*** Official MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD Review Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Robert Crawford, Nov 13, 2003.

  1. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



    Crawdaddy
     
  2. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    I apologize in advance; this is not one of the best reviews I've churned out lately. [​IMG]

    Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of 5


    So what we have here is a big, sweeping and majestic "adventure drama", one that's made for grown-ups who enjoy subplots and character development. Which also means that it's not in any way the mega-kinetic action extravaganza that the commercials are promising, and if you're under the age of say, 15, you'll probably be bored stiff by Act III. But let's not fault a handsome and generally compelling film for a misleading ad campaign; Master and Commander is, as the blurbmeisters are already exclaiming, an adventure yarn for adults...and a pretty darn good one, too.

    "It's Gladiator on the high seas!" exclaim the television ads, cleverly noting that the same actor appeared in both films. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World may be many things (gorgeous to look at, technically astonishing, belabored with a few too many aimless subplots, source of two staggeringly nifty high-seas battle sequences), but Gladiator it is not. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to you, but be prepared for a whole lotta plot divergences and background-character-development and moody looks at the nighttime sky, because this one (like many of director Peter Weir's babies) takes its time getting to its destination.

    But hey, if you're having a good time with it (and most moviegoers probably will), who cares if the thing seems to overstay its welcome just a little bit? To be fair, it's not every day we get a movie like this.

    The year is 1805 and Captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe) is charged with defending England from marauding French warships. His massive galleon, the Surprise, is populated with the sort of chaps you'd expect to find aboard a English galleon, circa 1800: surly old seadogs and devoted officers, youthful first-mates and gung-ho soldiers. A manly bunch, to be sure.

    After the Surprise is ambushed and left crippled (following an amazing firefight) by a mysterious French frigate called The Acheron, Capt. Aubrey has one thing on his mind: revenge! Well, not revenge actually, but Justice! British war heroes who partake in petty vengeance are not at all gentlemanly. But justice and defense of the crown (and the fact that there's currently a war going on, of course) is what sets Aubrey's sails, and he begins a repair operation / return asskicking campaign that tests the mettle of all aboard his ship.

    And during several intermittent moments of the film, it's the audience's mettle that is also tested, quite simply because Master and Commander has two astonishingly impressive battle-scene bookends...and a heaping helping of potentially yawn-worthy chit-chat in between. And when your movie's about 140 minutes long, a few too many dry spots can really start to grate on the viewer.

    For every winning moment of interplay between Aubrey and ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), there's another sequence or subplot that seems wedged in rather haphazardly. A side-story involving a "cursed" officer ends precisely how we expect it to, and it takes too long to get there. A stopover at the Galapagos Islands begins in fascinating style...but the film stops dead when we spend way too much time admiring the flora.

    Clearly the cornucopia of extra plot threads comes from the fact that Master and Commander is based on several books, instead of just one. Patrick O'Brian's literary source material is a well-admired collection, and it seems that Weir and co-screenwriter John Collee tried to wedge in as many familiar touchstones as possible. Whether or not this approach will please fans of the novels remains to be seen, but much of Master and Commander feels like a "greatest hits" compilation of barely-connected sea stories.

    On the other hand, there's simply too much to admire about Master and Commander to knock it so casually. The look of the tall ships and the meticulous attention paid to period detail are undeniably effective, and it's quite easy to just sit back and enjoy the film as the refined spectacle it clearly is. Crowe brings the swagger and sensitivity he's displayed elsewhere, delivering a fine performance - if not one that will be remembered as among his most nunaced. Better still is Paul Bettany (as Aubrey's doctor and lifelong friend) who deftly portrays a man of science both brave and bookish at the same time.

    The battle sequences that open and close the film (and they're generous ones indeed) easily make the movie worthy of high praise and moviegoer attention. If the "plot stuff" slows down to a crawl here and there, just enjoy the scenery and wait for the next cannonball.
     
  3. Steve_Tk

    Steve_Tk Cinematographer

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    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] /[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Nice movie, enjoyed it a lot. It's a great story. I don't know why they are advertising it as Gladiator of the seas, because it's not. The action is there to promote and continue the story, as opposed to being there for pure entertainment from lack of story (not saying this is what Gladiator is, this sentence has nothing to do with the previous).

    If you like sea stories and Russell Crowe with good character development then you will probably like this one.

    [​IMG] to buying the DVD (and I don't buy movies just because they are released on DVD or have good PQ/SQ).
     
  4. Aaron Garman

    Aaron Garman Second Unit

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    This is definitely one of the best films I've seen all year. It was nice not having constant action, but sporadic action. The absolute best part of the film is that we are not watching the ship, we are ON the ship! Not only do we get great cinematography, but the sound is amazing. This is definitely one of the best uses of sound I've ever heard. The surrounds never quit as we can hear footsteps, cannonballs, or just the water hitting the ship. This is truly a great mix that can be very subtle but also extremely agressive. This movie is worth a watch and hopefully Fox gives us a DTS track on the DVD.

    AJG
     
  5. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World

    Peter Weir’s latest film is based on Patrick O’Brian’s first and tenth novels on the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey named Master and Commander and The Far Side Of The World, respectively, hence the title of the film. All in all, there were twenty installments in the series that started in 1969.

