In the Heart of the Sea is living out the story its based on. It’s a film adrift at sea, torn to shreds by the merciless waves of box office competition. Though the giant whale fin due to crash down on the survivors in the form of Star Wars: The Force Awakens hasn’t happened yet.
As bystanders ponder the remnants of a promising Ron Howard-directed sea epic, many wonder exactly what went wrong? In the Heart of The Sea seemed like it would be an exciting, worthwhile lead into The Force Awakens. However, reviewers and audiences appear to have deemed it anything but.
— IMDb (@IMDb) December 13, 2015
As of now, In the Heart of the Sea has a disappointing 43 percent ranking on movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Interestingly, 64 percent of those who watched the movie enjoyed it. This is a point that will be revisited later.
For now, it’s best to take a look at the common complaints among film critics. There are a few key issues that worked against In the Heart of the Sea. First is the fact that it’s not nearly as exciting as the fictional Moby Dick that was inspired by the movie’s real life events.
For instance, David Sims of The Atlantic complained that there was only “one big action sequence” in Heart of the Sea. If you’ve seen the trailers and TV spots for the film, then you’ve seen variations of that action scene. In that way, the movie seems like a cheat. It promised action and drama and failed to deliver on either count. Sims hinted that it was something of a bait-and-switch, leaving audiences “wishing they were watching an adaptation of Moby-Dick instead.”
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) December 13, 2015
Tasha Robinson of the Verge took it a step further, referring to the box office flop as a “missed opportunity.”
“Past a certain point, In the Heart of the Sea seems to lose interest in its entire human element.
[T]he film flashes back to Melville and Nickerson, to see how the latter is dealing with telling his story, but those two men reveal virtually nothing about themselves through their behavior; they flatly declare a few factoids about their identities, and then they’re done. “
Few critics outright call In the Heart of the Sea godawful, but reviewers feel that the film tried to be too many better-written sea epics rolled into one, such as Master and Commander or Mutiny on the Bounty, while lacking the audacity and vision to accomplish this goal.
— Variety (@Variety) December 12, 2015
Speaking of “missed opportunities,” there is some commentary on the waste of perfect casting that was accomplished by the sea epic. Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, and others round out what could be considered an all-star, Oscar-worthy cast. It’s also based on a true life story, something the Academy loves.
However, being boring while promising to be an epic is particularly unforgivable. In The Heart Of The Sea will likely be passed over for the far more compelling movie The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.
Unfortunately, the movie inspired by a non-fiction account of the doomed Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick is a testament to how sometimes artistic license is for the best.
— ForbesLife (@ForbesLife) December 13, 2015
What of the audience members who enjoyed the movie despite its meager box office performance? Rotten Tomatoes “Super Reviewer” Jens S. gave the film four out of four stars, saying that while commercials promised more action than there was, “the scenes of the hunt are breathtaking.” Another reviewer, KJ Proulx, described Heart of The Sea as “a serviceable film” with “excellent” visuals. However, KJ also notes that the film “felt hollow” at points.
One reviewer Salena R went as far as to suggest top film critics “had it in for Chris Hemsworth”. That’s a curious accusation since every review I’ve read had more to say about director Ron Howard and little or no criticisms for Hemsworth.
One thing that Salena touched on that reviewers would agree on is this: You should be well aware in advance that what was promised was not delivered. If you expect a lengthy sea picture with little drama and even less action, then you’ll not be disappointed.
Otherwise, what In the Heart of the Sea is is a passable but ultimately unremarkable movie.
[Image Via Screen Grab From Warner Bros. Pictures YouTube Channel]