'In the Heart of the Sea' has Chris Hemsworth as an Unlikable Whale Hunter — Will Audiences Take the Bait?
Want to watch Marvel's Thor face off against Moby Dick? Now you can in the trailer for In the Heart of the Sea starring Chris Hemsworth. The film is based off the book of the same name by Nathaniel Philbrick which tells the true story of a whaling ship sunk by an 80-foot sperm whale in 1819. This maritime disaster served as the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and now is coming to life on the big screen in March of 2015.
And if it isn't clear, the story is pretty grim. After the destruction of the ship, Philbrick writes: "the crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival." Hemsworth plays whaler Owen Chase who survived the destruction and lived to tell the tale.
You can see from the trailer that the viewer is supposed to empathize with the doomed crew as they risk it all to make it home. But honestly, I think even Chris Hemsworth might not be able to get the audience on his side for this one. This movie comes at a really weird time considering all the politics around whales and whaling right now. SeaWorld is suffering huge stock market hits and negative public opinion in the wake of the Blackfish documentary which showcased the horrors the marine park's orca whales are often put through.
Simultaneously in Japan, it's currently being debated whether their gruesome whaling remains a necessary "research" project. The International Whaling Commission had imposed stricter guidelines to protect the animals, but the Japanese scientific whaling program is fighting against that ruling much to the public's disagreement.
Right now seems like an odd time for a movie about the struggles of whalers to hit the theaters, since whether it's keeping them out of theme parks, or keeping them from being killed on the high seas, the public is pretty pro-whale at the moment. I don't quite understand why in the face of all this advancement for the protection of marine life I'm suddenly being asked to identify with the people who kill them.
I don't really agree with In the Heart of the Sea's premise. A storyline that seems to be: Look at these hardworking men — this demon whale is ruining everything! Like, I'm sorry, but it was the whale's ocean first, and if people tried to stab me I'd smash their boat too.
Hemsworth will need to draw on his crowd appeal from Thor and Avengers movies to try to convince people to be on his side for this one. Whale hunter just isn't the most sympathetic role in 2014.