NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, December 9, 2015, 4:00 AM
Chris Hemsworth stars as the capable sailor Owen Chase in “In the Heart of the Sea,” a sort-of “Moby-Dick” directed by Ron Howard.
“In the Heart of the Sea” doesn’t know “Moby-Dick” about maritime adventure.
Herman Melville’s doorstop of a book was about obsession, and how it twists you. It had a tragic hero at its core, and a huge beast — how’s that for a metaphor? — as a villain.
This movie has Chris Hemsworth, in between “Avengers” movies, and a lot of computer-generated sea life. It uses a lot of fancy lures, but it never hooks you.
Based on the Nathaniel Philbrick best-seller, it’s actually the story of the real-life whale’s tale that inspired Melville’s classic.
But what’s here isn’t novel at all – just some all-at-sea clichés about an incompetent captain, his charismatic first mate and a disaster in the making. It’s “The Caine Mutiny” in puffy shirts.
Bland Benjamin Walker is the rich kid who’s been handed the captain’s job; hunky Hemsworth is the experienced sailor who really deserved it. Stuck with each other, they set sail from 1820s Nantucket in search of whales.
But then a great white one finds them, and starts its own hunt.
After the ship is sunk in “In the Heart of the Sea,” not much else happens.
It’s a good story, which is why Melville used it, but without Ahab, it’s just an old fish tale, with manly men shouting commands and fighting computer-generated animals. Call me unimpressed.
The great white sinks their ship and leaves them drifting with so little food and water that even scrawny cabin boys start looking tasty. But after the ship is kaput, there’s not much more to look at.
The characters never move much beyond the stereotypes: working-class hero, upper-class twit. And director Ron Howard keeps interrupting things for ecology lessons, and lectures on evil fuel companies. (The whales were being turned into lamp oil, after all.)
Sure, Hemsworth looks great, and the whale’s attacks are genuinely exciting. And some of the everyday details of life at sea are fascinating, too, if disgusting. But sorry, maties, but this is the one that got away.