Decade Reviews – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) – Reviewed 6/8/04 & 7/17/14

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A decade ago, I was a teenager in high school. I had my first job at my local movie theater and used my newfound disposable income to get a Netflix subscription.

Over the summer of 2004, 17/18 year old Matt wrote 21 movie reviews and posted them on IMDb. Recently, I dug up these reviews and decided to revisit each movie and evaluate how my tastes have changed over the last decade.

So for each of these posts, I will write a present-day review and then copy/paste the original review after. Then, I’ll compare the two and give a summary at the end. You can find all the reviews here, follow me on Twitter here and check out The Obsessive Viewer Podcast here. Now, lets talk about Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

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My 2014 Review

Master and Commander follows Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey as he sails the HMS Surprise around South America in pursuit of a French privateer ship during the Napoleonic Wars. The movie is based on Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series of novels that spanned 21 books and focused focuses on the friendship of Aubrey and the ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin (played in the movie by Paul Bettany).

master_and_commander-1I haven’t read my 2004 review yet, but I do have distinct memories of feeling bored by this movie. I went into this viewing expecting a different, more enjoyable, experience. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case. Master and Commander isn’t necessarily a bad movie. In fact, the scenes focusing on Jack and Stephen’s friendship feel like they belong in a much better movie.

The problem I have with this movie is the pacing and lack of time spent on the supporting actors who make up the crew of the ship. The story of Jack’s pursuit of the French ship takes interesting and somewhat dark turns that help give depth to the character. However, these segments are broken up by numerous subplots and unconnected scenes that unsuccessfully attempt to flesh out the characters that make up the crew.

310x229_master_and_commanderWhat’s left is a seafaring movie with negligible pacing and only two three-dimensional characters. The sea battles are impressive and well directed by Peter Weir but they are packaged between long stretches of character development that don’t serve the overall plot.

Since the movie is based on a series of books, I’m left wondering if its failings are due to an expectation of franchising. In any case, the finished product has its high points but feels incomplete and disjointed.

Obsessive Grade: Wait for Netflix Disc

Worth seeing, but you’ll survive waiting a couple days for the mail.

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My 2004 Review

This was nominated for Best Picture?

8 June 2004

Before I begin I want to let everyone know how I rate movies.

*-Watch it on Tv **-Worth a Rental ***-Buy Used DVD ****-Worthy of a Blind Buy

With that being said, I would like to share my thoughts on the 2003 Peter Weir film Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World. Like Matchstick Men, I didn’t find myself interested by the trailer for this film. I rented it because of it’s Best Picture nomination and after seeing it I do not know why it was nominated. I was not impressed by this movie and did not see what I assume many others saw. I found myself disinterested throughout the first hour of it and after a few events in the film I gained a slight bit more interested. However, I was still not impressed.

The action was surprisingly minimal. There are, I think, a total of 3 battle scenes and I found myself a little bored by them. The performances were all very good, Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany were both in top form. The scenes with Crowe and Bettany were the high point of the film. These two actors play well off of eachother, as they did in A Beautiful Mind. You really get the feeling while watching this that the two characters are good friends.

I admit, I have not read any of Patrick O’Brian’s novels so therefore I cannot compare the movie to it’s source. Overall I was disappointed. As I said before, I do not see why it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. I do not believe it was worthy enough for a nomination, however it certainly earned it’s oscar for Best Cinematography. I would have to give Master and Commander **. It is worth a rental but will not be joining the rest of my collection of DVDs.

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Summing Up: Then and Now

I don’t really like my writing in 2004. This review reads really rushed and robotic. I’ll probably say the same about my current reviews when I read them in ten years, though.

It looks like my opinion of Master and Commander hasn’t changed much with time and a second viewing. I think I got more out of my 2014 viewing of it, though. I doubt I’ll ever see it again. I forgot that it won an Oscar for Cinematography. Good for them.

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2 responses to “Decade Reviews – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) – Reviewed 6/8/04 & 7/17/14

  1. This was a lot better than I expected it to be. Poor Paul Bettany though. The guy continues to play second-fiddle to everyone and has yet to fully become a household name. The dude deserves it, but oh well. Good review.

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