Whaling film 'In the Heart of the Sea' becomes 'The Battle with the White Whale' for Japanese release

By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

As one of the most celebrated directors of modern cinema, movie fans across Japan are no doubt looking forward to Ron Howard’s upcoming epic, "The Battle with the White Whale."

Wait, what?

As we’ve talked about before, Japan’s highly developed movie market isn’t shy about localizing foreign films that are coming into the country. We’ve seen heavily reworked posters for films like "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Birdman." Giving films a new, Japanese name that’s either catchier in the opinion of locals or more evocative than the English original is also a time-honored tradition, which has been carried on by this year’s gritty action hit "Mad Max: Death Road of Anger," as Japanese audiences know it.

Howard’s soon-to-be-released "In the Heart of the Sea" checks off both of these boxes, with a new poster and a new title for Japan. Based on the novel of the same name, "In the Heart of the Sea" is based on the true story of the 19th century whaling ship Essex, which was struck and sunk by a gigantic sperm whale, an event which in turn is said to have been the inspiration for author Herman Melville’s novel "Moby-Dick."

In the U.S., the film is being promoted with the poster at the left of the photo above. It shows a whaler, apparently having fallen overboard, suddenly coming face-to-face with his enormous quarry. The undersea setting, startling contrast in size between the adversaries, and the mysterious yet intelligent expression of the whale all serve to show that this man is no longer in a place where he holds dominion, and that perhaps any superiority he has ever felt over nature’s other creatures was nothing more than a foolish delusion.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the movie looks more like a remake of "Free Willy" staring Thor and three of his blond buds. Maybe the Asgardian prince is out sailing the world on a search for more cool places to take a bath like he did in the "Avengers" sequel?

But the poster’s text points to more ominous events than a relaxing soak in the tub.

"The shocking true story of Moby Dick, which has been kept secret until now. A desperate struggle with the legendary white whale. The final decision these men had to make in order to survive.

From Ron Howard, director of 'Apollo 13' and 'A Beautiful Mind.'"


Opens Saturday, January 16

We’re not sure why the movie claims that the story of the Essex has been “kept secret until now,” seeing as how the ship sank in 1820 and the crew’s story has been the subject of at least three books, with the first account published all the way back in 1821. It also seems a shame to toss out the haunting artwork of the whale’s eye, but the mentally advanced marine mammals don’t enjoy quite the same exalted status in Japan that they do in most English-speaking countries.

Still, movies that put their good-looking leads at the vanguard of their marketing blitz consistently do good box office numbers in Japan, so we really can’t blame distributor Warner Brothers for going with “close-up of ruggedly handsome protagonist” instead of “long-distance shot of some dude’s butt and a giant blue eye.”

_Source: Twitter/@manateapot

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Moby Drink: Iceland creates a beer made with endangered whale bones, can’t sell it -- How do people in Japan feel about eating whale? We asked five people for their opinions -- New video shows the link between the Force and Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces

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Asymmetric warfare 0: nature 1.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

RN24: “long-distance shot of some dude’s butt and a giant blue eye.”

Maybe Japanese moviegoers are more discerning?

If the "dude" was right up AGAINST the whale, the whale's eye would be the same width as the dude's armspan, about 5 feet (1.5 m).

But the dude is AWAY from the whale, making the whale's eye 7 or 10 feet (2 or 3 m), or wider.

Blue whale's eye diameter is reported at this link as 150 mm, about 10 times smaller than the apparent width in the poster, if they guy was right up against the eyeball.


Blue whale eye diameter: 150 mm

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Lost in translation, that's all. At least the movie wasn't banned or the dialog rewritten or edited. This movie will change Japanese attitudes to whales! Watch.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The real story of this event is, as they point out, quite amazing. By the end the survivors not only had to resort to cannibalism, but they drew lots to decide who would be the next person to be shot and used for food for the remaining survivors.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan always does this, sometimes to the point of renaming things so it looks like a sequel or is similar to very different movies, like when every single cheap horror flick took on the same cover, with the same font, as "Saw" (giving them movies one-word, similar titles to boot), or when disaster movies all took on the Armageddon cover, current horror movies all taking on George Romero covers with the zombie boom, and others taking on the familiar Star-Wars-like show the cast from forefront to background style.

At least they chose to make the title in Japanese this time, and not just changed it to a different name while still using Katakana-English. Total props for that.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I honestly don't see the problem with the title...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thats why Japan whale industry wanted to hunt more whales for research purpose.this movie will encourage them for further 'research' and seek out legendary MobyDick to prove we as human, is supreme being on earth. Good.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

spoiler alert: at the end the whalers harpoon it, drag it aboard chop it up ready for the freezers. THE END

2 ( +3 / -1 )

hunting whales is good for the japanese economy, says abe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

a whaler, apparently having fallen overboard, suddenly coming face-to-face with his enormous quarry.

The whaler may or not be quarry but the whale certainly is not quarry.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wtfjapan, is that a joke, or a genuine spoiler?

They showed an old b&w version of Moby Dick the other night on J TV, obviously as a warm-up for the arrival of this flick.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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