In the Heart of the Sea
Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea is a roaring spectacle, boasting big IMAX-worthy scenes, full of an impressively-created CGI Moby Dick, but the film struggles telling much more, including a reason to follow Chris Hemsworth's character through his survival at sea.
Ron Howard returns to the big screen in a big way, capturing the age-old legend of the whale known as Moby Dick through the use of extensive CGI in his latest film In the Heart of the Sea, which stars Chris Hemsworth. In the Heart of the Sea successfully captures the action and adventure of the story on the open seas, focusing on the disaster and destruction and not so much on the characters involved. In the Heart of the Sea is an IMAX 3D film that benefits from the larger screen and louder sound, but fails to capture its audiences with its story, due to a lack of focus on what makes a movie work and more so on the tech behind creating such a large beast of the seas.
In the Heart of the Sea follows Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) and his First Mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) as they lead a crew in a whaling exhibition in the 1820s. The resulting story focuses on the legend of Moby Dick aka the killer sperm whale that supposedly destroyed the crews’ ship and left them stranded for 90 days on the salty seas without any help or hope.
Director Ron Howard is no stranger to spectacle, usually integrating the two in a way that makes for an action-filled, yet still character-oriented film that satisfies audiences cravings for a good story on more than one level.
Unfortunately, In the Heart of the Sea spends a little too much time focusing on the large creature and its destruction done to the ship and crew and not so much on the crew and the actual aftermath of said events.
Howard shoots the sea action with a wide array of shots that are both innovative and fun, maximizing the IMAX 3D presentation in a way that will surely set a few back in their seats. But in doing so he forgets all about his characters and their own story.
Chris Hemsworth‘s Owen Chase is simply painted as a leader that should be the captain of the ship, but is instead the go-to man for everyone on board, despite his lack of official leadership. He’s fearless and determined and Hemsworth gives him a Thor-like bravado that we’ve come to expect from Hemsworth at this point in his career.
Chase isn’t a challenging nor conflicted character and Howard doesn’t bother exploring his perfect manliness, leaving us with one of those main characters that we are forced to root for, but don’t actually find any sort of attachment to.
I had no problem with Chase or Hemsworth’s performance, but there’s just nothing about him worthy of focus for two entire hours.
And that’s a problem, because the rest of the crew is mostly forgettable, aside from a brief moment or two of exposure from guys like Cillian Murphy. There’s never any real focus on any given character and instead of the legendary beast.
Howard captures Moby Dick in a way that makes the creature a larger-than-life monster of the seas, constantly showing off his massive size and power through countless action scenes that leave wreckage and disaster.
The trailers definitely paint the film’s special effects out to be cheap-looking or off-putting when placed next to the rest of the film, but the actual end product works more than it doesn’t.
The film is splattered with an annoying and unusual greenish tint, but it’s no more a distraction than the film’s lack of character focus.
In the Heart of the Sea is rarely about anything more than a giant whale laying waste to a dozen men out in the open sea. Ron Howard knows how to direct the rendered beast, but he struggles with narrowing in on a performance or two to follow and keep the film’s later act from sinking into the water as Chase and his crew are left stranded and without help for 90 days.
In the Heart of the Sea isn’t a film about survival or perseverance. It’s about how cool it looks when a Hollywood director is given a big enough budget to shoot his latest creature feature.
Ron Howard brings his talents as a filmmaker to the table in terms of pointing and shooting the action in a way that feels large and fluid. The entire film works because of Howard’s ability to capture each and every shot in a way that benefits from an IMAX 3D display and one that will definitely be considered an “event movie” if you’re going to bother to check it out at all.
But the rest of In the Heart of the Sea is fatty whale blubber that reeks and almost smells as bad as the oil that these seamen are bucketing up and taking out of the poor (and gigantic) creatures of the sea.