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Usually I don't expect much out of movies made for TV. They're seven
acts, instead of the traditional three, which makes plotting difficult.
They work on miniscule budgets, and usually use actors on their way up
or their way down. Not to be compared with theatrical motion pictures -
apples and oranges. However, the exception proves the rule.
This is an epic telling of the Melville story. Okay, most of you probably had a bad experience reading the novel. You end up asking why Ahab was prepared to give his life for catching or killing the great albino whale. The answer is that Ahab and the Whale are inexorably bound in life. The whale is Ahab's grab for the eternal brass ring, one that eludes him time and again.
First: Best motion picture score I've ever heard for a TV Movie. Second: This picture is filmed like a theatrical, meant to be projected on a large screen. Third: My dear friend, Patrick Stewart who doesn't know how to give a bad performance. Patrick, like the whale is a force of nature, not to be denied. I've directed Patrick on a number of occasions and there's none of the nonsense you hear about the whims of great actors. Patrick comes to work prepared and when he makes a suggestion you take it very seriously.
I don't care about the other online reviews putting the knock on Melville or his story. What have any of us done recently that will live for more than a century and a half. That my friends is the mark of greatness. It's an elusive butterfly that anybody who gives their life to the creative arts covets and strives to achieve. I give it a ten and defy any reader of this review to tell me why it deserves a scentila less.
When I sat down to watch a new version of an old classic, I was not quite
certain what to expect,particularly from a TV movie. Having seen some of
the names listed in the cast, I was hopeful. Happily, I was not
disappointed. Not only was the acting superb, but the cinematography was
beautiful and the soundtrack stirring.
Patrick Stewart was quite compelling as Ahab and his rendering of a man possessed by his inner demons was excellent. However, it was Ted Levine's Starbuck who truly stole the show. He said more with just a glance than most actors can with an entire dialogue. One truly felt his emotional and spiritual turmoil. Hopefully this very fine actor will have more roles of this caliber in the future that are worthy of his talent.
The rest of the cast was excellent as well. All in all, a very enjoyable viewing experience and a movie I will return to again and again.
Watching this made-for-cable version of one the great novels is worth your time, especially if you haven't already read the book. There's nothing too spectacular about it, and any sense of what the day-to-day life of the crew of an 18th century whaling is lost, but it's a well-made, straight-foward drama of one of the greatest stories ever told. Can anyone ever lose completely with material like this? Patrick Stewart is excellent as Captain Ahab, a man truly lost at sea as he obsessed over finding and killing the white whale that took his leg. Perhaps even better though is Ted Levine as Starbuck, the man who tries hard to be Ahab's conscience. The two actors are able to create a great tension that the director can't. *** out of ****
As a long-time fan of the 1956 John Huston film I was looking forward to
seeing a new interpretation of what is recognised as a classic of world
What went wrong? Well, it might have helped if the makers had respected the audience's intelligence and used (as Huston did) as much of Melville's language as possible. Alright, all viewers will understand the meaning of a "flat calm sea", but surely a "soft and dirge-like main" is so much more evocative. Worse still, Ahab's major speeches ("pasteboard masks" and "mild, mild day") are chopped by the writers and thrown away by the direction, leaving us with a story about a man who for some reason wants to chase one particular whale, his true motivation is completely lost.
Patrick Stewart did a decent job as Ahab given the circumstances but with that loss of motivation he lost the mythical, superhuman stature the character needs to give the story greatness. Gregory Peck was fine as Father Mapple (again, the sermon was chopped down until it was meaningless, depriving the actor of his best opportunity to make a lasting impression).
The supporting cast are best described as nondescript, ranting their dialogue. Starbuck is completely miscast. His opposition to Ahab is shown by surly sulking and droning on about the financial purpose of the voyage. He doesn't seem to realise the true nature of Ahab's obsession at all. Even the small but crucial appearance of Elijah (where Royal Dano had two superb minutes in 1956) is turned into a caricature who adds nothing to the mythical dimension of the story.
The effects were adequate although, for some reason I never felt the Pequod was actually moving, even in the storm scenes. Strange that a film set on a small sailing ship should feel to static.
As for Moby Dick himself, I've always felt that in Huston's film he was a *character* with an individual personality. In this version Moby Dick is just a whale, and that sums up the failure of the film as a whole.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I finally saw this on TV recently, I wasn't expecting much, but it was even worse than I thought it would be.No redeeming features whatsoever.Even the special effects were bad.In the 1956 movie the whale had a genuine air of menace.Here it was just a big white lump moving through the ocean.One of the idiot features of the movie was that everyone addressed the narrator as "Ishmael".Both the book and the 1956 movie made that plain that that was a symbolic name, not his real one.Queequeeg in Huston's version is an impressive, dignified man.Here he is just a wild eyed lunatic.The novel is a morality play, and John Huston kept that flavor in his version.Nothing of that in this version. The actor who plays Starbuck is not even remotely as good as the one in the 1956 version(but that is generally true of the whole cast),and totally fails to convey the true motivation of the character.In the book, and in the 1956 movie, Starbuck says"Our mission in life is to provide oil for the lamps of the world.And as long as we perform that task to the best of our abilities,we are performing a service for mankind,and that is pleasing to God." And then he says that forsaking that to assist the Captain in personal vengeance is a perversion of that.But in this version Starbuck seems only concerned that they are losing money.There is a sort of driving spirit in the book, that is conveyed in the 1956 movie,that is totally absent in this,nothing but a bizarre hodgepodge.
TV movies are often flat and rushed. Not this one!