    As a period piece adaptation of a literary work, it transforms very well onto screen without the trappings of modern-day filmmaking. The movie is rich in historical detail, character, story and remarkable high seas battle.

    Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany (who also played as Crowe’s imaginary friend in A Beautiful Mind) and Max Pirkis, playing a thirteen-year-old midshipman, are the three standouts. Each one does exceptional work, especially for newcomer Pirkis. The kid is amazing in a scene that involves an operation.

    Along with two major combat, we witness the battle of wills and ideals between Aubrey and Stephen Maturin (the ship’s doctor played by Bettany), the ship’s political structure and the idea of “cursed” crewmembers.

    Master and Commander is a prestige film that delivers in many fronts. Much like last year’s The Hours, it is one of this year’s better-rounded films.

    ~Edwin
     
  6. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    Whish I could be as enthusiastic about it.
    I had a hard time to keep my eyes open,and not because it lacked action,it because it lacked drama,that I would care about.While there where indeed character developments,they weren't all that interesting,possible exeption of that young blonde ladd.I did like the cinematography,and some of the acting however.
    All in all it was a dissapointment to me as I was expecting something else I guess.Should have read the book first see if this is something I wanna see.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] /[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I loved this film and it's funny to me that others think the film was boring in parts because it was very interesting from my vantage point in seeing a more realistic portrayal of the men that served on those ships back then compared to some of the earlier films made about that time period. A tougher breed of men sailed our seas then.






    Crawdaddy
     
  8. Allen Hirsch

    Allen Hirsch Supporting Actor

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    I loved Master & Commander. The detail in most scenes was terrific, the character actors certainly looked like I'd imagine British seamen from the early 1800's would look, the soundtrack was great, and the scenery in the Galapagos was something out of the ordinary, too.

    There are the two great battles, one very early and one near the end, but we learned what ship life was like in between - and I enjoyed that much more than "non-stop action". I didn't find it boring or dragging at all. (I'd never read the books, so I wasn't necessarily expecting the story to unfold in a particular way.)

    I especially liked the plot device of the captain "using" the naturalists' discovery of the "stick insect" to prepare for taking on the Acheron.

    Crowe and Bettany both did fine acting jobs, and I really enjoyed the actor who played the 13-year-old budding naturalist, too (Max Pirkis).
     
  9. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    I was underwhelmed by the film. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the film just lacked that certain something that elevates the material. Maybe it was the energy level of the acting, or the direction involved.

    I give it 2.5 stars, or a grade of Sea+.
     
  10. steve jaros

    steve jaros Second Unit

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    I thought it was a good movie, not the great movie i was expecting to see based on the reviews, previews, etc.

    Patrick is right - it lacked that certain something that elevates material like this to 'epic' status. And this should have been an epic.

    Perhaps it was the absence of females..?

    In any case, Gladiator had it, this doesn't. That said, it was still a good movie. Fast-paced, well-acted, nice battle-effects.

    7/10
     
  11. todd stone

    todd stone Screenwriter

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    EXCELLENT movie. The cannon firing sound effects were great and will be awesome on a home theater.

    Russel is a great actor
     
  12. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    I loved the film and think it is light years better than Gladiator, though Crowe essentially reprises his role of Maximus. The set pieces are superb, the characterizations rich, and there is an authenticity about the film that no other seafaring picture I know of offers. The DVD should be a knockout!
     
  13. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    Absolute fantastic film. Easily one of the best of the year.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] out of [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  14. Raymond_H

    Raymond_H Stunt Coordinator

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    Master and Commander The Far Side of the World [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] 1/2 out of [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    An epic character driven movie that instead of going forward with plot devices leading to over-the-top action, this movie is driven by the realtionships of its characters.

    Leadership is on pure display in this movie, some can handle it some can't. Action heroes are here but not in the true sense, they come in a 13 year old with amputee arm, a naturalist.

    An epic movie with true heart in its center.

    Raymond
     
  15. sheldon M.

    sheldon M. Stunt Coordinator

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    >I thought it was a good movie, not the great movie i was expecting to see based on the reviews, previews, etc.<

    Exactly what I think. It was also a work of pure fiction in as far as it supports the old myths about the nobility of the English and the willingness of the crew to follow noble ideals and gladly perish in battle. It was like a Tom Clancy book brought back to 1805 with the British substituted for the US Navy. Sure the sets were meticulous but I really don't think the crews were anything like they were portrayed. As far as the Oscar buzz about Crowe's performance I saw nothing to warrant it. Crowe did another Gladiator turn his men love him will die for him he leads the charge yadda yadda yadda. Then the whole "naturalist" thing. Those British...mighty warriors YET also intense scholars and men of virtue to boot. Hail Britannia...Britannia rules the.....barrrrffffff.

    2 Stars
    Upper middle class Public TV watchers will love it
     
  16. Bill Griffith

    Bill Griffith Supporting Actor

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  17. Chris Atkins

    Chris Atkins Producer

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    MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] /[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Best movie I have seen this year (taking the top spot from OPEN RANGE).

