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The Land-Whale Rises! “2010: Moby Dick”

February 8, 2011

Now, I haven’t actually read Moby Dick—has anyone?—but I have seen Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan about a million times, so I know the general gist of it: boy meets whale; boy is maimed by whale; boy pursues whale in an obsessive quest for vengeance that is a direct refutation of the transcendentalist movement. And then Mr. Spock dies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is about all you need to know in order to—um, enjoy isn’t quite the right word here—watch 2010: Moby Dick I mean, bonus points if you recognize some of the book’s lines of dialogue that has repurposed and put in the mouth of an overacting Barry Bostwick, or the references to Melville’s life that indicate that someone involved in this production read his Wikipedia entry, but really, all that knowledge does is remind you that one of the seminal works of American literature is being treated like Justin Bieber at a NAMBLA convention.

I mean, as far as it goes 2010MD, covers a lot of the same ground as the original, only this one takes place, uh, last year I guess. This means there is a lot less whaling and lot more submarines. One such sub gets munched by a gigantic whale in 1967. Fortunately, the whale is one of those cunning whales that likes to leave some survivors behind to tell its story and spread fear. In this case, that would be two young seamen (hee hee hee…seamen) named Ahab and Boomer. Ahab loses a leg, and Boomer loses an arm. Ahab seems much more pissed off about it.

Fast forward to—you guessed it!—2010, and a whale-ologist named Michelle Herman (hm…could that be a half-assed anagram?) and played by Renee O’Connor (wait, Renee O’Connor is our sex appeal here? Is it 1999 again?) is testing something that…oh, I dunno , talks to whales or hypnotizes them or does their taxes or something. It doesn’t matter, since you never hear of it again. Well, pretty soon the USS Pequod surfaces and is all like, “hey, babe, going my way?” Okay, that’s not the actual dialogue. They give some gobbledygook about needing her skills as a whale biologist and basically abduct her.

Once onboard, she meets some dudes like Commander Davis, the XO, and Lieutenant Queequeg (who looks transplanted from a suburban shopping mall and is not covered in tattoos…the one thing you could get away with in a 2010 remake). She also meets the boat’s skipper, the imposing Captain Ahab (Barry Bostwick, hamming it up, and seemingly having a ball). Ahab is scarred and uses a metal leg (uh, wouldn’t losing a leg sorta disqualify you from captaining a sub?) And he tells her, “Hey, we’re going to kill a whale, and we need your help.” And Michelle is all like, “Ew! No! Jerkwad!” and he replies, “But it’s a fucking, ridonkulously-huge whale that eats whole ships. Check it out in Wikipedia.” And then she relents and is all like “Aw, okay. If it’s a mean whale.” Again, I’m not 100% certain this is the exact dialogue.

In the meantime, it seems that Ahab forgot to tell, um, the Navy that he was gone fishin’. So they figure, hey we have a mentally unstable dude who we really shouldn’t have let stay in the military anyway go dark while in command of a nuclear attack sub of his own design…Mmm, might be time to panic. And so they send out the fleet to intercept him. Boomer (yeah, he’s still in the fleet too…guess you don’t need both arms to be in the Navy) tries to convince them otherwise, but curiously enough his protestations that Ahab doesn’t want to use his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction to hurt them, but a 500 foot-long whale really doesn’t cheer them up any. So Boomer commandeers a V-22 Osprey and goes after Ahab himself.

Ha! But first the USS Essex closes in on the Pequod, intending to sink her. But then Moby Dick eats the Essex, so, you know, that’s taken care of.  Pequod finds the wreckage and Ahab delivers a speech to his crew that just completely fucking unhinged. He’s like “We’re gonna kill this thing…we’re gonna eat its children! We’re gonna fucking sell its meat to the nearest Red Fucking Lobster and we’re gonna eat Moby Dick steaks and drink cheap, American beer and laugh at him! And then we’re gonna poop him out and…” Maybe those aren’t his exact words, but trust me: he’s off the reservation. And after this little outburst of insanity, Michelle is figuring, yeah, this is some bad juju, right here. Unfortunately, the crew treats the captain like he’s Vince Lombardi. I think these guys have been underwater too long.

So, they set off after Moby Dick, and they load up their secret weapon: a torpedo modified into a harpoon with a tow cable. Um, what? I mean, if it was me, I’d be like, “Hey, Cap, thing monster is several times our size and mass. Can we maybe use one of our nuclear-tipped torpedoes instead? And then maybe we could use your harpoon to haul its carcass to Red Lobster?” But that’s just me.

So, they skewer Moby and, well, that goes about the way you’d expect: the mega-whale takes them on a Nantucket sleigh ride straight to the bottom of the sea. Or at least deep enough to severely damage the Pequod.

Okay, some other crap happens, and Boomer ends up onboard. He tries to convince Ahab to give up the quest, but Ahab is like, “No way, Jose,”and Boomer is like, “well, I gave it a shot.” So, the next part of the plan involves running the whale into a shallow atoll. This is not a half-bad plan, and they even mine the entrance to the atoll. Okay, now we’re cooking with gas! But then the sub runs aground (shouldn’t someone have been paying attention to that?), so Ahab decides they’ll go after the whale the old-fashioned way: in zodiacs with assault rifles.

WTF?

Yeah, you read that right: the fucking mutant whale can take down entire cruise ships and they’re going to stop it with their trusty 5.56mm NATO rounds. And no one things this a bad idea? Okay, these guys are obviously all high. They even fashion a special spear for the captain to kill him. WHAT??? A spear wouldn’t even kill Bruce the shark in Jaws, but it’s going to kill a freaking leviathan of Biblical proportions?  You know, thank god no one else has a navy that ours has to fight, because with these guys manning our subs we’d totally be boned.

Okay, do I need to tell you the zodiac-and-small arms option doesn’t exactly work? No, you saw that one coming. So, they end up shipwrecked on opposite ends of the atoll. Then—and I love this…fucking love this—Moby Dick crawls onto land and eats and/or squashes most of the guys. Yes, Moby Dick is a freaking LAND-WHALE!!!!

At this point I began seriously questioning the movie’s verisimilitude.

So, Davis fires his torps at Moby Dick. Moby makes a ruin at the Pequod. Ahab makes his way out to the whale and shoots it with his spear (which, amazingly, fails to kill the oil tanker-sized whale), but gets tangled in the cable. Moby jumps over the mines (not making this up), and destroys the Pequod. Boomer and Queequeg  wait on the beach as the torpedoes head toward them. They hit land and destroy everything and kills everyone (expect Michelle, who had the good sense to run). Moby dives and drags Ahab with him to his watery grave. Fin.

Okay, so 2010MD is a terrible concept, and its execution ain’t great, either. I mean, first off, we’re past the days of whaling (mostly), so Moby’s violence toward maritime vessels really is a threat to innocent human beings. It’s hard to fault Ahab for trying to kill it (though you can probably quibble with his use of spears, small arms and submarine-launched harpoons to do it). Also, since we’ve updated the story to 2010, the whale necessarily has to be big enough to terrorize modern-day ships and subs. But this begs the question how it is Moby can swim through shallows that beach a smaller submarine. And the creature design just ain’t great. Moby doesn’t look like a sperm whale, instead he has a pointed nose. He looks more like a great, aquatic mole than anything.

Anyway, 2010: Moby Dick is indeed terrible, but it’s still entertaining enough. I can’t wait for Bartelby the Scrivner-droid and the Alien Terror!

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