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Technical Wizardry On a Sinking Ship

If the coming attractions at your local theater seem familiar, that's no surprise. This summer will witness the release of blockbuster sequels (Superman Returns, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest), sequels destined for abbreviated theatrical runs (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Clerks II) and big-screen adaptations of popular TV shows (Miami Vice). Then there are remakes like Wolfgang Petersen's Poseidon, which puts a high-tech spin on 1972's Poseidon Adventure, an otherwise routine disaster caper bolstered by the weighty presences of Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters.

Here, the names have changed but the style's the same, with Josh Lucas and Kurt Russell battling the elements aboard a luxury cruise ship overturned by a 150-foot tidal wave. And though Petersen's film remains mostly true to the spirit of the original, the character development and dialogue have been scaled back to make room for digitally generated mayhem. It's an all too common refrain, the critic's plea for substance over visual style, and it's applicable here. Poseidon has water on the brain, but then, why should it not? Petersen, whose past credits include The Perfect Storm and the superlative Das Boot, isn't making a bold statement about the human survival instinct so much as he's crafting expensive eye candy.

On that front, he succeeds. Poseidon is a dazzling spectacle, featuring all the explosions, high-speed collisions and rogue waves necessary for an action extravaganza. But this is a technical exercise, driven by computer imagery and little imagination. Unlike The Poseidon Adventure, with its campy charms and fiery performances, Poseidon is textbook disaster fare, in which paper-thin villains like Lucky Larry (Entourage's Kevin Dillon) exist only to ratchet up the body count. The effects are there, and they're something else. Beyond that, Poseidon is a weightless ship, nevertheless sinking to the bottom of the sea.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars