A friend tells me that Ron Howard‘s In The Heart of The Sea (Universal, 12.11) is a decent scary-whale movie that is all but drowned in CG, but on the other hand is no disaster. Everything would have been fine if they’d stuck to the original March 13th release date because this is apparently one of those movies that screams late winter or early spring. But for some ill-considered reason they shifted the release to December 11th — one week before Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens, and they’re obviously going to get killed. Plus there’s no award-season chatter at all. This is a movie that can’t wait to die but why? Why commit box-office hari kiri by sending out signals for months that something’s sorta kinda wrong, and then open it one week before the biggest four-quadrant movie of the year?
In The Heart of The Sea had its New York City junket was last weekend and no one seemed to notice. (Okay, I did.) Los Angeles all-media schlubs like myself will see it at the Grove on Monday, 12.7 — four days before it opens.
All along it’s been clear that Howard had decided to make a Joe Popcorn-level adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s respected historical saga…60% to 70% scary whale CG stuff plus narrative bookends (Ben Whishaw‘s Herman Melville hears the Moby Dick tale from Brendan Gleeson‘s old Thomas Nickerson), preliminaries and survival-at-sea aftermath covering 30% or 40%…something like that.
In The Heart of The Sea began shooting in September 2013 (a Variety casting story projected that start date), began the research screening process the following summer (an early rough-cut version screened in May, another happened in late July). Warner Bros. decided against releasing it in ’14 and opted instead for the 3.13.15 date. And they dropped that and bumped it into early December, presumably, everyone thought, out of a belief that the film had some kind of award-season potential. Obviously not.
The bottom line is that Warner Bros. marketing has done a brilliant job of convincing everyone that In The Heart Of The Sea is (take your pick of briney metaphors) a dead fish or beached whale or what-have-you and yet, to hear it from this guy who saw it last weekend, it’s not all that bad.