This movie's about as safe as you can get. A very safe script, safe director choice, safe and inexpensive B-list cast, safe VFX company choice, etc..
The script here is so safe it's abysmally cliché. Given the number of standby subplots thrown at us, I'm surprised they didn't have a murderous psycho roaming the ship. There's the "I'm a loner but I suddenly start to care and save someone" guy. We've got drunk annoying guy who you know will get killed soon. We've got the people who stay put during the disaster and are fools of course, because they'll all get killed. We've got the kid who wanders off and gets lost at exactly the wrong moment. Seriously, I know kids wander, but would kids wander off in disaster situations at exactly the wrong time like they always do in the movies? Petersen actually gives these such minimal screen time, he probably should garner a Best Director award for sparing the audience.
Don't get me wrong, I actually like Petersen's body of work a lot, but he's definitely a safe choice for any big budget underwater film. He's not going to screw it up, and he'll make it exciting no matter what crap script he has to work with. He mercifully keeps this film to 90 minutes, and I mean exactly 90 minutes when the credits rolled (according to my Comcast DVR). I'm sure he looked at this movie as a paycheck as much as everyone in the theater looked at it as just another $10 down the drain.
It should be no surprise that I prefer the original film, even with the effects that look like they were shot in your bathtub rather than with a $50m VFX budget. It has been a long time since I've seen it, but who can forget that cast of the 1972 version. I'm a huge Kurt Russell fan, and he was the only standout actor in the cast of the most recent film, but his character sucked here (see section on "abysmal script"). Irwin Allen produced two of the greatest disaster films of all time, both with spectacular casts: The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. I was perusing the cast of the original Poseidon and just noticed that Red Buttons and Shelley Winters both died last year. How sad. By the way, don't forget that the original Poseidon Adventure was nominated for a bunch of awards -- even Shelly Winters for best supporting actress!
The most recent Poseidon was nominated for best VFX, which, even given my lack of filmgoing in the last year, it should have been. The opening shot was really, really nice and there were a bunch of other great shots. But when a film is made the safe way -- the way that guarantees audiences will neither love it nor hate it, just spend $10 and forget it -- no amount of eye candy can keep it from being utterly forgettable.
Rating: Bad/Bad... don't spend any money on it, just see it on HBO HD, like I did.