Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Speaking of White Whales and Cat Pee

There are stirrings of a new film adaptation of Moby Dick, or something that gestures toward being a film adaptation of Moby Dick:

The writers revere Melville’s original text, but their graphic novel-style version will change the structure. Gone is the first-person narration by the young seaman Ishmael, who observes how Ahab’s obsession with killing the great white whale overwhelms his good judgment as captain.

This change will allow them to depict the whale’s decimation of other ships prior to its encounter with Ahab’s Pequod, and Ahab will be depicted more as a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive.

"Our vision isn’t your grandfather’s ‘Moby Dick,’ " Cooper said. "This is an opportunity to take a timeless classic and capitalize on the advances in visual effects to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story."
Hmm. I second Matt Yglesias in thinking that a graphic novel approach isn't the worst idea ever when it comes to adapting Moby Dick, but I despair at the assertion that the book's core is an "action-adventure revenge story." Moby Dick is a direct literary antecedent of Death Wish?

I suppose if you strip away about 98% of the sentences in Moby Dick -- including, it must be said, nearly every one of the sentences that makes the book worth reading -- you could winnow it down to an "action-adventure revenge story." I'm not sure why you'd do such a thing; you might just as well douse the book in cat pee and toss it in the fireplace.

For all that, I'm not yet prepared to loathe the idea. On the evidence presented, it's not inconceivable that this adaptation won't be outrageously terrible. In the same way that I'm prepared to be convinced of the existence of unicorns, leprechauns, and Jesus, I withhold my final assessment of what, for now, sounds very much like another big screen piece of shit.

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