A hipper 'Moby-Dick,' with an action-hero Captain Ahab

Mobydick_lThis may not be the most wrongheaded adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick ever filmed (that would be this Saturday morning cartoon, pictured), but it’s a close second. According to Variety, screenwriters Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (the duo behind Accepted) "revere Melville’s original text" but plan to change it drastically into a "graphic novel-style" adventure tale, starting with the dropping of the first-person narration. (Never mind that the book begins with one of the most famous lines of first-person narration in all of literature: "Call me Ishmael.") The movie will also change Captain Ahab so that he’s shown "more as a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive." And modern digital effects will be used"to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story."

Um, no. I realize that one of the main philosophical points of Moby-Dick is that everything is open to multiple interpretations, but as Ahab learns, some interpretations are just dead wrong. Anybody who’s ever been enthralled by Melville’s classic (or bored to tears by it while slogging through it in high-school English) knows that it is not an action-adventure tale, since, until the title character shows up during last few chapters, there ain’t a whole lot of action. Mostly, it’s a buncha sailors sitting around talking about philosophy and religion while they wait for whales to come by so they can kill them. What makes it work is the contrast between the playful, open-minded curiosity about the world’s wonders that motivates Ishmael’s journey and the ominous dread of Ahab’s single-minded quest for vengeance. Think you can capture that in CGI, fellas?

addCredit(“Moby Dick:© Hanna-Barbera”)

Oh, maybe I should just let them run with it. I am a fan, after all, of director Timur Bekmambetov’s meth-head visual style (Wanted, Night Watch).And maybe he and his writers can make some other needed changes. Like,the ship needs some babes; in Melville’s original, the coziestrelationship on the Pequod was between Ishmael and Queequeg. What ifthey followed Battlestar Galactica‘s lead and made Starbuck awoman? And she could drink a lot of coffee, in order to enable someotherwise anachronistic product placement. Oh, and I can’t wait for theaction figures that’ll come in the Moby-Dick Filet-O-Fish HappyMeal — Ahab, with his spring-loaded peg leg that fires as aprojectile, or Queequeg, who comes with his own harpoon and intricatelycarved coffin.

Or, we could say to Bekmambetov: We’ll make you a deal. You don’tcome to America and despoil our literary classics, and we won’t sendfilmmakers to Russia to turn Tolstoy’s War and Peace into 300, or update Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment from an anguished epic meditation on sin and redemption into what at its core is a serial-killer murder mystery thriller.

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  • Stephanie T.

    Does anyone remember the old Tom and Jerry cartoon that had a sea captain looking for Dicky Moe?

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  • Martha

    “Crime and Punishment” is about sin and redemption?!? Dude, and all this time I thought it was a story about a serial killer. Just like “Doctor Zhivago” is just a love story, right?

  • Allen

    This is probably the dumbest idea I have ever heard!!!! Are you kidding me. Moby Dick is not at the heart of it an action/adventure revenge story…It is a story about right and wrong, about religion, philosophy and how man allows one moment, event in his life to define his entire existence.

  • fancypants

    “Oh, and I can’t wait for the action figures that’ll come in the Moby-Dick Filet-O-Fish Happy Meal”
    aren’t whales mammals, not fish? if so, the filet-o-fish reference is misguided. but yea, they should not defile this literary masterpiece with this ill-conceived film adaptation.

  • kim in kentucky

    What did Jeff Goldblum’s character say in Juarassic Park “… preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should…”?

  • tragic

    God, can they please just take all the millions and millions of dollars they are about to waste on this piece of absolute derivative drivel and put it towards something, um, good? Why does Hollywood think that turning the classics, either movies or books, into lowest-common-denominator, dumbed-down garbage is the best way to honor their source material OR their audiences? For examples, see: Psycho, Manchurian Candidate, All the King’s Men, even–geez–Bewitched, Jim Carrey’s horrific Grinch, Mike Myers’ even more horrific Cat in the Hat…uch, it just goes on and on.

  • tragic

    To clarify, I meant the recent REMAKES of Psycho, Manchurian Candidate, All the King’s Men, and Bewitched (which was just a dumb TV show, I know, but man did they ever destroy any of the show’s original joy). My thought is, if you’re going to remake an old movie, remake a mediocre one! Why mess with the classics? Updating Apocalypse Now? Come ON!! And I read a few months ago, in EW I think, that they’re thinking of remaking The Goonies. The GOONIES!!! Why God…why?

  • Nix

    Nah, nothing could be worse than the Demi Moore “Scarlet Letter” with the Indian rescue. Now, if this Dick flick casts Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck…

  • Nix

    … nevermind, I just realized Galactica is pretty much Moby-Dick anyway.

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