Sunday, 20 October 2013

Age of the Dragons (2011)


"Moby Dick, but the whale's a dragon" is the kind of elevator pitch I can get behind.  Which is why it's such a shame that this is the movie it led to.

So, even if you've never read the novel or seen an adaptation, cultural osmosis has probably given you the bare bones of Moby Dick: White Whale, Captain Ahab, obsession, death, yadda yadda.  Age of Dragons more or less follows this precis, but it changes quite a few of the specific details, almost invariably for the worse.

I'll start with the positives, however, so you can skip the grumpiness later.  There are a handful of things to like about this film: the introduction of the protagonist is a nice riff on how it's done in the book; I thought the re-imagined Pequod (their vessel) looked pretty cool, and the adaptation of the scene where sharks attack the whale carcass into bandits trying to steal their cargo was a good way to keep the concept of the scene without expensive effects.

Now for the moaning:  Man, screw every other thing this movie does.  The re-writes to Ahab's character are dreadful. Vinnie Jones is horribly under-utilised, despite being twenty times more charismatic than the lead. And then there's Rachel.  Good grief, Rachel.

Moby Dick the novel has no female characters.  It does, however, have a ship named the Rachel.  The film turns Rachel into Ahab's adopted daughter and the protagonist's inevitable though entirely unconvincing love interest.  She's also one of the worst Faux Action Girls I've ever seen.  Her introduction is solid enough: she's shown to have authority over the crew, and sees off three would-be ruffians in short order, but thereafter her whole narrative purpose is to be a damsel in distress.  She gets captured by bandits, nearly raped by one of the crew, and repatedly reduced to a possession for the men to squabble over.  Screw you, movie.

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