THE BIG BLUE — Ron Howard tackles the story behind "Moby Dick" in his latest movie, "In the Heart of the Sea."
Based on the true and tragic tale of the American whaling ship, the Essex, "In the Heart of the Sea" focuses on author, Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw), and his quest to uncover the truth about a a giant, ship-sinking whale.
Is it a good movie? No, not really. Should you see it anyway? Possibly.
As always, let's chat about the highlights:
"In the Heart of the Sea" isn't a complete misfire, and there's definitely an audience out there who will connect with the man vs. nature aspects of the story.
For the most part, the cast shows up including Chris Hemsworth as the ship's first mate, Benjamin Walker as the captain and Tom Holland who plays the young Thomas Nickerson. In addition to their sincere efforts, visually, the movie is pretty to look at and when the whale is on screen, audiences will be left wondering whose side they're really on.
Compelling performances, visuals and concepts are often enough to call a movie a win, and like I said before, for some people it will work. However, when you throw in the pacing issues, terrible dialogue and complete lack of purpose, most people will probably find their "In the Heart of the Sea" experience to be more frustrating than fulfilling.
Not surprisingly, the whale is the most interesting part of the movie. Unfortunately, it's on screen for maybe 15 minutes, which leaves almost two hours of template characters drifting on an open sea.
Hemsworth and the gang do their best to breathe life into familiar material, but you've seen these characters 1,000 times before repeating lines any casual moviegoers will finish in their head midsentence. Characters threatening anything that resembles new or interesting, like Cillian Murphy's alcohol-fearing Matthew, are simply glossed over and written out of the movie with no resolution. Sadly, that makes the whale not only the most interesting part of the movie, but the most credible character as well.
"In the Heart of the Sea" is one of the most melodramatic things I've seen on screen this year, equipped with its reluctant storyteller and unresolved pregnant wife farewell scene. The setup is staged like community theater, and the dialogue would feel right at home on the Lifetime channel. If it weren't for some of the more gruesome moments and the budget behind the CG wales, Howard's latest would've probably worked better as a television mini-series. As it stands, it still might have been better played as a VOD or straight-to-DVD release.
As Howard and his team lay out the depressing beats of the broken Essex, it becomes obvious why Melville fictionalized the actual events back in 1851. "In the Heart of the Sea" doesn't tell a tale of hope or revenge or power, it just tells a story. If you can stay awake to see that tale play out, there's a pretty cool whale sequence in there as well.
Travis Poppleton has been covering movie news, film reviews and live events for Deseret News and KSL.com since 2010 and co-hosts the FlixJunkies podcast. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.