The Wind Done Gone
In the history of disaster cinema, no two movies illustrate the great divide between campy greatness and head scratching exclamations of "What was the %#^#*%* point?" than Irwin Allen's 1972 The Poseidon Adventure and Wolfgang Petersen's 2006 remake, Poseidon.
For all of The Poseidon Adventure's over the top excess, the original chronicle of the desperate escape efforts of trapped survivors aboard the fictional capsized ocean liner was filled with heart, unpredictability in the fates of who would live or die and we were invested in characters that we grew to care about or despise within a short period of time.
As much as we laugh at Shelley Winters' Olympic swim through the ship, there still is hardly a dry eye in the house when she succumbs to the stress of the effort and dies. On the other hand, the remake was enjoyable on its own merits but burned through its story so fast that it was nearly impossible to care about the fates of its survivors. When Freddy Rodriquez's waiter suddenly plummets to his death, who cares? If all of them died at the end of Petersen's version, it would have been a pleasant surprise.
This brings us to ABC's much hyped 2008 remake of the tornado storyline which ripped through Pine Valley in 1994, heralding the "official" arrival as Charles Pratt as All My Children's new head writer. Fitting somewhere between the technological successes and dramatic failures of the two tales of the Poseidon, so far this tornado is swerving between a lot of hot air and a gust of breaking wind.
ABC's breathless press and on air promos, more breathless than their usual hyperventilating marketing, have not helped. Soap fans have never seen anything as exciting as this! The CGI work is so incredible it will put Twister and The Day After Tomorrow to shame! You will be blown away more than our cast and sets! OK, ABC didn't actually use those words but you get the idea. And what did we get? Some of the most shoddy CGI work recenly to see a pixel. Not all of it was bad, but even the not bad stuff was sometimes hard to take.
Renderings of the ominous clouds and seascapes were reasonably convincing on their own, such as shots of the house where Kendall and the boys were trapped or Zach's car thrown off the roadside; yet when the CGI was combined with actors the result often looked as convincing as one of the reporters standing against a fake backdrop on The Daily Show. Oh wait. That is exactly how these scenes are filmed. What was I thinking? These shots should have been seamless. And they weren't.
Even worse was the shot of the funnel cloud formation witnessed by Ryan and Greenlee and the twister chasing Zach's car, both so horribly done that I literally busted out laughing! The typical schlocky Saturday night Sci Fi Channel cheese fest has better special effects. The cyclone that whisked Dorothy away to Oz was created using Fuller's earth, sulfur and a big ass nylon stocking and that movie was released in 1939! Hell, I probably could have created more convincing tornadoes on my ancient PowerMac G4 for 1/12th the price ABC paid Stargate Digital. It's a sad day when after seeing shit like this that one longs for the empty parks and cluttered backyards of Peapack, New Jersey.
I have a golden rule when it comes to special effects: either do it right or don't do it at all. Unlike others, I welcome CGI work on daytime soaps, but only if it is done convincingly within the context of story. Personally, I think Stargate Digital would have better served the audience by combining actual tornado footage with its other computer generated work. Better yet, ABC would have been better served by editing out the CGl tornados altogether, letting us in on the terror of Pine Valley's residents getting hit out of the blue. Unfortunately as aired, too many of the scenes looked like a 1940's movie with rear projection. Those sad little CGI tornadoes really were a disaster. More...