The Writing Adventure

Poseidon_poster_2_2In both Paul Gallico’s original novel THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and Irwin Allen’s movie version, the doomed ocean liner was tipped upside down by a freak tidal wave. In the recent NBC mini-series remake, the ocean liner was tipped over by terrorist bombs. Reviewers weren’t kind to the mini-series and criticized what they seemed to think was an unnecessary change. Screenwriter Bryce Zabel, who wrote the mini-series, explains on his lively blog the creative reasons for substituting terrorists for the tidal wave:

Poseidon purists (or critics looking for something to criticize)
seemed to feel that, somehow, the freak tidal wave from the 1969 book or the
1972 film should have sufficed. They got their life jackets in a bunch over the
NBC version where it’s a terrorist attack in which only one of two explosive
charges detonates and that causes an imbalance in the ship’s metacentric height
and capsizes it.

The reason for making the choice to add a terrorist sub-plot is really pretty
simple. Understand that I was writing a four-hour mini-series version (which
later was edited down to three hours for NBC), not a two-hour feature version.
In a movie theater, the audience has already paid admission and, generally
speaking, is going to stick through the entire film, especially a
Poseidon, knowing the boat’s going belly up eventually. Television is
different. People have their hands on the remote practically all the time and if
something isn’t happening right now, they can, and will, change. This reality
effectively means that simply waiting for an inevitable tidal wave isn’t a
sufficient stake in the TV version: the characters can’t behave differently
because, after all, they don’t know it’s coming.

I didn’t see the mini-series, so I can’t say whether the changes worked or not — but as a writer, I can certainly understand why he felt he had to do something to amp-up the pre-disaster conflict. That said,  THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE is a disaster movie classic — an icon of genre. Everybody knows it’s about a boat tipped over by a tidal wave, so perhaps changing the central concept of the story wasn’t the right choice. 

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