Friday, April 7, 2017

In the Heart of the Sea

Year 9, Day 97 - 4/7/17 - Movie 2,591

BEFORE: My wife and I play this game we call "The Butter Zone", it's when one of us plays the other a classic song from the 1970's or 80's, and the other one has to name it.  (Dr. Stephen Strange played a version of this game while doing surgery the other night, that's what made me think of it.). But tonight at dinner we came up with a new game, where one shows the other a photo we took of a meal we shared together, from last month or last year or maybe from earlier, and the other one has to name the restaurant or occasion.  We learned it's amazing what you can remember of your past dinners, or what you can discern from the elements of the photo, not just the food but also the plates, table decorations and so on.  We're tentatively calling it "The Bread and Butter Zone".

Chris Hemsworth carries over again from "Blackhat", making his third appearance in a row.

THE PLOT: A recounting of a New England whaling ship's sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby Dick.

AFTER: Having the story of the Essex told to Herman Melville in a framing sequence is a very sneaky way to make a story that's a lot like "Moby Dick", without actually remaking "Moby Dick", which might turn off the teens who are forced to read that book in high school.  (But, doesn't showing Melville copying down another man's account of a disastrous whaling voyage then detract from the Great American novel?) Don't worry, I'm here to help - the spin that this film puts on the classic obsessive whaler vs. white whale story can be used to your advantage, teens, when you have to write that book report for class.

You see, every film is a product of the time that created it, and with all the lefty liberal environmentalists driving around La-La land in their Priuses, arguing over who's leaving the smallest carbon footprint, Hollywood has finally managed to put out a version of "Moby Dick" where the WHALE is the hero, and the whalers are the villains.  Because times have changed, and some people now feel that hunting an entire species to the brink of extinction is a BAD thing.  This totally flips the script - when Melville first wrote "Moby Dick" there was no question, the white whale was clearly an agent of the devil, to fight back against the whalers, who were human, and it's right there in the Book of Genesis, God gave Adam, and by extension all mankind, dominion over the animal kingdom.  What other purpose could other living creatures possibly serve, if not to be food and clothing and a fuel supply for humans?

That story, too, was a product of the time that created it.  Once people discovered that "whale oil" (I feel I should probably look up exactly what "whale oil" is, but I have a feeling I'll regret it.  I'm still ruing the decision to learn what "ambergris" is...) could power lamps and (early versions of) machines, it seemed only natural to harvest as much of it as possible from the oceans.  God did say, "Let there be light...", right?  He must have been talking about lighting our homes with whale oil, which it turns out, is just boiled-down whale blubber, so mostly made of fatty acids.  People back then could possibly have made candles out of pig fat, except a whale was the size of like a thousand pigs.

And people's decisions to hunt and kill animals for their own selfish needs are often justified after the fact.  Bear in mind that this was all that people knew at the time, oil came from whales, they didn't know that you could also find oil by digging in the ground, which seemed like a ridiculous notion and a waste of time, the same way some people today feel about building windmills and installing solar panels.  Really, as a species we haven't gotten any smarter, we've only changed the things that we're ignorant about.

But back to your book report - your English teacher is probably some old fart that was taught that the symbolism in "Moby Dick" meant only one thing - the whale is a monster, the whale is evil, the whale represents Ahab's darker instincts for revenge.  Meanwhile the whalers attend church to hear a sermon, and everything aboard the ship is some kind of religious symbol or prophesy.  But what if we look at the story with modern eyes and a conservationist mentality?  Then we've flipped the script - the whalers are evil because they kill other living beings with no concern or grace, they treat all of nature as if it belongs to them, and they are shocked when an ignorant creature fights back, and doesn't just roll over and die.  If not evil per se, they're at least self-entitled asses.

Who's to say that the men of the Pequod, or the Essex in tonight's story that inspired "Moby Dick" don't deserve their terrible fates?  They are the invaders, the aggressors, they don't belong in the ocean, and their slaughter of whales to power their lamps and make their candles is an upset of the natural order.  So there you go, the whale is the hero, man is the villain - and if you get an "A" on your book report, I want some of the credit.  (But if you get an "F", it's not my fault - your teacher just isn't enlightened, that's all.).

Also starring Benjamin Walker (last seen in "The Notorious Bettie Page"), Cillian Murphy (last seen in "28 Days Later..."), Brendan Gleeson (last seen in "The Smurfs 2"), Ben Whishaw (last seen in "Spectre"), Michelle Fairley (last seen in "Philomena"), Tom Holland (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Paul Anderson (last seen in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"), Frank Dillane, Joseph Mawle (last seen in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"), Edward Ashley, Sam Keeley, Osy Ikhile, Gary Beadle (last seen in "Cockneys vs. Zombies"), Jamie Sives (last seen in "Maleficent"), Charlotte Riley (last seen in "Edge of Tomorrow"), Donald Sumpter (last seen in "K-19: The Widowmaker"), Nicholas Jones (last seen in "Copying Beethoven"), Richard Bremmer (last seen in "Mr. Turner"), Jordi Molla (last seen in "Ant-Man").

RATING: 6 out of 10 pieces of hardtack

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