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POSEIDON – Klaus Badelt

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest addition to the ever-growing list of unnecessary Hollywood remakes (following hot on the heels of the likes of The Pink Panther and When a Stranger Calls), Poseidon is a big-budget action-adventure disaster movie directed by Wolfgang Peterson – who is himself no stranger to watery problems, having previously directed Das Boot and A Perfect Storm. When a luxury cruise liner is capsized by a massive tidal wave on New Year’s Eve, the surviving revellers – Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum – find themselves desperately climbing through the wrecked ship, trying to escape before the whole thing sinks and drowns them all… and that’s basically it. It’s a very simple plot, which sticks close to director Ronald Neame’s 1972 original (which starred Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters and Roddy McDowall among others), but will be totally redundant for anyone who remembers it, or its classic John Williams score.

The composer stepping into Williams’ impressive shoes is Klaus Badelt, whose career has been very hit-and-miss since he first appeared on the film music scene working with Hans Zimmer in the mid-1990s. I can never quite make up my mind whether I like him or not: Pirates of the Caribbean and The Time Machine were both fun, if rather derivative, works, while his more recent efforts (such as The Recruit, Equilibrium and Catwoman) singularly failed to impress me. I think part of the problem, for me, is his terrible over-reliance on synths and samples – and while I fully acknowledge that this a personal stylistic preference, I still am forced to wonder why one would mock up a sampler to sound like an orchestra when you already have an orchestra at your disposal – it can’t be for budgetary reasons.

Really, the only score cues worth mentioning on Interscope’s rather short album are the first and last: “The Poseidon” introduces a rousing, noble theme for the ill-fated yacht, anchored by bright horn performances, swelling strings, a strumming acoustic guitar, and underpinned by a mass of synth beats and percussion effects; “Escape”, as one would expect, has a sense of triumphant victory coupled with a sense of relief to depict the survivors’ success against the odds, and a nice performance of a stately, reflective string theme.

Unfortunately, the six cues in the middle are, quite frankly, boring: interminable action and suspense cues which bluster on, creating a misleading sense of tension and kinetic energy, without ever doing anything really musically interesting. I think part of the problem is that Badelt’s orchestral parts are completely overwhelmed by the chugging, thumping, scraping electronic ‘enhancements’ laid on top, so much so that you can’t hear any of the detail of Robert Elhai’s orchestrations – this is the man, remember, who regularly contributed to some of Michael Kamen and Elliot Goldenthal’s best action scores. Instead, it sounds like someone recorded the sound of the ship’s machinery in mechanical pain, which was probably the idea. Once or twice you’ll hear some elaborate horn trill, a big orchestral chord, or interesting ostinato peeking through the mix, as in the 7-minute set-piece “Claustrophobia”, only for it to vanish again under the electronic sludge before you have time to make sense of it. Probably the best of the action cues is “The Wave”, which has a palpable sense of impending doom as it builds to its dissonant finale, although the more low-key “Fire Dive” has a nice recapitulation of the acoustic guitar material from the opening cue before it heads off into one of the several action-set recapitulations of he main theme.

Padding out the album are three contemporary pop songs: two performed by Stacy Ferguson, aka Fergie, of the popular hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, and one by Argentinean DJ Federico Aubele from the electronica group Thievery Corporation. The first one, “Won’t Let You Fall” is actually quite good, in an undemanding Celine Dion-wannabe kind of way, but Fergie’s vocal chops aren’t nowhere near as good as the much maligned French-Canadian songstress. Ah, Fergie. I wondered what had become of her after she divorced Prince Andrew. Both of Fergie’s songs are performed on-screen by the singer herself during the liner’s New Years Eve festivities. All I can say is it’s another reason why I’m glad I wasn’t at that bash. Has it really been so long since Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn and “The Morning After”?

All in all, Poseidon is something of a disappointment. It’s not that I had particularly great expectations of Badelt’s score in the first place- my past experience with his work has taught me not to do that – but I at least hoped he would attempt something large scale and impressive, as the scale of the disaster depicted in the film deserves. It’s true that, buried deep within Poseidon, a great orchestral score is trying desperately to emerge, but is forever diluted by Badelt’s the incessant, irritating electronics. If you like Badelt’s modern action scores, you may find something to your liking; personally, I found it to be as flat as the seabed under the boat.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • Won’t Let You Fall (written by Stacy Ferguson, Wiliam Adams Jr., Keith Harris, Byron McWilliams and Ron Fair, performed by Fergie) (4:36)
  • Bailamos (written by Stacy Ferguson, William Adams Jr., Allen Pineda Lindo, Printz Board, Wayne Hector and George Pajon Jr., performed by Fergie) (3:10)
  • Postales (written and performed by Federico Aubele) (4:09)
  • The Poseidon (3:18)
  • The Wave (4:37)
  • A Map and a Plan (2:29)
  • Fire Dive (2:48)
  • Claustrophobia (7:09)
  • Drowning (3:04)
  • Don’t Look Down (3:43)
  • Escape (2:41)

Running Time: 41 minutes 44 seconds

Interscope/Universal B0006811-02 (2006)

Music composed by Klaus Badelt. Conducted by William Ross. Orchestrations by Robert Elhai, Jeff Toyne and Brad Warnaar Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki. Edited by Dick Bernstein. Album produced by Klaus Badelt.

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