Blu-Ray Review: In The Heart Of The Sea

Published on March 8th, 2016 in: Action Movies, Blu-Ray, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Movie Reviews, Movies |

By Jeffery X Martin


Ron Howard’s whaling adventure In the Heart of the Sea is an ambitious film, reaching into a few classic sub-genres, but ultimately, finding no purchase there. What remains is a pastiche of retreaded ideas and some weird-looking CGI. As the true story behind the novel Moby Dick, viewers have a good idea of what they’re getting into, but will wind up with less than they expected.

The film begins with a young Herman Melville visiting a survivor of the USS Essex, wishing to hear the tale of his journey, one that was fraught with peril. The Essex was a whaling ship, and as the story unfolds, we meet the captain and crew. There is much sailing and camaraderie, almost like a pirate ship.

While on shore leave, the crew hears of a place where there are more whales than anyone has ever seen. There’s a catch, though. There is a rumor of a demon in that place, and that demon is a gigantic angry whale. The Essex finds it all right, as does the whale find the Essex. It’s a bad scene, ending with the crew split into separate smaller boats and the Essex on fire. It becomes a matter of survival then, and a simple hope to reach land.

All the makings of a grand adventure tale are here. You’ve got the sea adventure, the brave hero in the character of first mate Chris Hemsworth, and the monstrous whale large enough to destroy a sailing ship; all of these things have the added touch of being a true story that should make for a grand movie.


First of all, why would you make a whaling movie in this day and age? We’re trying to save the whales. Blackfish, the documentary about whales living in captivity, made a tremendous impact on popular culture. Is a film like this even appropriate anymore?

Besides the moral implications of this movie, In the Heart of the Sea may be one of the few movies that suffers from being too beautiful. Make no mistake, the Blu-Ray is absolutely gorgeous. The scenes at sea look like a moving J.M.W. Turner painting. Vivid colors are presented in an almost pointillist style. It is pretty and amazing, but it doesn’t fit the story. This is a gritty, exciting story, filled with danger at every turn. The visual style belies that urgency, becoming eye candy when it should be something awful to behold.

By the same token, the CGI is a wreck. Some of the scenes look like old-school rear projection. There’s no problem showing digital whales; many of these scenes would be impossible to film without computer aid. It’s the way the scenes are put together that takes the viewer out of the story. In the Heart of the Sea looks like a View-Master reel come to life.

There’s also egregious overuse of the green filter. Many shots of the boats lost at sea show a bright lime-green sky. Is that how the sky looks at sea? I’ve been to the beach. I’ve never seen that kind of sky. It looks like someone spilled Ecto Cooler on the camera lens. It’s shocking and, once again, pulls the viewer out of the story. It becomes less a question of how will these men survive and more the viewer wondering what the hell happened to the color settings on their television.

These reasons are why In the Heart of the Sea never makes a dramatic impact. It doesn’t grab the viewer’s imagination because it tries too hard to be pretty. And for the most part, it is pretty, oh, so pretty.

Pretty vacant.

In The Heart Of The Sea is out today on home video from Warner Bros.


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