Friday, December 4, 2015

Sometimes, a 9-month delay is not a good thing

That's a joke, really. A nine-month delay is almost never a good thing.

But when that nine-month delay puts your release date "in the heart" of December, well then, that's a bit of a different story.

The conventional wisdom was that In the Heart of the Sea was being pushed back from March to December because it had a chance to factor into the Oscar talk. But maybe it's just because it wasn't all that good.

Ron Howard's new movie is not terrible, which I would argue describes all Ron Howard movies at a minimum. He's not always transcendent, though he does manage that on occasion. But rarely does he deliver a straight-up dud, either. And whatever your thoughts on movies like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Da Vinci Code, I wouldn't call them straight-up duds. (I have yet to see his most atypical film, the romantic comedy The Dilemma -- that could certainly be a dud.)

It's just ... kind of boring.

One part of that is an issue of structure. Because it's based on a true story and does differ from the famous novel that story ultimately inspired -- you may know it as Moby Dick -- it has different narrative rhythms, which tend to be less (slightly less) sensationalistic in nature. Without giving a ton away, though you could certainly look it up if you were inclined, let's just say that many of the big pyrotechnics come around the middle of the film, rather than at the end. We are especially accustomed to backloaded thrills in the Marvel era, when movies need to end with nothing less than a 39-minute action sequence that have nothing less 73 individual stories playing themselves out within that.

But the movie also just doesn't have much urgency. This particular story struggles to attain modern relevance, even in an era of economic challenges in which characters must make huge sacrifices to earn money for their families. It feels flat, even though you can tell the actors are trying really hard for it not to. No one's mailing this one in, but it just kind of flops about like a fish on the deck of a boat, gasping for breath.

Some shots are cool and some effects pop in 3D, but all in all, a bit of a snooze. (And not just because I literally fell asleep near the end.)

One interesting thing about the screening last night was that it was the first time in ages I can remember the playing of the film having a technical problem. It was actually the projection unit at fault, I believe, but the problem materialized in an interesting way I had never seen before.

It started with the trailer for the Will Smith movie Concussion. I noticed, to my surprise, that the trailer was entirely in pink and green hues. Not just that the images had pink and green highlights over ordinary colors, but that the entire images were comprised of blotchy pink and green. (I thought maybe I'd had a concussion when watching it.) Figuring it was just that one trailer, I rode it out.

When the second one was similarly afflicted, I grabbed my backpack and headed out to the lobby to notify the staff. The usher came in with me and told everyone that she'd get the manager and get it fixed. She did, but not until we'd watched about four minutes of In the Heart of the Sea under these, er, fishy circumstances. Fortunately, they started it over from the beginning.

It must have been something to do with the 3D, because the effect became markedly worse when you actually donned your glasses. Then it was like your eyes were being pelted by visual machine gun fire, making for a completely intolerable condition.

Then again, if you are seeing just blurry pink and green shapes, it doesn't really help if they have a third dimension.

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