In the Heart of the Sea: Ron Howard’s Middling Sea Adventure

There is no particular reason to see Ron Howard’s sea drama, In the Heart of the Sea, starring Chris Hemsworth, on the big screen.

“In the Heart of the Sea” is based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 book about the sinking of the whaling ship Essex in 1820, which inspired Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby-Dick, which was made as a big screen feature by John Huston, starring Gregory Peck.

Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson also star.

The ship’s first mate, Owen Chase, published an account of the ordeal as early as 1821 (just a year after the disastrous event), in a manuscript that was explicitly, Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex.

The emphasis of helmer Ron Howard, always efficient and proficient but seldom truly inspired, and his his team of writers, on the Moby-Dick link, rather than true story of the Whale-Ship Essex, which is rather thrilling in its cinematic possibilities, is a nearly fatal mistake.

Neither satisfying as a fact-inspired drama nor effective as an adventure thriller and story of survival against all odds, In the Heart of the Sea is sharply uneven, both in the writing and direction departments.

I expect the film to be heavily criticized, and perhaps even dismissed, by most savvy reviewers.

Warner is opening  In the Heart of the Sea at 3,103 domestic locations today, Friday, December 11, amid muted expectations of an opening weekend between $12 million and $14 million.  That figure is a major disappointment, given a production budget around $100 million.

The film, starring Chris Hemsworth, who can’t elevate or make it more commercial based on his charisma, is the only new release this weekend.  Hemsworth is best known for portraying Thor in Marvel’s cinematic universe. The Australian actor previously teamed up with Ron Howard for 2013’s racing drama, Rush, which is a better picture than In the Heart of the Sea.

There is huge anticipation for next week’s worldwide premiere of Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Howard shot the film two years ago, in 2013, and Warner had originally planned to open it in March, but the studio decided earlier this year to push it back nine months.

It does not speak well that In the Heart of the Sea debuted overseas last weekend with a moderate $18.5 million from 38 markets.