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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

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Went with my mom and grandmother.  Tammy was supposed to be there, but got tied up in Ft Worth.

This story was taken from a series of thirty books.  Sort of a grown-up Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, I guess.  While I read Hardy Boys when I was a kid I haven't read any of this series.

Anyway, this feels like something from that sort of series.  I have no idea if the situations in this story were taken from several of the books or just one.  But the way he has a single mostly-faceless nemesis throughout the movie, and they try to out-clever each other, just feels like something from a series.  For example, they end up having about five different encounters with the same ship.

I'm not saying that's bad.  Because they managed to pace it out pretty well for a movie.  They didn't leave huge lulls.  Nor did they try to fit a hundred pages of transition into ninety seconds.  I'm sure there's a lot the left out, especially about life aboard these ships, but the tone they ended up with works pretty well.

Albeit simplified, the verisimilitude works pretty well.  The battle scenes are chaotic and show a lot of destruction and damage.  There's not a lot of gore when wounds are actually taken, but hints of gore when the ship's doctor engages in 19th century operations.  One thing they didn't show at all was what must be the oppressive boredom of a lengthy sea voyage of the time.

In another example of how this felt like something from a series, the ship's doctor is shot and operates on himself.  I dunno why, but that just feels like something an ongoing character in a series would do.  The Emergency Backup Doctor isn't all that competent, so the real doctor has to take matters into his own hands.  If he didn't, then he wouldn't be as indispensable as a character.

The doctor is a naturalist (the closest there was to a scientist back then) and it was interesting to me how they skirted the Evolution vs Creation question.  A semi-major part of the story was him being the Spock character, the ship's Science Officer.  He wants to go explore the Galapagos islands while his captain, a long-time friend, is insisting their duty takes them after the enemy.

At times in the middle of the movie I was wondering if the captain's obsession with the larger ship was going to turn into a Moby Dick thing, but it didn't, really.

Interesting actor trivia is that the doctor and Russell Crowe worked together in A Beautiful Mind, playing the fictitious roomie.   Also, it was interesting seeing Pippen from the LOTR movies as one of the crewmen.  Also, one of the actors looked a lot like Eric Idle, but it wasn't him.

I saw an interview with Crowe, I think on the Tonight Show, and he talked about the title.  Apparently, it was some moronic marketing dweeb(s) who couldn't see that Master and Commander was a strong name for the movie.  He wanted the more obscure The Far Side of the World.  And he/they held out for the longer title until they were finally mashed together.  I suppose if they ever do a sequel (which I hear that Crowe and Weir are not likely to be interested in) then maybe the subtitle will prove useful.   But as it stands it's ridiculously cumbersome.

On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Matinee with Popcorn and Drinks.   Episodic naval war movie during the Napoleanic Wars.  Decent pace.   Simplified, but not overly so.


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Last modified: June 14, 2004
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