It is hard to write for something called The Oscar Buzz without giving some consideration to director Ron Howard anytime he comes out with a new film. While this one is unfortunately not going to be eligible for this year's race, it does look really good in ways that a March release usually doesn't (here's looking at you, Serena). Packed with adventure, In the Heart of the Sea is a particularly grandiose film full of peril and rather effective looking set pieces. With Chris Hemsworth leading the film, there can only be hope that the film is so great that it overcomes its humdrum release date and becomes something far greater. At least, the first trailer would suggest the chances.
Like most people, I run hot and cold on Howard's work as a director. He is one of the more successful studio directors out there in that he can make conventional fare that is exciting and accessible. He proved that with Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. However, his innovations aren't nearly as exciting as someone like Robert Zemeckis. Still, he has made a consistently engaging career. He has even adopted Hemsworth as a collaborator on a few of his films, including last year's Rush. It wasn't a great movie, but it did feature a lot of enthusiasm and taunting in ways that showed that Howard was at least having fun in the medium.
Then there's his latest. I wasn't expecting to be so interested in what I saw. At first, it seemed confusing. There was mention of somehow being related to Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" that convinced me momentarily that this was the adaptation (I admit to not having read it). Then it kept getting weirder, as I saw more whales and the tragedy didn't make much sense within that context. By the end, I felt like it was a really appealing action film, which I am almost certain that "Moby Dick" is not. The story is actually supposedly the story that inspired Melville's novel.
Check out the trailer below:
Looks rather good to me. As stated, there's a lot of compelling imagery here. Maybe Hemsworth isn't the greatest actor, but Howard seems to find something worth mining out of his talents. In fact, there's a Herman Melville (Ben Wishaw) listed in the cast. However, for those that need more information, check out the plot description according to IMDb:
"Based on the 1820 event, a whaling ship is preyed upon by a sperm whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home."
Yes, it does sound a little like Life of Pi. However, the angle that really does sell it, admittedly in a misleading way, is by noting its influence on "Moby Dick." While there have been films that serve as needless origins before, the legacy of Melville's tale hasn't been exploited nor do they feel essential enough to make this feel pointless. Also, it just looks like an above average action film with a lot of potentially great moments. It could be just what Hemsworth needs to prove himself as something more than Thor.
I don't really want to talk about Oscar chances yet. It is too early. I am still wrapped up in 2014's race. Still, know that this is coming out and I am very excited. I will likely talk about it when the time approached. But for now, let's just watch the trailer and admit to ourselves that we haven't read "Moby Dick." Should we? It is a lengthy tome. Still, that is six months away. You should be able to finish it in time to fully appreciate it more... I guess.