PICKIN’ THE CARCASS: 2010: MOBY DICK (2010)
By Michael Arruda
With a title like 2010: MOBY DICK, I knew this one was going to be bad. The only question was: how bad?
Why watch a movie like this in the first place? Well, while MOBY DICK, the famous American novel by Herman Melville, has never been one of my favorites, it does tell an entertaining story, one that strangely has yet to be captured effectively on film. The 1956 version directed by John Huston and starring Gregory Peck, isn’t bad, but as a movie version of a classic literary novel, it fails to leave its mark as a classic film. It’s worth watching mostly for Peck’s powerful performance as the maniacal Captain Ahab. It lacks pacing and as a result it isn’t a very suspenseful movie, despite its subject matter. JAWS, it ain’t!
The 1998 version starring Patrick Stewart isn’t bad either, but it’s a TV movie, and it just isn’t on the same level as a theatrical release.
So, when I heard there was a new version of MOBY DICK, one that updated the tale to modern times, I was intrigued, and that’s why I decided to watch this one.
2010: MOBY DICK, now available on DVD and streaming video, opens in 1969 with a young seaman, Ahab, on an American submarine that is attacked by an extremely fake looking CGI whale. What’s a whale doing attacking a submarine, you ask? Well, the Moby Dick in this version isn’t just an ordinary whale. He’s a super prehistoric whale, which means he’s bigger and badder than the white whale in Melville’s novel. He’s the Godzilla of white whales. Now, before you get all excited and think, this sounds interesting, let me clarify for you the level of special effects in this one: they’re LAND OF THE LOST material—not the movie, but the old Saturday morning TV show. They’re embarrassingly bad.
Seaman Ahab loses his leg to Moby Dick, and it’s actually a pretty gruesome scene, about the only effective scene in the movie. It’s also about five seconds long, which means that’s as good as it gets.
The action then switches to present day where we meet Dr. Michelle Herman (Renee O’Connor). She fills in for the Ishmael character in the novel, and we know this because her first line in the movie is the first line of the novel, but rather than “Call me Ishmael,” she says “Call me Michelle.” Yup, it’s pretty lame.
Michelle studies whales, of course, and she’s recruited by the now Captain Ahab (Barry Bostwick) aboard his submarine “The Pequod” to help him hunt Moby Dick. About the only thing this movie gets right are the names of the characters and the name of the ship, “The Pequod.” It also mentions the Essex, the real life ship that was sunk by a whale and served as Herman Melville’s source material and inspiration for his writing MOBY DICK. In this flick, the Essex is also a submarine.
And that’s pretty much the story. Captain Ahab and his crew chase down Moby Dick, and if you’ve read the novel, you know what happens, and you know there’s only one survivor, the narrator of the story, in this case, Michelle.
The acting, directing, and writing in this one are all absolutely horrible.
Barry Bostwick—yes, that Barry Bostwick, Brad from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), now an old man who looks more like Robert Frost than Captain Ahab—lacks the intensity and drive to be a believable Captain Ahab. When he delivers his lines of hatred aimed at Moby Dick, he sounds like an old man barking at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. He’s miffed, but he’s not passionate.
Renee O’Connor (Gabrielle from XENA, WARRIOR PRINCESS ~ editor’s note) is just plain awful as Dr. Michelle Herman. She doesn’t come off as believable at all, and of course it doesn’t help that she has to speak some pretty horrible dialogue. The rest of the cast aren’t any more memorable than a cast of cardboard cutouts, except for Derrick Scott as Pip, who wins the award for the most annoying character in the movie.
One of the weakest parts of 2010: MOBY DICK is the incredibly bad action scenes, completely mishandled by director Trey Stokes. There are far too many close-up shots of the actors reacting to things— presumably destructive things— that Moby Dick is doing, yet we never see these things as they occur off camera. For example, one scene actually has the white monster attacking a cruise ship, but the only way we see this is through the reaction shot of one passenger on the ship. We never see the actual attack. Now, I’m sure this means the film didn’t have much of a budget, but if you’re a director, you’ve got to do a better job at building suspense with what you have. I mean, if you can’t make the scene work, don’t include it.
Also, Moby Dick varies in size. In some scenes, he’s big enough to attack a cruise ship, and in others, when he’s near people, he appears much smaller. The action scenes, or lack thereof, are just plain awful, which absolutely kills this movie, since there are so many of them. The scenes in this one make the action scenes in old GODZILLA movies seem as if they were directed by James Cameron.
The screenplay by Paul Bales gets the names right, but that’s it. The dialogue is laughable.
The special effects are horrible as well. Moby Dick looks like the SyFy special. The close-ups of the whale’s eye are effective, but that’s hardly enough. At one point, Moby Dick actually leaps over an island. Gee, I didn’t know whales could fly!
While I like the idea of updating MOBY DICK, this film doesn’t do justice or give the proper respect to the source material. It’s a horrible movie, and it’s not even fun in the sense that it’s so bad it’s good. It’s just bad. It makes the previous two versions seem like CITIZEN KANE and CASABLANCA.
Like Captain Ahab, it deserves to sink to the ocean depths, never to be heard from again.
© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda