"I Think That's Rather a Personal Question, Sir!"
There was a fly in the theater where I saw In the Heart of the Sea, walking across the the glass and buzzing around the right image of the 3-D projection source, attracted to the most prominent light in the darkened theater.
And, just to let you know how I thought the film was going, I swear to God, it took me 30 minutes before I realized it wasn't an unfortunate directorial choice by director Ron Howard. For some reason, the director and his DP Anthony Dod Mantle (who did Howard's Rush and a lot of Danny Boyle films) decide—whether to lend some verisimilitude or just create any kind of 3-D effect—to shoot through...anything, whether it be ropes, glass, porch stakes, underwater (which doesn't work too well in 3-D), water-droplets on the lens—anything except show the image we, the audience, are SUPPOSED to be looking at and focusing on. You spend a good portion of the movie wanting to brush away the obstructions, dab away the moisture, anything, just to be able to see what's going on. Granted, there are places—like a depicted storm at sea that wracks the good ship Essex—where you can't make heads or tails out of anything, so sporadic is the shot choice and so erratic the editing. One senses that Howard is trying to keep us from seeing something that will pull us out of the movie (a suspicion enhanced by the aspect ratio of the film, which looks to be almost "old" television monitor shaped). Or, he did what he could and got a little lost in the post-production, something he's never been guilty of in the past.
|There is no CGI here, but...MAN, that ROPE is distracting.
|Whale's eye view of the Essex
Anyway, Howard has this brilliant idea for shooting everything through a key-hole in this one, like he had a quirk for putting super-imposed graphics in everything after A Beautiful Mind. Howard can be a good director—Splash, Apollo 13, Parenthood—but he has a tendency to not trust an audience to figure things out, or understand subtleties. He has to tell the audience everything, and if there's a doubt, he re-iterates it for the folks who were out buying popcorn and the taco tray. For instance, the marketing of the movie says "this is not 'Moby Dick,' but the true story that inspired it." Good enough. That's a good story. But Howard frames it with Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) going to the house of the last survivor of the Essex (Brendan Gleeson) to tell him the story, and then ends it with Melville at home writing in long-hand "Moby Dick, or The Whale...Call me Ishmael" just in case we don't get it, or might be disappointed if we didn't have that first line of the book thrown in. He's an i-dotter and t-crosser, then underlines it.
|Essex's view of a whale-eye
And there's nothing "inspired" about it.