REVIEW — In The Heart of the Sea (2015)

The problem with doing an indirect adaptation of MOBY DICK in the vein of “based on the true inspiration of blahblahblah” is not that the alteration to the source material isn’t engaging – it’s an entirely capable film in its own right – but that by grounding it in “realism” you are taking away the great mythos and metaphor that is the primary element of the original that has made it such a lasting, transcendent, important literary epic.
I am a long standing fan of the book (it really is, genuinely, a masterpiece), and while I can appreciate that perhaps a straight adaptation of it threatened to fall into the “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt” realm of so many literary classics that have been adapted within an inch of their life, the glaring absence of all the primary players of the novel (Ishmael, Starbuck, Queequeg and most importantly: the Mad Captain Ahab) or even comparable substitutes means that while an analogue of the Great White Whale appears within it, none of what makes the original story so important and resonant is. Does this need to feel like a gritty, realistic take on the inspiration of a grand tale? No it does not. What it needed to be was a proper cinematic telling of the lengths that man will go to for desperate revenge at the expense of everything else, and unfortunately that story is not there.
It’s a watchable enough movie, but it is not MOBY DICK and besides the whale contains no other characters or elements besides the author himself who does not exist in the novel.
So by the end I was left asking: “If the tale Herman Melville (supposedly) based his epic upon required such a grand overlay of myth to elevate it to worthiness of novelisation, why should we care about that story at all and not the great allegory it went on to become?”

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