The Poseidon Adventure (1972) – 3.5/5

Cheesy, outdated film with a terrible first act that eventually gives way to a pretty exciting story loosely strung together by coincidence, good fortune, and Gene Hackman’s sheer force of will. But man is the first half hour of this film terrible: corny, on the nose dialogue, forced character development, cliché after cliché. It felt like a parody of a cornball film from the 50s at times, one demanding to be taken seriously for some reason. Luckily the corniness of it all lessens significantly once the action kicks in, never disappearing entirely but not being quite as in your face as it is in the first 30 minutes. But those first 30 minutes, man. Brutal. And what a bleak message/theme to put into what is essentially an action adventure film; it’s a bold move, and a great concept, but it doesn’t all quite fit together as well as it should. Nice try, though.

I was surprised at how violent and often downright disturbing some of the “action” scenes were in this film, especially the **SPOILERS** “main attraction” one when the ship is flipped over. **END SPOILERS** Talk about brutal. It’s even more shocking given how light and silly everything that comes before it is. Maybe this is the reason they made the beginning so stupid: to lull you into a state of lowered expectation, so you wouldn’t know what hit you when things start going to hell.

It’s also quite suspenseful and exciting watching the survivors try to get to safety, even though, yeah, most of it is obviously contrived and unrealistic. Hackman’s character just happens to know exactly where to go and how to get there, and parts of the ship wait until just the right moment before exploding or starting to leak so survivors are threatened in the most nail-biting way possible every time. Whatever; it’s suspense 101.

The acting is pretty good too all around, especially from Hackman and Ernest Borgnine, who sort of play the angel and the devil of the story, respectively. At least from what I got out of it. Yet at the same time, the whole film ultimately seems to be a parable for **SPOILERS** the indifference of God to the brutalities of life, though the ending seems to suggest that God isn’t indifferent, but rather knowingly malicious; a figure whose sadism must be bared and fought against if we are to continue to survive as a species. **END SPOILERS** Interesting, but is a film like this really the most appropriate place for such a message? Unless I misinterpreted, but I don’t know, the ending all but spells this out.

Anyway, decent film, kind of stupid at times, cheesy, too reliant on coincidence and circumstance to be taken that seriously, but there are some great action/suspense scenes, and a surprisingly dark overall message that you don’t normally associate with what’s essentially a “Summer Blockbuster.” Oh, and it also reminded me a lot of James Cameron’s “Titanic.” You can tell this film had some influence on how that one turned out, visually at least.

So yeah, it has its moments. Worth a watch, I guess.

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