Warner Brothers released “In the Heart of the Sea,” a period disaster movie based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” on Dec. 12. Even though this movie was entertaining and was gorgeously filmed, the real tragedy was how low this ship sank in the box office.
To be honest, “In the Heart of the Sea” was doomed from the start.
The film was originally scheduled for a March 2015 release. Instead, Warner Bros. pushed it back nine months to avoid the box office hit “Unbroken.” Audiences have been seeing a lot of bobbing in the ocean in recent years, with films such as “Life of Pi” and “Noah,” so having two movies out showing that can be repetitive. Despite facing no new, wide-release competition, “In the Heart of the Sea” was unable to claim the number one spot in the box office, losing to “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.”
“In the Heart of the Sea” cost at least $140 million to make and only raised about $11 million in domestic ticket sales. Now, might I remind you that the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” only earned around $9.3 million in its first week but then ultimately took in $83.3 million while also grabbing some Oscar nominations. But, I doubt that would be the same case for “In the Heart of the Sea” because Disney’s “Star Wars” is opening this week (Dec. 18), leaving any chance for this movie to rise in the ranks impossible.
Despite having the worst timing for a movie release, the film had everything it needed to be successful, but for some reason, it just hits the level of pretty good. Ron Howard also directed the film, so it was in good hands. If anyone can create an old-school adventure story that is visually pleasing, it’s Howard. With amazing special effects, tremendous acting and beautiful cinematography provided by Anthony Dod Mantle, “In the Heart of the Sea” didn’t really have anything wrong with it, yet it fails to reach above the level of pretty good.
The movie starts off with Herman Melville (played by Ben Whisham) looking to speak to the last living survivor, Thomas Nickerson (played by Brandon Gleeson), of the Essex, so he can later on write “Moby Dick.”
“Moby Dick” is considered a defining novel in American history about how a man survived all odds against the forces of nature, yet the original story is basically about unavoidable bad luck. In the beginning of the movie, while Gleeson is telling his story, he gives insight into the whaling industry and the conflicts that go with it — telling how Owen Chase (played by Chris Hemsworth) was passed over to be captain by an inexperienced fortunate son, George Pollard (played by Benjamin Walker), whose family are big wigs in the industry. But, in the end, the terrifying and fatal run in with the massive sperm whale that makes up the heart of the story was bound to happen, because the Essex had to sail to it to receive the precious cargo, whale oil.
By the time the men sail into the whale’s danger zone, we have gathered enough backstory to actually start caring for these men and hope they all make it back to Nantucket, Massachusetts in one piece.
On the other hand, the cinematography was spectacular. Seeing it in 2D didn’t do the movie justice. The ocean scenes were gorgeous, and the special effects were spot on. Throughout the film, there would be tight shots that were aesthetically pleasing to the naked eye.
As for the acting, it was very strong and believable. The screenplay was lacking in certain areas, but the actors worked with what they got. Hemsworth proved that he is ready to be known as more than Thor and that he can take on these more serious lead roles. I do believe Warner Bros. had a huge amount of faith in Hemsworth to bring in the audience, but unfortunately, Hemsworth isn’t at the level just yet. This movie proves that he is heading in that direction though.
“In the Heart of the Sea” is without a doubt a good movie. It just couldn’t catch a break with this release date. Competing against the “Hunger Games” franchise and then the highly anticipated “Star Wars,” it will quickly be forgotten within the next couple weeks. It is unfortunate to see a movie with so much potential not get the recognition it deserves. I highly recommend seeing the movie before “Star Wars” takes over every available movie theater space there is.