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In Association with
Moby Dick (2010)
Director: Trey Stokes

review by Ian Sales

If the number of adaptations is any indication, clearly there is something about Herman Melville's story which fires the imagination. Perhaps it is simply that the broad themes of the work - one man, his obsession, and how it drives him to his death - are open to an uncountable number of interpretations. Of course, the appeal of Melville's novel lies chiefly in his prose, and it is recognised as a classic of American literature as much for that as it is its story. Nonetheless, this has not stopped numerous filmmakers from adapting it for the cinema. Most have been unsuccessful. And then there's The Asylum's adaptation of Moby Dick.

The Asylum is known for making 'mock-busters'. These are cheaply-made films with some superficial resemblance to a major studio movie either in production or in theatres. Past films have included Snakes On A Train, 30,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Princess Of Mars (originally Avatar Of Mars), Battle Of Los Angeles, and Almighty Thor. Production values are generally low, CGI is cheap, the script is put together with little or no intelligence, and a Z-list actor with kitsch appeal is cast in the central role. These are movies that are only entertaining after copious amounts of alcohol.

The star of Moby Dick is Barry Bostwick, who displays an impressive talent for chewing the scenery. He plays Ahab, a US Navy officer. While on patrol in a nuclear submarine beneath the polar ice cap in 1969, the sub is attacked by a gigantic, whale-like creature. In the ensuing mayhem, Ahab survives but loses a leg. Fellow submariner 'Boomer' Enderby (Matt Lagan) loses an arm to the monster.

Flash-forward to 2010... Ahab, despite his missing leg, is now captain of the USS Pequod, a state-of-the-art nuclear hunter/ killer submarine designed by himself (not, it has to be said, typical USN practice). While testing a whale-song generator off the Californian coast, scientist Michelle Herman (Renée O'Connor) and assistant Pip (Derrick Scott) are kidnapped by Ahab and his crew. The captain remains obsessed about the whale-like creature which took his leg, and plans to use the whale-song generator to lure it to his doom.

Meanwhile, Ahab's superiors at the San Diego naval base are upset at the USS Pequod removing itself from the chain of command and set Enderby to hunt down the submarine. And so Ahab sets his submarine after the whale creature - which commits assorted mayhem as it goes - and eventually traps it within the lagoon of a desert island. There he attempts to finally kill it.

There is so much that is wrong with Moby Dick. The script has been put together lazily, with lines contradicting each other within a matter of minutes - "take her down", for example, is not the same as "ahead one-third"; nor can "50 miles inside Soviet waters" be followed by "heading into Soviet waters." The laws of physics seem to be arbitrarily ignored with all the insouciance of a space opera film, despite the contemporary setting. But then, the real world - gigantic prehistoric whale-like creature notwithstanding - has plainly not been considered any kind of limitation in the making of Moby Dick.

It is unlikely, for instance, that the USN would give command of a flagship submarine to an officer with one leg and a known obsession with the eponymous creature. Complaining about a mention of "cetacean semiotics," or the use of imperial measurements for depths but metric for distances, seems beside the point. On the plus-side, The Asylum has made some effort at depicting a plausible-appearing submarine Combat Information Centre on-screen - especially given that typically they use industrial plants dressed with computers and fake electronic switches. In one respect at least, Moby Dick is better-made than its stable-mates.

Yet there is no conclusion to be drawn other than: Moby Dick is a very bad film. Its cheapness and inept filmmaking don't even provide some kind of draw. This is not a film that is so bad it's good. It is simply bad. Alcohol may make it watchable, but it will not make it better. This is what The Asylum do. And somebody somewhere must like it or they would not still be in business.

Moby Dick

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