Age of the Dragons: Moby-Dick without whales
Herman Melville's Moby-Dick is considered a landmark of western literature. It's an inventive, allegorical meditation on obsession, revenge, religion and the limits of human control. But is it perfect? No, it is not. Nor is John Huston's 1956 cinematic take on the story; while it may be a beautifully shot and remarkably faithful adaptation of Melville's work, it leaves plenty of room for improvement.
So thank heavens for Age of the Dragons. It's a fresh retelling of Moby-Dick that, if the trailer is any indication, vastly improves on both Huston's adaptation and the original source novel itself. How does Age of the Dragons manage this impressive feat? Glad you asked. Here are 10 unequivocal reasons ...
1 – It's set on land.
Melville may have deliberately set Moby-Dick at sea so that the voyage of the Pequod would mimic the loneliness of the human condition, but Age of the Dragons has found a better idea. Why not set the whole thing on land? Not only will it be cheaper to film, but ... actually, no, that's about it. It'll be cheaper to film.
2 – It's a bit more like Narnia.
Because Moby-Dick was first published 150 years ago, there are bound to be aspects that will no longer connect with modern audiences. So making it all a bit like Narnia is a masterstroke. Kids like Narnia, don't they?
3 – Vinnie Jones is in it.
The most notable star of Moby-Dick was Gregory Peck. But, while Peck was a timeless Oscar-winning icon, can you put your hand on your heart and say that he ever made a film that reverberated as profoundly as Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball? Or Legend of the Bog? No? Vinnie Jones has. So Vinnie Jones wins.
4 – Danny Glover is in it.
That's right, this isn't just a preposterous low-budget adaptation of Moby Dick that takes several offensive liberties with Melville's
setting and characters – it's also the Vinnie Jones/Danny Glover two-hander you've spent most of your adult life yearning for. Not even the original book thought to pair up these two charismatic icons, and you're right to think less of it as a result.
5 – There are dragons in it.
The film's called Age of the Dragons, so the fact that all the whales have been replaced with dragons probably won't surprise anyone. But what a brilliant idea – dragons are, after all, much better than whales. Dragons exist to breathe fire and eat children. Whales mainly exist to process quantities of plankton with their pleated throats. It's not really up for discussion.
6 – At one point, Vinnie Jones calls a dragon a bastard.
Believe it or not, this image shows Vinnie Jones roaring the word "bastard" at a dragon. Hopefully this means that, elsewhere in the film, Jones will headbutt the dragon for being a nonce. Either way, since at no point during Moby Dick does Vinnie Jones call a whale a bastard, it's bound to suffer in comparison with Age of the Dragons.
7 – At another point, Vinnie Jones casually smokes a pipe while an explosion goes off behind him.
Does this happen in Moby Dick? No? Well, shut up.
8 – At least one woman takes her top off.
It's said that early reviews of Moby-Dick were unfavourable, but Age of the Dragons isn't leaving anything up to chance. There's a woman in it who takes her top off, you see. If only Herman Melville had appended the end of his tome so that it read: "It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan. And then a woman took her top off and you could see everything," he may have escaped those early brickbats. Well played, Age of the Dragons. Well played.