Moby Dick Goes Dragon

Herman Melville’s seminal American novel, Moby Dick, has always been a giant monster tale, particularly as depicted in what remains the best film version, the 1956 John Huston one starring Gregory Peck as the obsessed Captain Ahab. If you can’t quite grasp the connection between the Great White Whale and Godzilla just consider this:

[Moby Dick] is a period film, which follows the fortunes of a man so disillusioned with his life that he gets a job on a ship in order to fulfil an almost mystical attraction to the sea, only to discover that the ship’s captain is a man who has been crippled by a legendary giant monster and is determined that he and his crew will scour the world to find and destroy it. There are strange prophecies of doom, moments of weird supernatural insight, a strange alien character who comes to accept his own fate and that of the crew and thus miraculously creates a means for the main character to escape the general doom….

Other fantastical elements abound. It is as though the ship is being drawn into a different world as its dark destiny closes in around it. After a lengthy search, following the giant monster’s trail of death and destruction, the obsessed captain and his crew find themselves the target of the monster’s wrath. In a violent climax the monster destroys their boats and, by swimming around and around the main ship, creates a huge vortex that sucks it under the waves. Only the narrator escapes to tell the tale. (Daikaiju! Unnatural History)

Remember the obsessed Major Yuki in Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla [aka Gojira tai Supesu Gojira] (Japan-1994;  dir. Kensho Yamashita)? Remember how often Godzilla sinks naval vessels that come after him with malicious intent? There may be no city-trashing in Moby Dick, but there’s definitely a daikaiju ambiance. Moreover, you might recall that the name “Gojira” (Godzilla’s real Japanese moniker) is a combination of the Japanese words for “ape” and “whale”! In one scene of Huston’s Moby Dick, a crusty old seafarer comments: “If God wanted to be a fish, he’d be a whale, believe me, he’d be a whale!”

So how big a stretch is it to transfer Moby Dick to a fantasy setting and depict the Great White Whale as the Great White Dragon?

That is exactly what’s afoot with a new film starring Danny Glover as Captain Ahab — Dragon Fire (US-2010; dir. Ryan Little).


I have no idea where this film has been hiding, though the fact that it’s relatively low-budget, especially for a contemporary fantasy film, might have something to do with its relative obscurity. Word is the budget is about US$5 million — which wouldn’t pay for the sailors’ rags in your standard Hollywood blockbuster.

One thing that will certainly remain from the book, as it appears to be the new version’s key focus, is Ahab’s iconic — and ultimately destructive — obsession to hunt and destroy the beast. But the connections go further. Gil Aglaure, Executive Producer, commented on the film’s relationship to the Melville’s novel:

And we actually use their [the characters’] names exactly the same and there are lines that are directly extracted from the book. It’s Moby Dick with way more excitement, way more action.

What the SFX will be like is, at this point, an unknown factor — though from a recent news clip (see below), the dragon is being played by a rubbery puppet. I wouldn’t go judging its effectiveness in context from the raw news footage. I’m sure they’ll be tarting him up in post-production, no doubt enhancing the puppetry with CGI. Here he is waiting for his cue call:


Most people are wont to remember Glover, who’s been out of the scene for a while, for his part in the Lethal Weapon franchise. For me, it’s his role in my favourite Predator film, Predator 2, that defines him. Yes, I know it’s not a critical favourite, but for me it works nearly as well as Arnie’s originating epic and is more intriguing. So in this new indy Moby Dick Glover gets to go from fighting interstellar “dragons” to hunting a draconic incarnation of the Great White Whale. Sounds fair. He can give the sort of eccentric intensity to a “hero” role that is more than suitable for Ahab.

The film is set for release later this year.

  • Source: SlashFilm via Kaiju Search-Robot Avery
This entry was posted in Fantasy, Film, Giant Monsters, Independent film, News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Moby Dick Goes Dragon

  1. Avery says:

    Sounds great and that it’s actually coming to theaters is fantastic news! Can’t wait!

  2. Pingback: The Age of Dragons is Here! | Undead Backbrain

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