Thar she blows. Yes it did. A meandering pace and shoddy CGI made this star studded odyssey sink faster than it’s aquatic antagonist.
A recounting of a New England whaling ship’s sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby Dick.
It was an experience. The opening didn’t really get things going with Ben Whishaw’s (SPECTRE) Melville bribing Brendan Gleeson’s (Gangs of New York) drunken sailor Thomas Nickerson for the story of a lifetime. Good actors playing dull characters that were merely narrative devices. Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones) was completely wasted in her role as Nickerson’s wife.
The first hour was a mind numbing affair. The pace was agonizingly slow. The drama was far too tame and the accents were terrible. I know they were supposed to be from New England. BUT the mish/mesh of English and American just didn’t work.
I had full confidence in Chris Hemsworth playing the charismatic first mate Owen Chase BUT the ridiculously cliched introduction with him bidding farewell to his pregnant wife (Charlotte Riley – Edge of Tomorrow) was nauseating. And another waste of an actress.
There was potential in Benjamin Walker’s George Pollard. The captain born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Assigned to Chase’s crew through family ties. Simmering tension that went nowhere. Hemsworth and Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) worked well together and made a formidable pairing. I didn’t realise how much Walker looked like a young Liam Neeson and he did have a particular set of skills. BUT things only really picked up when ol’ Moby made her introduction.
Creeping up like Orca the whale. The first attack was tense and nail biting. And for the next 20 minutes, my grumbling ceased. Howard crafted some much needed suspense as the relentless beast picked off each lifeboat one by one with a flick of her giant tail fin.
As much as I was engaged (at last!) with the action, I was soon put off by the horrific CGI. It was scarier than the creature itself. The white whale looked more like a painter’s radio. It was dreadful to look at. I was more afraid (And still am) of the mechanical monstrosity that was Jaws than ol’ Moby. Even when bodies were falling into the sea and the ship was falling apart, it was far too cartoony. A real eye sore.
Hemsworth (Thor) carried this as much as he could BUT the characters were so weak, bland and unmemorable. Tom Holland (The Impossible) delivered an underwhelming performance as a young Thomas Nickerson. He wasn’t strong enough. I know that he was playing a young sailor on his first voyage BUT if this lad is supposed to be the next Spiderman than I’m going to need more convincing. Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) was probably the only other crew member worth giving a mention to. Until he was pushed into the background. Shame.
The idea of being stranded at sea for 30-odd days with a whale waiting to pick you off sounded great on paper. BUT this effort only managed to deliver in parts. The plot did take a dreadfully bleak and darker turn. Especially as the men were facing starvation. The inevitable mutinies and plotting soon on the cards.
When the CGI wasn’t ruining it, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography was beautiful to look at. Probably NOT the best thing as I was thinking of going on holiday more than wondering whether the characters would survive or not.
I’m normally a huge fan of Howard’s work. He was even managed to make the madness that was The Da Vinci Code enjoyable BUT somehow this latest offering just didn’t do it for me. It was disappointing.
It was far too patchy and didn’t have conviction to be a poignant sea faring yarn or a monster movie. The moral standpoint and grandiose speeches in the closing act really did hamper the whole thing. The conflicts with nature was only really touched on with the hunting sequences. More could have been made out of the meddling shareholders as an inquiry was held into the attack on the Essex.
BUT like the ocean waves, my interest went up and down. A missed opportunity. A black spot on Mr Howard’s impressive filmography 😉
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