DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Moby Dick, Blu-ray (2011)

From a two-part series on the Encore channel.

Published on October 11, 2011

Moby Dick, Blu-ray (2011)

Starring: William Hurt, Ethan Hawke, Donald Sutherland, Eddie Marsan
Director: Mark Barker
Studio: RHI Entertainment/Vivendi RH6020 [10/4/11]
Video: 1.77:1 for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 5.1
Extras: None
Length: 184 minutes
Rating: ****½

This was a two-part series on the Encore cable channel, but surprised me with its fairly successful adaptation of the classic Melville novel, using some fine actors and a realistic sailing ship, plus a not-too-artificial-looking cgi big white whale. The general feeling of the novel comes across in the screenplay, and William Hurt does a yeoman job of the gruff Captain Ahab. Sutherland has a very small part as a Nantucket preacher in the beginning of the film.

Ahab is of course verging on madness with his obsession with killing the great white whale. He has already lost his leg to it, and he has—together with his longtime mate Starbuck—assembled a rag-tag crew of young and old men, black, white and cannibal.  He has let on that his main object is to go out and get Moby Dick but it isn’t until they are far out at sea that it becomes clear to everyone that Ahab is willing to pass by a needed port stop as well as dozens of whales that could easily be hunted and killed, and is willing to sail far out of the way to chase and encounter Moby Dick, no matter what. Concerns of the crew mount and there is soon the condition is close to mutiny. Only the native Queequeg and the young Ishmael—whom he has befriended—seem to be on Ahab’s side, with the rest of the crew against them. But they slowly realize how far Ahab is willing to go.

While the costumes, ship and environmental details seem accurate, the language and actions of some of the characters seem too modern for those aboard a 19th century whaling vessel. Fans of the Melville classic are very critical of the film’s adjustments and important missing parts, and everyone is advised to also view the classic 1956 film version starring Gregory Peck as Ahab.

Good Blu-ray transfer, even to details in the dark areas of the ship’s hold, and an immersive surround for the storm and ocean sounds.

—John Sunier




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