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J.A.A. Purves

In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

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Warner Bros. Moves Ron Howards ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ To Oscar Season...

Well, here’s a potential vote of confidence. Ron Howard’s big-budgeted, VFX-heavy, "Moby Dick" movie, “In The Heart Of The Sea,” is being moved. Originally scheduled for a March 13th release suggested it was a movie of big scale and high entertainment value—tentpole-sized comparisons released in that frame include “Watchmen,” “Noah," “Olympus Has Fallen,” and the original “Hunger Games." But Warner Bros. has moved the movie to December 12th, right in the middle of Oscar season, which suggests the studio may have something stronger on their hands. So, is the movie starring Chris Hemsworth—his second film with Howard, following "Rush"—a strong contender then?

Well, maybe. A few things to consider. One: December 12th is essentially the same date that 20th Century Fox released Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods & Kings,” another drama with a lot of spectacle and VFX, and that didn’t even come close to contending in the awards season. Two: WB may be looking to distance itself from Universal’s “Blackhat,” which also stars Hemsworth. . . . Three: If the VFX needs tweaking and/or bettering (you can improve on VFX 'til the cow’s come home, really), it’s all a confluence of the perfect circumstances. . . .

The Playlist, January 15

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I just read the book on which this movie is based, and it's great. My only concern about the film is -- and I don't think the following constitutes a SPOILER, but I'll hide the text just in case -- that

after

Life of Pi and Unbroken, viewers may have some fatigue with regard to stories that involve men stranded at sea for long stretches of time

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The AV Club:

 

Quote

Scripted by Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond, K-Pax), In The Heart Of The Sea is utterly bogus as a re-telling of the Essex story—which did provide some inspiration for Moby-Dick—and as a commentary on Melville’s classic, and downright ravishing as a vision of the sea, drawing on two centuries of maritime art, from J.M.W. Turner’s paintings to Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s documentary Leviathan. So visually busy and creatively confident that you’d hardly believe Ron Howard directed it, the movie churns with color-scape skies and abstracted cuts to strained riggings and whale viscera, while murky waters and old glass make ripples in the foreground of the 3-D frame. Whalers’ faces are flecked by jets of blood after a harpooning, a flintlock sinks into the ocean after a sailor’s suicide, Melville’s pen dips into an inkwell like an anchor ripping into seabed—if In The Heart Of The Sea has its share of clunks and groans, it also looks suspiciously like bona fide big-screen art.

[snip]

Howard, an often proficient director of mostly good-looking movies, hasn’t shown this much ambition since Far And Away, a movie that similarly took inspiration from the kind of sweeping hokum Hollywood used to do well. The difference with his new film is that its 1950s luster is in competition with an impressionistic palette of close-ups, creating a dynamic. Sometimes—as in the introduction of the older Nickerson, seated under a ceiling hung with hundreds of empty glass jugs—In The Heart Of The Sea seems to speak the language of visual simile and metaphor that defined the last years of silent film. Perhaps it’s best seen with a mental mute button.

 

Edited by NBooth

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Brian Godawa:

The so-called “true story” behind the fictional tale of Melville’s classic Moby Dick. White whale crashes evil human fishing party and hunts them down to teach them animal rights and earth worship.

Well, he’s at it again. Christophobe Ron Howard, the guy who made the hate hit piece on Jesus (and the Roman Catholics), The DaVinci Code, has just offered up a new sacrifice to the earth goddess, Gaia. . . .

At one point in the story, the captain, a young inexperienced blueblood jerk, tells the hero of the story that man is created as the pinnacle of creation and it is our calling by God to take dominion of the earth and bend nature to our wills. So, much like the idolatrous Noah movie, the two worldviews in conflict here are the Judeo-Christian ethic of dominion and the environmentalist/animal rights/earth worshipping ethic of pristine nature, unsullied by human interference. Or more accurately, human exceptionalism versus anti-humanism.

Can you guess which one wins? . . .

Suffice it to say that I think there are other ways to interpret certain scenes here. I actually appreciated the film's focus on the whale-oil trade, which I knew virtually nothing about prior to seeing this film. I was intrigued by the way the Christians praying by the docks cited the harvesting of whale-oil as a key part in humanity's *evolution*, which seemed to me to reflect a very different Christianity than the kind I grew up with. And I didn't see any anti-meat-eating message here, any more than I did in, say, Life of Pi -- though I certainly picked up on the film's sadness regarding the death of these large mammals. (The line at the end of the film that Godawa cites seemed, to me, to be an expression of relief that animals would no longer have to be killed, rather than a dark ominous statement about the perpetuation of the industrial age.)

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No, Brian. No... don't make me have to defend Ron Howard. Please. There are so many substantial reasons to criticize his filmmaking.

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Just watched this movie as part of my ongoing immersion in Moby-Dick paraphernalia. It's not terribly good, but it isn't bad. It's pretty, for sure, and the whaling footage is spectacular. I have doubts about the historicity of the framing narrative, and I'm pretty sure the movie conflates Mocha Dick with the whale that sank the Essex, but I guess that's just storytelling. As a middle-of-the-road survival story with lovely seascapes and some of the best whaling action I've seen in any movie related to Moby-Dick, it's a perfectly serviceable piece of work.

[EDIT: Ok, I can't resist--anyone who thinks that (1) this movie is a polemic against whaling, and (2) that such a polemic would be a bad thing needs to reconsider both their decision to try criticism and their overall moral compass]

[EDIT EDIT: At the same time, given this movie’s connection to Melville, I guess it’s fitting that it be attacked as anti-Christian, since (as I’ve learned recently) that’s how lots of religious papers received Melville back in the day]

Edited by NBooth

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One of the virtues of this movie is that, since I’m in the process of teaching through Moby-Dick, I can use clips to illustrate some of the chapters on whaling. 

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NBooth, I think you say this on Facebook, but my memories reminded me that I posted it last year and thought you would get a kick out of it: Moby-Dick notes from graduate school:

 

Moby Dick Notes.jpg

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