Patrick Stewart is amazing as Ahab. The actor slowly disappears and before our very eyes emerges a true monster -- a man who knows what he is doing and could stop himself, but does not. This is the real horror and tragedy of Ahab. It is also our own horror and tragedy because we all have within us what drives Ahab -- namely, pride and ego.
The FX are grand and the cast is excellent. It is a truly worthy re-make of the enduring classic.
There has been some debate as to what precisely Melville meant by the story
of Moby Dick. On one hand, it is a whaling story which is largely based on
shipping legend and fact. On another level, there is a lot of reference to
Moby Dick the whale being self-referential to the book itself (white beast
with black blood, he describes the whale as being a large book at one
point). Ultimately, though, most readers find a two pronged story which is
search for God on one hand (Ahab's need for revenge and Ishmael's need for
purpose and love, note that both names also refer to biblical characters)
and is the passionate bonding between males on the other. Unfortuneately, it
is in these two areas that the movie does not quite portray the book with
Now, there is plenty of bonding and Ishmael does sort of get jostled around as per normal, but Melville did not want this to be the standard group of "older men ragging the new". These men, in the book, developed a passionate bond for one another. Ishmael's deep loneliness lead to his deep love for his fellow crew.
As for the search for God, the movie has some of the key scenes to suggest Ahab wants to slay the greatest of God's creatures because he feels his life has been failed and to suggest needed to get away because his life had no meaning. Yet, for the most part, the scenes become much more "sea adventure" oriented and I am not sure that there is much hey could have done to fix it considering the media of choice. I think they could have at least given Father Mapple more passion in his scene and the painting at the beginning (which suggests both the three crosses of Christ and a whale killed by a the three masts of a ship at the same) which offers a great thematic moment could have done more besides show up briefly as it did. It is almost as though they expected one to have read the book and to know what they were talking about.
Finally, as far as the movie's lacks go, they cut out most of the (usually tongue-in-cheek) humor of the book.
Now, as a made for TV movie, it is good stuff. Some of the acting is pretty sketchy at times and there are a few places where the special effects flat out fail in their purpose, but overall the movie is worth watching. Stewart plays a different version of Ahab than what I pictured, but at the same time his version has a lot of life and passion which is good. The other acting had moments of perfect time and moments of almost the opposite, but no scene comes directly to mind where the movie "cracks".
The pacing of the movie actually sort of improves upon the stop-go style of the book.
I think some of the visuals were a little less gory than they should be (this is a violent tale with a good deal of blood and despair in the original) but most of the cues are there for those who have read the book.
Because of such things as this, I almost feel as though one needs to read the book to fill in the gaps, or the story does not get the treatment it deserves. But, as long you know more of the depth of the story, the movie is a decent vessel for which to carry it in. 7/10
If you felt that John Huston's film of Herman Melville's immortal epic
was too old hat for you, I think you'll find what you are looking for
in here. stunning photography, stronger acting, and dazzling special
effects, Franc Roddam's Moby Dick, is not just one of the greatest TV
movies but one of the greatest sea fearing pictures to come out of the
last few decades.
Moby Dick is one of those novels that everyone talks about but nobody has read. Herman Melville's 19th century New England maritime dialog would be difficult for most contemporary readers, but his story is just as strong in a movie form as it is in a 1000 page book, ergo a viewer could gain the same knowledge and understanding of all the themes, whaling, shipping and most of all human nature.
I've never thought of Patrick Stewart as a great actor, but this is the strongest performance I've seen him give. His Captain Ahab is more colorful than Gregory Pecks, sometimes going over the top, but he does a better job of portraying the old captain as a madman Henry Thomas and Ted Levine also give good performances, and even Gregory Peck makes an appearance. Incidentilly this what the last movie he acted in.
Even though the original Moby Dick is still impressive today, the special effects are weak and they show scientific inaccuracies regarding the movement of whales. A good balance of CG and animatronic makes Moby Dick in this film, move more elegantly, like a whale rather than a rubber model. Once again the film not only emphasizes the color of the whale but the size. Moby Dick is a Sperm whale, a species which grows to a lenght of about 50 - 55 feet. however this specimen looks closer to 100 feet . There are some great shots which provide a good hint of scale, one of which involves a whaling rowboat being crushed between the giants jaws
If you can find this on DVD or catch it on television, I strongly recommend you see this, it might just blow you out of the water with awe.
Patrick Stewart gives an outstanding performance as the tragic and obsessed Captain Ahab. The film shines with a compelling storyline, talented cast, and stunning visual effects.
I watched this immediately after finishing the book, and all I can say
is that I am a bit baffled.
There were quite a lot of changes made in this version, compared to the book. Now, while this is a pretty normal thing, most adaptations require changes, I must say that all the changes made here were for the worse.
All the ways this movie/mini-series differs from the original book are bad. I cannot understand why the makers of this film made the changes they made. It seems to me they cut out the very depth of the story.
Most of the characters, for example, were more shallow, more over-the-top, like caricatures of the originals. This ruins the mood and the atmosphere of the story. Granted, the at times ridiculous language in the book does a bit of the same in the original, but not nearly as badly as the style of this adaptation.
I feel that the whole core of the book Moby Dick is the character of Ahab, and his dual nature. He is hell bent on killing the whale, but also, deep down, a good man. Now, for some reason, the latter aspect of the character was much down-played in this version. The beauty of the original story is Ahab's own struggle with his obsession, and all the rest of the events in the story are just reflections of this internal struggle. This version does itself a disservice by not following the original on this.
The book has it's problems, it's long and tedious, but the story within is a far better one than the one told by this adaptation.
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