In The Heart of the Sea Review

So I watched In The Heart of the Sea…

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CGI has been to film what nuclear power has been to man. It’s an exciting technology that has allowed for many dreams, that previously seemed too ridiculous, to be realised. Unfortunately, it’s also been a destructive force that, in the wrong hands, really can ruin something great. Even in the hands of a master – like Ron Howard – it can spell disaster, as it does in this film.

Okay, basic plot: In 1820, The Essex – a newly retrofitted whaling ship leaves the harbours of Nantucket in search for whale oil. Its captain, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), and first mate, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), both have respective invested interest in this expedition being a successful one. The two men often clash as their alpha male personalities strive to be dominant. After months at sea with very little to show for their efforts, the two men’s combined greed for success pushes them to wander further and further into uncharted territory in order to find more whales. With dwindling supplies and hope, the two men and their crew find more than they bargained for. A monster, a demon of a whale who decimates their ship and pushes the two men beyond the limits of decency, sanity and humanity in order to survive.

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Now I don’t have a problem with CGI; when it’s properly utilised and rendered, it can be a wonderful storytelling technique. My problem comes when 1. a director becomes obsessed with CGI and 2. when substandard imagery is produced. In The Heart of the Sea makes both these mistakes. Ron Howard is a talented director – he has a keen eye and a real appreciation for storytelling; but in this film he gets it completely wrong! Number 1, the CGI is atrocious and number 2, there’s far too much of it. I don’t understand how big budget films can have bad CGI. This film cost $100 million to make, where did that money go? The CGI is also everywhere and in tons of scenes where it isn’t needed. Howard also chooses to film this film through some strange filter that sucks the colour out of everything and gave it slight blue tinge. This makes everything in this movie look and feel fake. It, therefore, didn’t engage me at all because I couldn’t suspend my disbelief and, thus, couldn’t connect with the story. Yes, all movies are fake; but they make you believe and that’s the beauty of film. This film completely fails at that and, as a result, its story falls flat.

This film’s script (in terms of dialogue) was probably the thickness of a strand of hair. There’s so little happening in this movie in terms of characters. We never really learn anything about anybody or have reason to root for their success. This film uses a narrator and he tells you things instead of the movie showing you things. It’s as if screenwriter, Charles Leavitt said, “hey, should I write a scene where characters interact and we get to learn about them through their actions? Nah, I’ll just have the narrator say a line so we can get back to the incredibly fake-looking CGI whale”. It’s such a shame when you think about the physical torture the cast had to go through to accurately portray these roles. They lost intense amounts of weight to accurately depict the look of shipwrecked, marooned sailors. All of that work done and the majority of the actors in this movie have very little dialogue and almost no chance to show off their respective talents. This film truly is a waste.

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Now, let’s talk about this whale. I’ve already said how much its appearance displeased me but let’s talk about how his character annoyed me. I know what you’re going to say, can a bloodthirsty monster of an animal have character? Yes, yes it can! Think of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, they have a clear goal (to eat the humans) and they act purposefully and resourcefully in the hunt for their goals. The whale in this movie acts randomly and without reason. Does a whale need a reason to attack a ship? Yes, he does. This movie chooses to place focus on the whale and his attacks instead of the human characters so clearly Ron Howard wants us to connect with the whale and root for him but he never gives us a reason to.

This movie is also far too long. There are some chilling and horrific acts that occur near its end but I was too busy trying to figure out why a CGI whale was the main character of a live-action movie that I didn’t really enjoy them. These horrific scenes also aren’t displayed with the necessary graphic violence to make them truly memorable. This film is a great example of how poor focus can turn a story with real potential into a mediocre mess. Oh, Chris Hemsworth also puts on an accent in this film. What accent isn’t exactly clear, don’t even think he knows.

Overall, In The Heart of the Sea stole my time. It’s two hours of my life that I will never get back. This film is boring, poorly shot, poorly written, badly constructed, it really is just a mess. I don’t recommend seeing it. 4/10

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