Ron Howard is a filmmaker of undeniably great talent, if sometimes questionable taste. The man who gave us APOLLO 13, PARENTHOOD and most recently the wonderful surprise of RUSH is also responsible for FAR AND AWAY, THE DILEMMA, THE DA VINCI CODE (and its sequel ANGELS & DEMONS), and is guilty of generally abetting Satan-in-Hollywood-screenwriter-form Akiva Goldsman in getting an ever stronger, ever more toxic foothold in mainstream cinema.
For IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, Howard drifts back to his well-meaning Golden Age of Hollywood tendencies, delivering and unabashed old-school seafaring drama. Ostensibly ret-conning Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (‘based on the incredible true story that inspired the novel,’ according to the poster) to more contemporary sensibilities regarding whaling, we’re essentially following strapping blubber-hunter Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) on what is soon to become an epically doomed voyage under the captaincy of an upper class twit.
How much you engage with the Howard’s old-school, broadly painted and cliché-ridden approach will very much depend on your own taste, but the script’s two-dimensional characterisation undeniably wastes a mighty cast, including Hemsworth (who proved his chops in RUSH), Ben Wishaw, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland and Brendan Gleeson.
Likewise, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle shoots the hell out of the live action by attaching cameras to virtually every one of the ship’s rods, sails and ropes, and the CG is generally fine – but – the compositing of the two frequently jars, defeating the qualities of both, especially in 3D.
It’s by no means an intolerable experience, but next to Howard’s best work, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA is drowning, not waving.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA is released DECEMBER 3 in Australia and New Zealand, December 11 in the US and December 26 in the UK.