The film utterly loses me at the start. The captain of a tug boat (Michael Cane), his first mate, and a girl (Sally Fields) his first mate happened to pick up the night before stumble upon a massive upside down "four star" passenger liner, having seen a coast guard helicopter flying away from it. Now I cannot imagine any sea faring sort (or any human for that matter) coming upon the massive wreckage of a ship, the sea of debris and bodies that must surround it, and not being emotionally overwhelmed when they consider the hundreds or perhaps thousands who must have lost their lives. The normal reaction would be to look around the nearby ocean for survivors, for bodies, do something of service. Instead this crew of three immediately decides that the logical thing would be to climb onto the upturned, sinking ship find a way inside, and loot it for all its worth (sorry, "salvage" it). Now, being that this is the sequel to "The Poseidon Adventure" and that that movie was a tale of people desperately trying (and many of them failing) to escape the very same sinking ship, it's bizarre to think that these three idiots would be trying to get on board and make their way deep inside an upside down, unfamiliar, still on fire/exploding, ship they know is only minutes to hours from sinking completely. And sure enough they're not even in the ship five minutes before one of the many ongoing explosions prevent them from escaping the same way they came in. Rather than immediately try to get out they continue their looting. Flash forward through all the nonsense of finding some trapped folks they end up saving, including a blind man, a murder mystery, and an ongoing battle with Telly Savalas and his crew who have boarded pretending to be medics but really are there to haul out thousands of pounds of guns and plutonium, and most of Michael Cane's extended crew escape, but he's lost his first mate, and all their loot, save an uncut diamond Sally Fields smuggled out in her belly button. Oh, and now Sally Fields's and Michael Cane's characters are in love, or lust, or something. So I guess the death of his first mate was worth it after all, Michael Cane certainly betray any sense that it wasn't.
My beef with the movie is that I can never get past the fact that no three humans on the face of the earth presented with this situation would have done what these three idiots gleefully did. It simply defies everything I know about people. Sure, one idiot in any large group might potentially put themselves in harm's way to make a few bucks, but here we're talking about almost absolutely certain death: an unfamiliar, upside down, presumably unlit, debris ridden, fire/smoke/explosion ridden, sinking ship. And so every minute watching the movie I'm silently cursing these idiots and praying for the justice which would be delivered by their deaths. At best this is a movie focused on a day in the life of three mental freaks, perhaps a-logical sociopaths or something, at worst it's just an awful, unrealistic movie written/created by people who are a-logical sociopaths and think everyone's depicted behavior is somehow normal or believable. (And don't get me wrong, even "normal" people are capable of tremendous, horrendous thoughts/actions (the Nazis reminded us of that), but even then the evil callousness develops, grows, becomes believable because it fits into an increasingly awful pattern of thought/behavior. )
This post would be more relevant if I wrote it thirty years ago rather than now, but the Internet wasn't much of a thing back then and I only just stumbled across Murder on Flight 502 again...
My favorite comedy for much of my childhood and Airplane (1980). The absurdest humor was like nothing like I'd seen before, and it scratched me right where I itched. It was 15 years before I discovered that most of the scenes and characters from the movie (and the other Zucker-Abrahams-related movies) were send ups of specific scenes and characters in other movies (movies like Murder on Flight 502 and Airport, Airport 1975, Airport '77, and Airport '79). Now knowing that there was now so little about the movie which was truly original, aside from turning each element on its head, robbed me of most of my appreciation for and enjoyment of the movie. Part of what impresses me about stories is the author's selection of characters and events, why did they decide to add this character to the story, why did they give him the personality they did, why did they inject him into this particular interaction with another character. So suddenly finding out that most of those decisions were copied from other writers made Airplane seem a lot less impressive a creation. It's still funny, of course, but it feels now funny in a more Mystery Science Theater 3000* sense of just adding jokes on top of something rather than creating an entire world of new, funny material.
* I've always wanted to love Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I've watched dozens of episodes, but I watch them for the B-movies they show and seem to tune out the running commentary, which I don't think has ever produced even a hint of a chuckle. I wish I could laugh at it, I honestly do, but it's just not my sense of humor, I guess.
I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in theaters years ago, and again about 20 minutes ago. Ugh. I wanted to like this movie, but did not, at all. I should have liked this film. I was looking forward to it when it came out. I love retrofuture, I love the old serials, I love old time radio, I love rigid airships, I love robots. But this movie was unbelievable in a way it didn't need to be, and to such a degree that I couldn't willingly suspend my disbelief.
My primary complaint is that the entire film felt like it was shot with actors in front of a green screen. There just seemed to be this palpable disconnect between the acting and the scene. Some of that might have been the difficulty of doing that sort of acting. It may also have been the director's guidance, trying to mimic the bad/wooden/limited acting of the old serials. One example that stuck out for me, early in the movie when Polly is on the street running and the robots are marching, towering over her. She's running as though she's running for the elevator in the lobby of Macy's. There is no hint of real terror, no hint at the earth shaking vibrations which must be occurring as the gigantic robots take each step, no great attempt to avoid the path of the robots (hugging the outside of the street, no she runs in the narrow six feet between the two columns of robots). Scenes like that (and there were many) ruined the believability for me.
All of the other common complaints I have seen others voice on places like IMDB I agree with, the story and characters did seem to lack a richness/depth.
It was a visually stunning movie, with all of the retro and retrofuture elements I particularly love, and I wish I could have loved it, or even liked it. I still marvel at some of the stills, though, and for me, that'll have to be what the movie was, a collection of beautiful still pictures, with a story hinted at but not yet properly told.