    I felt like I was at sea for two hours. Meticulous attention to detail, great, engaging dialogue, and enough excitement to hold us over from beginning to end.

    Managed to catch this at the Edwards 21 in Boise, ID, while there on business this week. What a great theater! Huge, huge screen in the "Colosseum" theater I had tickets for.
     
  18. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    It is interesting that many of the posts in this thread found the film to be not as satisfying as they expected.

    As a lover of the O’Brian novels, and as one who was fearful that the screenwriters would not be able to adapt elements from two novels into a coherent whole, much less capture the essence of the period as depicted by O’Brian, much less the relationship between the principals and among them and the crew, I was extremely pleased.

    It is a little hard to know how accurately the world of ‘wooden ships and iron men’ is portrayed, but I had no trouble believing for the duration of the film.

    A rousing good adventure story combined with some sobering thought as to the meaning of duty, friendship and loyalty.
     
  19. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    It was a big disappointment for me, especially after seeing so many great reviews here. I kept listening for all the detail in the surrounds that Aaron mentioned, but heard very little of it – maybe I got “cheated” by my particular theater.

    It was hard to understand a lot of the dialog 'cause everyone's speaking British. And it just bugged me the way Russell Crow mumbled all his lines.

    For instance, the scene at the end when they're commending all the fallen sailors to the deep, and Crow’s standing there in front of a couple hundred men reciting their names and rank before the slide off into the sea: He was speaking like two people would do if they were sitting in close proximity on the couch and talking like they don't want the people in the next room to hear. I kept waiting for someone at the back of the deck to yell, "Huh? What was that? Speak up man, we can't hear you!"

    And more than once they do something significant to the story without letting the audience somehow know what it's all about. Like near the end, when they’re trying to make the enemy French ship think they are a whaling ship, and they start burning the ropes to generate the cloud of billowing smoke: I'm going, "Okay what's that about? Is this something all whalers do - smoke? Or is it to make them think that we're a vessel in distress?" Still wondering.

    I guess this is the art director's gig, but probably my main “beef” with the movie is that it's one of those ridiculous "dark" shows that I am coming to despise. You know the kind, where everywhere they go it's dark, even places that are normally blazing with light, like (talking about examples from other movies/ TV shows here) commercial office space or a hospital hallway (I just love it when you can see the florescent tubes shining overhead, yet somehow the room manages to look like a cave by candlelight). In Masters it was always dark below the deck - understandable, I suppose. But above the deck every day is overcast or foggy. I mean, half the beauty of a swashbuckling, ocean-going movie is the beautiful water and clear skies, right? Wait for the next one. Here everything was gloomy and colorless - nothing but shades of brown and gray, except the fighting uniforms. I don't think you saw the sun shine but maybe once, and even then they were shooting the characters standing in the shadow of something!

    Not that it's a total wash – Masters does have its moments. Maybe I could have enjoyed it more if I was able to get past the gloomy look and Russell's mumbling through scenes where any normal person would have been projecting.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  20. Claire Panke

    Claire Panke Second Unit

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    Wayne...either we didn't see the same movie or the theater where you saw it had terrible sound. M&C's surround is complex and immersive and VERY active. I think it's Oscar worthy, the only thing that comes close in complexity is LOTR. I've never heard cannons and shot sound as realistic as they do in this film.

    Weir is portraying life aboard an 1805 British naval vessel with extraordinary realism and detail, the better to transport you back in time - it WAS dark, very dark, and very cramped below decks. The gun deck was only 5' high. No windows except in the Great Cabin (captain's cabin).

    Not sunny??? You missed the doldrums? The Galapagos, Captain Jack at the topmast? There was enough sunlight in shots where it was needed (or intended) - although there was also fog, rain, mist, storms and overcast skies, weather any ship would encounter IRL. The sky and horizon *are* often hazy at sea. There were also many scenes of pre-dawn, sunrise, dusk and sunset, that wouldn't be "bright" even on a clear day.

    The scenes were lit to convey mood, and indeed some were dark or shadowy. (But not THAT dark - you saw what the director wanted you to see.) In fact, I thought the cinematography was one of the glories of M&C. In many of the shots the sky shone with light so delicately tinted it looked like a Turner painting.

    Keep in mind, the director and cinematographer control the lighting, even in outdoor scenes, to convey mood and emotion.

    I had no trouble discerning Crowe's lines during the funeral address - it would've been quite jarring to have the Captain bellowing his lines in this scene. Call it artistic license.

    Weir's style is subtle and enveloping, and he immerses you in his world. He's not going to underline things for you. He's expecting you to pay attention.

    As for Jack's ruse at the end with the smoke...Whalers rendered whale blubber into (very valuable) oil whilst pursuing other whales, hence the black smoke - something like a refinery at sea. Whaling voyages could be long - 2 years at a time - think about the size of a whale, and the size of the ship, and the perishable nature of whale blubber and I think you can see why it was necessary to process the whales into products when they were caught.

    IMO M&C is one of the best films of the year, and the best movie of the age of Great Sail ever made. M&C is not about swashbuckling - if that's all you want from a sea film, Pirates of the Caribbean will fill that bill nicely.
     

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