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Category: Movie Review

12/15/03

Permalink 11:04:46 pm, Categories: Movie Review, 809 words   English (US)

Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World

Posted by Karen A. Brown

When we heard there would be a movie released that was based, however loosely, on the Patrick O'Brien series that stars Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin we were overjoyed. We are, after all, snowbound sailors and are suffering through this winter away from the water. We usually spend our winters reading sea faring stories, researching areas we want to visit in the upcoming season and generally pining away while we wait for spring. The idea of seeing a movie that contained sights and sounds of sea battles and warfare was exciting. If we can't be on the water, we'd like to see others on the water.

The theater we chose to view the movie at is pretty new. It's located in Coon Rapids not far from our home. It was snowing that night and the stores were filled with people still trying to find the "perfect gift" for a special someone. With all of those reasons, we shouldn't have been surprised to see the theater lobby as empty as it was, but I have to admit I was surprised to see the theater we were in was completely empty. We were the only two people in the theater throughout the entire movie. It was a somewhat disconcerting experience and it didn't bode well for the future of O'Brien movies.

We've long been fans of all stories of a seafaring nature including the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey/Maturin series, Alexander Kent's Bolitho series, C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower (including the A&E renditions on DVD), Julian Stockwin's Kydd series and even Raphael Sabatini's various piratical stories like Captain Blood. Every time we stumble across a new book, new author, or new series that has even the remotest connection to sea stories we gobble them up. We buy the books to keep the market open, keep it flourishing, keep people writing in the genre. Keep authors getting paid to write these stories. When Peter Weir and Russell Crowe decided to bring the genre to the silver screen, if done right, it could guarantee its continuation.

So, with some trepidation, an empty theater and the weight of the future of the sea writing industry resting on it's shoulders, Master and Commander started off. As a film introducing someone to Patrick O'Brien the film does an admirable job. There are chases, drunken singing, adventures upon the Galapagos islands, death, dismemberment and beauty. There are, most importantly, the sights and sounds of the sea. The feeling that the water is rushing past the walls, the wind is filling the sails, and the smell of the sea is in the air. It is addicting.

Unfortunately, if you are a true believer in the authenticity of the series, you may find yourself disappointed by Weir and Crowe's rendition. The depiction of Captain Aubrey as a sentimental drunk is somewhat insulting to Aubrey (yes, I know he's a fictional character, but after reading the series he becomes quite real). There is a closeness between Aubrey and the crew that is implied in the movie that is not felt from the books. There are scenes where Aubrey is moved by the loss of a hand that naval officers would not and could not indulge in.

The title of the movie, Master and Commander, the Far Side of the World is also somewhat misleading. O'Brien has given us books with each title, Master and Commander is the kick off to the series and first introduces the reader to its characters as well as initially introduces the characters Maturin and Aubrey to each other. This is not true in the movie as Aubrey and Maturin show a closeness of relationship that speaks of years together both under sail and in playing music together.

The subtitle, The Far Side of the World, is far more apt. This is the book where the duo visits the Galapagos Islands. They have been together some time at that point, they have a familiarity that shows through in the movie as well as the book. They make the trek around the horn and are chasing the enemy. These scenes have merit, at least from the book series.

Overall, I think the movie was a good one. It had, perhaps, to much sentimentality for me, but as an introduction to O'Brien for the rest of the world, it made a good impression. It was worth the money to see the sailing scenes on the big screen. It is a movie that will be added to our DVD library to help fill those wintery days and nights where we sit and pine for our inland sea (Lake Superior). Though I would always recommend that people read the books because they provide so much more then a movie ever could if you're looking for an introduction, this is one you shouldn't pass up.

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