»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«


Whiteout (The Movie)
September 18, 2009

I went to see Whiteout last weekend with a couple of friends, and obviously, I didn’t feel the need to rush out my opinions on it. That’s because most everyone is in agreement: it’s not a very good movie.

Estimates suggest an opening weekend gross of around $5 million, less than the horror film Sorority Row, which was made for about a third of Whiteout‘s $35 million production cost. That’s considered a disappointment, and word of mouth hasn’t been good.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret seeing it — I had a fun time. But since I’d already read the excellent graphic novel, there was no suspense, no tension in the film for me, which is death for a thriller. I already knew which major surprises were coming, so I just had to wait around for them while the characters spouted incredibly leaden, flat, expositional dialogue. And various announcements over the PA told us things we already knew, in case the viewer wasn’t paying attention or was dense.

Whiteout

The plot is this: a body is found in Antarctica, three days before the last flight out. They have to evacuate, leaving only minimal crew, before the winter storms come. Carrie Stetko, a federal marshal assigned to the U.S. station, is leaving on that plane but first has to solve the mystery of why the man was killed, how, and who else is involved in the conspiracy. (Note that the Maguffin is changed from mineral deposits in the book to a 1957 Soviet plane carrying secret cargo so they can have a very action-oriented prologue showing the gun battle that crashed the plane so long ago. I thought everyone, even 50-year-old Russian grunts, knew you didn’t fire guns in an airplane, although it does make for one of the better sequences in the movie.)

I had a major problem with the casting of Kate Beckinsale as Stetko. She’s too wispy, too fragile to seem like a marshal, especially in the Florida flashback scenes, where she’s wearing only a tank top under her bulletproof vest. Also, even when the dialogue kept trying to emphasize how she’d been awake for so long without any sleep, she never looked tired. The first major scene of the movie’s current day shows her in the shower, just so we won’t forget she’s female, since she spends most of the rest of the time in a parka.

I missed the presence of Lily, the British agent, but her role became a male UN investigator (really? they have those?) played by Gabriel Macht, who sounded dubbed to me the whole time. He wasn’t, but there was something about his voice and his look not matching up. I did find it refreshing that they worked together without any hints of pairing them up in a different way. I also liked the pilot, played by Columbus Short, because he just wanted to do the sensible thing. Shame it didn’t work out so well for him. Tom Skerritt did an excellent job as Doc, but I already knew he had “crusty curmudgeon” down.

The big appeal of the graphic novel was showing the reader what it really felt like to be someplace they’d likely never see: Antarctica. How life there worked, especially during a time of life-and-death murder investigation. The movie tried to claim the same appeal, but knowing it was filmed in Canada, it felt fake, even though the scenery could be gorgeously forbidding.

The climactic fight in the snowstorm took much too long and emphasized the unbelievability and inconsistency of some of the environmental “rules”. At one point, going outside bare-handed and touching metal will take your skin and end up giving you gangrene. At another, it’s no big deal to grab a railing with no gloves and walk down some steps. But what summed it all up for me was this: no matter how scary the cold was supposed to be and how much bundling up — goggles, hood, gloves, parkas — they did, no one ever covered their lips. I kept staring at the exposed mouths and chins and wondering why no one had chapped or cracked lips when we’d been told the wind could freeze them instantly. I suspect it was to keep the stars recognizable and distinguishable, but for me, it was the last straw in realizing that the whole thing came out pretty dumb.

14 Responses  
Scott Burger writes:  

Agreed with all of your points. If they do make a sequel, I hope they will consider them.

 
Johanna writes:  

I doubt a sequel is likely at this point, given the movie’s poor performance. And the book sequel, Melt, was partially used in this film.

 
Sonic2nd writes:  

I’m not interested in seeing the movie but I do want to read the comic it’s based off of.
So, I’m glad that Oni Press has decided to reprint the Whiteout graphic novels.

 
Johanna writes:  

Oh, yes, great point. The big plus to the movie is bringing more attention to the original story.

 
Alan Coil writes:  

Apparently, single bullet holes will not cause explosive decompression, which I am guessing happened in the movie, judging from your words. I would think the greater fear from shooting a weapon in an airplane would be hitting vital components or the pilot.

Mythbusters tackled this.

 
Johanna writes:  

Well, in the movie, they do both: the bullets cause things to start flying wildly around, and then once they pull out the machine guns, strays start doing human damage. I should have known Mythbusters would have covered such a well-known myth.

 
Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » Saturday Linkblogging writes:  

[…] Draper Carlson did not much like the Whiteout […]

 
Hsifeng writes:  

Johanna Says:

“…But what summed it all up for me was this: no matter how scary the cold was supposed to be and how much bundling up � goggles, hood, gloves, parkas � they did, no one ever covered their lips. I kept staring at the exposed mouths and chins and wondering why no one had chapped or cracked lips when we�d been told the wind could freeze them instantly. I suspect it was to keep the stars recognizable and distinguishable, but for me, it was the last straw in realizing that the whole thing came out pretty dumb.”

Mr. Cranky Said when reviewing Vertical Limit:

“According to the film, the so-called ‘vertical limit’ is the altitude above which a human being cannot survive for very long. Until one of the characters actually explained that, I thought it was the altitude above which egotistical actors finally found it necessary to wear a hat.

“You can pretty much toss out the notion that this is going to be any sort of realistic mountain climbing movie once you realize that you can’t stuff an actor in a hooded parka and face shield and expect him to do anything other than demand to talk to his agent. Thus, Peter Garrett (Chris O’Donnell) and his mountain-climbing friends are wandering around the base camp of K-2 — at what one would presume is 17,000 or 19,000 feet — in regular clothes…”

Then again, there’s this:

someone at Reuters Said in “Sherpa Stands atop Everest Naked for 3 Minutes“:

“Nepali climbing guide Lakpa Tharke upset officials recently by standing on top of Mt. Everest naked. Nepal’s top mountaineering body head Ang Tshering Sherpa says ‘but if he did it, it is very shocking because Sagarmatha is the goddess mother.’

“Organizers of the climb he participated with did not seem bothered by the incident. ‘We are planning to file his extraordinary feat for the Guinness Book of World Records.’ He may be the first to pull off such a feat.

“Buddhists in Nepal consider Everest a god. On Saturday, the head of Nepal’s Mountaineering Association urged the government to take action against Tharke.”

Anyway, I do recommend the harrowing documentary film Everest and the book Into Thin Air : A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster that Jon Krakauer wrote after being up there during the tragedies during the filming.

 
James Moar writes:  

The Everest article doesn’t mention the weather, but I’m guessing whether there was any wind blowing would have a lot to do with the feasibility of that stunt — it makes a huge difference in cold conditions.

 
Hsifeng writes:  

James Moar Says:

“The Everest article doesn’t mention the weather, but I’m guessing whether there was any wind blowing would have a lot to do with the feasibility of that stunt — it makes a huge difference in cold conditions.”

Good question, and I hadn’t thought about that.

 
Johanna writes:  

In its second week of release, Whiteout dropped out of the top ten with an estimated gross of just over $2 million. Ouch.

 
santosh writes:  

well i have worked on this film’s vfx so i would be watching it as it is in india when it reased over here !!!

 
Whiteout Bonus Features Blu-Ray Only » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] film wasn’t very good, but I was still interested in seeing the featurette discussing the graphic novel and its trip to […]

 
The West Coast Era of Comics » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] the upcoming Scott Pilgrim — are better done and better received than others — Whiteout, Surrogates, Watchmen — but we’re long past the days of movies based on comics being […]

 

»  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa
Copyright 2009-2014 Johanna Draper Carlson