"There's nothing fair about who lives and who dies."
After a rogue wave flips the SS Poseidon, a group of strangers on the ship unite to escape to the engine room of the ship, which is now just above the surface of the ocean. Facing them are many obstacles that will either get them to their destination quickly, or to a literal dead end in some character's cases.
Three of these people consist of former NYC Mayor Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), and her boyfriend Christian (Mike Vogel). Robert isn't the typical over protective father, and Christian isn’t the typical boyfriend who'd disobey everything the father says, but rather constantly tries to impress upon Robert his sincerity by calling him 'Sir' and addressing him in an obedient tone. Interestingly enough, they get along like old friends when the chaotic journey begins, while Jennifer seems to just tag along behind them, providing little assistance for them.
Richard Dreyfuss plays Richard Nelson, an architect who quickly deduces that based on the ship's condition overturned that nobody stands a chance remaining in the ballroom, so he willingly accompanies the hopeful group on the journey, and uses his architectural logic to convince a widowed mother named Maggie James (Jacinda Barrett) and her son Connor (Jimmy Bennett) to come with them. However, as great of an actor as Richard Dreyfuss is, his character is greatly underused in the film, as he's a reimagined Manny Rosen (Jack Albertson) from the original 1972 version [who didn't do much either], except Nelson is much more energetic for his age. Though in the latter part of the film, he doesn't say much, which is a bit of a downer.
Leading the group is Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas), a smooth talking pro gambler that immediately picks up on the fact that Maggie James is single, and their acquaintance with each other becomes more of a loving friendship throughout the film as Dylan [who prefers to go solo on his quest for the engine room] continues to take greater risks to save them, even separating from the group near journey's end to search for the missing Connor James. Josh was good in the role, but doesn't measure up to Gene Hackman's Preacher who led the group in the original film. This is partially because Dylan shares his leadership with Robert towards journey's end, allowing each of them to accomplish major tasks in an attempt to get the few survivors of their group out of the ship.
Side characters include a waiter named Valentine (Freddy Rodriguez) who's trying to sneak his stowaway acquaintance Elena (Mia Maestro) aboard so she can go visit her ill brother in New York. Elena actually joins the journey for the most of it, but Valentine doesn't last long. And finally there's 'Lucky' Larry (Kevin Dillon) whom I was convinced would turn out to be the reimagined Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) from the original, but unfortunately, he wasn't that lucky after all. Lastly, Andre Braugher plays Captain Bradford in the beginning, but since he and the entertainer Gloria (Stacy Ferguson) neglect to accompany Dylan on his quest, then given the film's plot and Nelson's architectural opinion, their fate is known.
The main problem with the movie was the amount of time spent on each of the characters, in that the relationship between Dylan & Maggie clearly escalates every time his concern for them in particular grows, which worked for me, but the 'Ramsey Trio' seemed to demand more attention to themselves despite that they seem to be at the same place personally at the end of the film that they were at in the beginning of it...with one exception. And considering that after the short introductions of the characters in the beginning that the rest of the movie seems to occur in real time, then there's not much other appropriate times to develop upon the characters until journey's end when they're near either certain death or a very slim chance of survival.
Despite that, the film was vey fast paced. So much to the point that it was nearly over right when it started for me, seeing as I got really pulled into it, but when no major character developments or conflicts occurred as time went on like in the original, my hopes for an intriguing resolution to the story faded, seeing as if you don't have as good of a connection with the characters in the threatening climax like you do when first meeting them, then that takes away from the drama of the film's climax, which obviously hurt the film for me.
The visuals were great, but it seemed like too much CGI was used as it didn't look as raw as it did in 1972, but was still sporting all the elements of a 21st Century digital effects extravaganza, or D.E.E. The journey itself looked great in the ballroom, disco floor, and massive lobby, but after that, the bulk of the journey consisted of narrow passageways with meager events in each section that seemed like filler between what would be a confrontation or some other major story development, but neither was present, just alot of suspenseful filler, but that doesn't substitute for good character development. Because of these claustrophobic locations, the visuals were less stunning than in the lobby, but were still really good in comparison to the theme of the movie, in that it gets darker and narrower the more desperate the stranger’s journey gets.
Overall, Wolfgang Petersen may have made a dud with this film, though I think that can be more attributed to opening against "M:i:III","The DaVinci Code", and "X-Men: The Last Stand," seeing as plenty of other films like this that lack character development score higher. So don't base your decision to, or not to see this by it's box office intake, or someone saying that since they've never heard of it, then it can't be any good. But this movie coulda been much better overall if more time was spent on developing the characters, or killing some off in more significant instances to drum up the emotion that's absent from the viewer during the bulk of the journey.