Moby Dick Reviews
It was easy for me to pick up on the flaws of Moby Dick as a television miniseries. For one thing, the general setting of the film is not that convincing when it journeys out at the sea. While the exterior scenery of the film is nice, it never genuinely feels as if the nature of the sea is harsh, and due to the fact that the water runs too smoothly for its own good, it becomes pretty clear that Moby Dick was shot in a water tank and not out at ocean. This means that Moby Dick is unable to reach the spectacle heights that it wants to and therefore suffers in comparison to John Huston's 1956 adaptation of the text. Moby Dick does not have the visual effects or the scenery to be convincing as a spectacle. The thing is that a story like Moby Dick has to find a balance between examining the complex themes of its chraracters as well as being an entertaining big scale spectacle. It ends up failing to achieve either because it does not succeed in capturing a tone of either and instead just ends up focusing on way too many characters to keep up with instead of consistently on any specific characters or on being an entertaining visual spectacle. All in all, Moby Dick ends up being a soap sopera-esq adaptation of the classical American novel which fails to bring out the real meaning of the text or stand up as a visually grand feature. All in all, the film is not that entertaining, deep, stylish or memorable. One thing that it proves to be is long. If you can sit through a 3-hour melodramatic adaptation of the novel and keep up with all of the characters then be my guest. But I would not recommend it as although the first half of Franc Roddam's adaptation of Moby Dick proves to set up a lot of potential for the film, it soon diverts itself into tedious melodrama and a distinct lack of entertainment value. I should specify that I have never actually read the original novel, but if everything in this adaptation of the text was a contributing factor in making the novel an American Classic, then I cannot help but ask why. But of course, Herman Melville would have to be a lot more deep with his writing than Anton Diether was with his script if people wanted to find the story complex and interesting. This adaptation of the story is neither of those, and although it is hard to film such a novel and have it maintain everything from the original novel, Franc Roddam suggests that he tried to make a stage adaptation of the story and film it for television. If this was a stage play it would be a lot more impressive, but this adaptation of the story falls under the limitations of being a made for television production and proves to lack that ability to treat the film the way that it needed to be.
The cinematography is also too conventional. Instead of giving viewers an experience which is atmospheric, up close and personal, it sticks them with one they would have seen many times before in basic television shows. It does not have the quality that it would if an expewriened film crew tackled the film because the camera always keeps viewers distant from what is happening and never zeroes in on the facial expressions of the characters that well, therefore relieving the film from revealing the insight into the characters' minds. Moby Dick does not get into the minds of its characters like it should and plays out like a melodramatic soap opera stretched to a running time of about three hours.
Moby Dick was a film that I really had high hopes for considering the talent of its cast and the fact that it was produced in part by American Zoetrope. But the fact that it goes on such a repetitive and melodramatic streak for so long without ever truly examining the concepts of the original story's depth or showing off the visuals to make itself a memorable experience renders it a boring and tedious adaptation of the text which would be better as a spin off of Star Trek: The Next Generation than as an adaptation of the classical Herman Melville story. The musical score of the film is great though because it captures the atmospheric spirit of the scenes, and all in all the ending to the film was depicted well and given a powerful dramatisation.
At least the cast in Moby Dick really give it their all.
Patrick Stewart is a spot on casting decision as Captain Ahab. Although he doesn't get as much screen time as he really should, he puts in a powerful effort which easily renders him the most powerful member of the cast. He delivers his lines with a Shakespearian intensity which has him gripping the role and the atmosphere with intense strength. He mixes a powerful and intense line delivery with some intense physical gestures and walks in a peg leg with no problem. Patrick Stewart managed to make Moby Dick an entertaining viewing at times, and when he was on screen he really just stole the show.
Ted Levine is impressive in Moby Dick. He has proven many times to be a talented character actor, and he takes advantage of Moby Dick by making it an opportunity for him to reveal that legacy once again. With tense facial gestures and thoughtful line delivery, Ted Levine is able to sink himself into the universe of the film and give an intense performance which shows him interacting with the surrounding cast members very well and making himself a memorable presence without trouble. Ted Levine is a great casting decision in Moby Dick.
Lastly, Gregory Peck's cameo echoes back to when he appeared as Captain Ahab in the 1956 version of Moby Dick which creates an entertaining sense of nostalgia. Although it works better at simply reminding viewers how superior the John Huston adaptation was, Gregory Peck is good in his brief appearance as Father Mapple because of the kind of wisdom he brings to the part. He delivers his lines with real power, and so his Golden Globe winning performance is a memorable one.
Henry Thomas was also good because of how he stepped into the mature themes of the film well and made a compelling effort in the role of Ishmael thanks in part his articulation of his line delivery and the fact that he is genuinely likable.
But despite the powerful acting of the film, a good musical score and a well executed ending scene, Moby Dick fails to capture the raw themes that the original novel was famous for or reach the scale of spectacle that John Huston was able to which results in it becoming a long, tedious and repetitive film without much entertainment value by contemporary standards.
"Speak not to me of blasphemy boy, I'd strike the sun if it insulted me." That line was so well delivered by Stewart, and of course the scene where he speaks of his pipe lacking the power to grant him pleasure... and all pleasure is anguish because of the rage in his heart, it makes Goth kids second guess their definition of depression. It wasn't just Stewart's Ahab that made the film... (though granted that was most of it) but the over all direction of the film to give a chance to bond with the crew and have that bond stolen from you was nothing short of brilliant. Though the brilliance may be on Melville's shoulders rather than the directors, but he should be commended for keeping the spirit of the novel alive in the film.