Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Who Brought The Bird?

Went to see the new movie, Kon Tiki, at the Palm theatre yesterday.  I first read Thor Heyerdahl's book when I was a kid and was absolutely fascinated by it. It 'splained in great detail his amazing 1947 adventure of building a raft of massive balsa wood logs lashed together and sailing off with a small crew with hopes of reaching Polynesia. His years of ethnographic studies had convinced him that early Polynesia had been populated by ancient Peruvians who had sailed west. (Later DNA studies seemed to confirm that the journey was reversed, that early Native Americans came from Asia. At least that's the latest theory until some more bones turn up. But his raft trip certainly proved that floating from Peru to Polynesia was certainly doable.)

At any rate, his adventure was quite splendid in that wacky turn-of-the-century British (and Norwegian) Explorer Mode -- tramp off to the Hideous Places, suffer mightily doing it, plant a flag at your destination for king and country and adventure, all of it involving very, very tough men pitting themselves against a very, very dangerous, tough Mother Nature.  In short, not an enterprise for wusses.

All of which was documented by Heyerdahl in his book and later in his 1951 Academy Award-winning documentary. This present film was an attempt at a "docu-drama" of that voyage.  Unfortunately, a 90 minute movie, most of which takes place on a small drifting raft creates certain problems.  Like, boredom.  One damned, hot, flat, windless day after another, until it's broken up by . . . flying fish . . . or a visit by a massive, wondrous whale shark . . . or -- because it's a docu-drama -- some . . . DRAMA!  Shark attacks! Storm at sea with lightening flashes! Crew members with "issues" getting all wussy and needy! Much staring out to sea!  Much staring into the camera! All accompanied by a thunderous movie score that acts like a big aural fist dragging the audiences' beleaguered ears to the "Dramatic Moment! Dramatic Moment!"

Also missing was a good deal of   'splaining to the audience as to just how risky and carefully planned this enterprise was.  For example, Heyerdahl comes off as some kind of dewey-eyed nincompoop in thrall to "Tiki" when he refuses to use steel wire to lash the logs together, instead of using the traditional, looser, softer ropes.  This bit became a point of DRAMATIC conflict between him and his second in command, including the Grand Tossing Of The Rolls of Wire overboard.  However, in real life there wasn't much drama about it. His sticking with rope wasn't because "Tiki" would be offended, but because the steel wire wouldn't allow the necessary "play" between the logs.  Instead, it would have resulted in the logs being sawed into pieces by the unyielding wire, with all hands on board heading to Davey Jones Locker.  Nothing spiritual about it.  But, of course, that would have lacked DRAMA!

And it's all the "drama" that ultimately causes the film to go off the rails.  It started with the macaw that somebody brings on board for the voyage.  Dumb bird flies into the ocean and is eaten by a shark which causes one guy to go berserk, haul the shark up with his bare hands and start stabbing the thing to death with blood spattering all over the actors and pouring down between the logs thereby attracting more sharks OHMYGODDRAMA!MOREDRAMA! SHARKS! SHARKS! SHARKS! 

Now, really.  These men we all hard-headed guys.  Practical fellows.  Pragmatists on a survival/ endurance journey that required a close attention to detail.  So, a macaw?? Really? On a raft filled with rope and bamboo and wood?  Anybody know anything about macaws? What they do to amuse themselves day after day?  With their sharp nut-cracking, tree-stripping, wood-chewing, balsa-wood-loving beaks?

Right.  Stick with the book.  Great read. 


Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Thanks for the tip! I read the book when I was around 14 or so and just LOVED it (that and the Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy), so this looks like one movie I will be happy to miss (and maybe it is time for a re-read of Kon Tiki....sounds like a Kindle download)!

Mike Green said...

If someone want's to create a swashbuckler movie, they should pick up a copy of "Voyage of the Beagle" By Charles Darwin. Very few people know him from the actual adventure that he went on, just his later work.

Churadogs said...

I think this could have been a pretty swell movie. There were plenty of moments on the high seas where I'm sure those guys thought they had bought the farm. And,the building of the raft could have been interesting, but The Looney Stabbing Of The Shark Bloodbath was so out of place and silly and out of sync it just derailed the whole enterprise. Too bad.

So I'm sure The Voyage of the Beagle could indeed be turned into a swell movie.

Darwin didn't bring a macaw with him did he?

Anonymous said...

I had to quit reading after
your review of "kon Tiki" because my mascara was running into
my eyes!I am removing this movie
from my "bucket" list and replacing
it with "Botso".