2010: Moby Dick, with Barry Bostwick and Renee O’Connor. Screenplay by Paul Bales, adapted from the Herman Melville novel. Not rated, though some scenes of severe injury.
Ok, maybe I’m being a bit harsh: the new “re-imagining” of the classic Herman Melville novel Moby Dick doesn’t entirely blow. It mostly blows. The premise of the direct-to-DVD release from schlockmeister studio The Asylum is “ripped from the headlines.” (Yes, screenwriter Paul Bales actually uses this cliché in the making-of featurette.) Several years ago, Bales says, paleontologists discovered an extinct species of whale big enough to prey on other whales, and he just scaled up this cetacean into a feature creature that chomps nuclear submarines as a snack.
Aboard one of these subs is a young sonar man by the name of Ahab who loses a leg to the monster. Most of the picture deals with a now-older Ahab’s chase of the devil-incarnate creature in a high-tech submarine, the USS Pequod. Ahab is played with a certain depth (a couple of feet or so) by an elderly looking Barry Bostwick, who attempts to make a character out of a caricature of the original whaleship captain. Ahab’s helped by researcher Michelle Herman, played by Xena: Warrior Princess-alumna Renee O’Connor, who explains in the featurette that “Michelle” is intended as a variation on “Ishmael,” the novel’s narrator.
(You know a picture is doomed when you have to watch the making-of vid to understand what the heck is going on.)
2010: Moby Dick has a few clever moments. Another submarine, USS Essex, is attacked by the monster. Maritime historians will recognize Essex as the name of the 19th century whaleship attacked by a large whale, inspiring Melville to pen his fictional story. And the beast in 2010: Moby Dick takes the Pequod on a modern version of the “Nantucket sleigh ride,” dragging the sub to dangerous depths of silliness.
But the two minutes or so of moderately interesting ideas are overwhelmed by the preposterousness of the other 88 minutes, including a redux of the sleigh ride, with Ahab chasing the whale in his sub on the surface. Hello! Modern submarines are faster submerged! And it’s amazing that Pequod hasn’t cracked up already or Ahab at least kicked out of the Navy, when we see missiles tipped with high explosives swinging from chains in the torpedo room like Christmas ornaments. Given the crew’s total lack of concern for their boat, this boomer (sailor slang for nuke subs) probably would’ve blown (up) long before the monster blew.