Thor goes head to head with a white whale in this latest take on the Moby Dick tale.
The film is based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s novel “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whale ship Essex” which documents the sinking of the Whale ship Essex in 1820, the event which inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”. The book is based on the account of cabin boy Thomas Nickerson and focuses mainly on the ships first mate, Owen Chase.
The film begins with Herman Melville, played by Ben Whishaw, visiting an old drunken Thomas Nickerson, played by Brendan Gleeson. Melville’s a writer without a story who seems committed to get this whale account out of Nickerson at any cost. After some discussion and persuasion from Nickerson’s wife, played by Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley, the account begins.
The film then shifts back a few decades, focusing now on Owen Chase, played by Hollywood heartthrob Chris Hemsworth. He’s a family man with a pregnant wife, but has a renowned history as a whaler; so when the opportunity arises to go on a journey with a large reward, he jumps at the chance. On the ship we meet the other characters, Benjamin Walker plays the ships captain George Pollard, Cillian Murphy is Matthew Joy, Chase’s childhood friend. Finally we have Tom Holland, who plays the young Thomas Nickerson.
The ship begins on its journey, and from the get go the tension between Pollard and Chase begins to arise. Pollard’s family has a proud history in the whaling industry and basically sees Chase as a low life. Chase doesn’t respect Pollards ability to sail the ship and the arguments start to have fatal consequences, even before we see the first whale. They have problems with the ship, they run into a storm and as they journey towards their first whale both the ship and the crew appear on the edge of ruin.
Without giving any more of the plot away, they run into various sets of whales, before finally being tormented by the massive white sperm whale, Moby Dick. The tension continues throughout the whale’s besiegement, Chase having a few moments of clarity and slight character development, but I couldn’t help but think this was simply Thor on a boat. What the film gains from an interesting concept it lacks in storyline and cinematic prowess, the CGI being the biggest pitfall. You couldn’t help but notice the obvious computer generated oceans, especially in the more stormy scenes. Regarding the storyline, the generic trope of pompous rich guy vs. the magnanimous hero has been done too often. One redeeming factor of the film however was Ben Whishaw’s performance as Herman Melville, he seemed perfect for the part and brought an ounce of gravitas to the role for the little screen time he had.
Overall the film simply falls flat, there’s not quite enough Moby Dick, not quite enough character development and filmmaking that should have been more Life of Pi (2012) was more Waterworld (1995). Not even the God of Thunder can save Ron Howard’s latest directorial effort from being disappointingly sub-par.
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson
Genre: Drama, Biography
Runtime: 122 Minutes
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