land. She'll get the kids, all the assets, and make him pay alimony so that he won't even be able to afford the really skanky prostitutes.)
(The kids' therapy bills will be huge.)
Back to our intrepid survivors, who are determined to set the keg bomb off, and I wondered if this was the moment where Rutger Hackman dies. I always got confused at this point in the original, since I swear that Gene throws himself (rather than falling) into the flaming abyss after calling God all sorts of names, but it was a fun bit of acting.
Network TV never does anything edgy like that, so Rutger says a bland little "help would be good right now, O Lord", which really makes me wish he would die, but he doesn't.
He doesn't die. Not even a shrapnel hit. Poo.
But, the keg is successful, there's a hole in the hull, the SEALs get everyone out (Bob was hoping for shrapnel to pierce the inflatable boats, but no such luck), the ship makes a sound like a wounded orca and sinks, and everyone is safe and sound (not counting the majority of the people on the ship who died horrible drowing deaths).
Except for Mr. Marshal Guy - He is so fired.
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.