Whiteout: Worth the Price of (Matinee) Admission
Posted September 12, 2009on:
Greg Rucka’s Antarctican whodunnit, Whiteout, hit theaters this weekend after nearly 10 years in development. I considered re-reading the books again before seeing the flick, but I opted not to. When I see a movie based on a comic (or even a normal book) I like, I try to put some distance between seeing the film and reading the book to avoid getting jolted out of the movie adaptation every ten minutes because “it SO didn’t happen that way in the book!”
I’m reviewing this movie without my books for reference, and I haven’t read the book in a while. And while I may not remember exact plot points anymore, I remember Carrie Stetko (I love Carrie Stetko!). Besides, I’d rather judge the film on its own merits rather than posting up a side by side comparison of the book and movie.
Whiteout was a B-/C+ movie with occasional A+ moments, but let’s start with my complaints. Gratuitous shower scene in the beginning? Didn’t like it. In the book (whoops, here I go) – the showers were limited to something like 2 minutes, so taking one was kind of a big deal. In the movie, there’s no sign of a timer. The whole scene is just an excuse for us to watch Kate Beckinsale bend over in her skivvies. Sigh. I guess you gotta get people in the door, right?
Maybe director Dominic Sena thinks I’m stupid. Maybe he thought your average, not-a-comics-fan moviegoer wouldn’t get the intricacies of the mystery US Marshal Carrie Steko finds herself unravelling. He repeatedly takes plot points and beats you over the head with them, zooming in, you know, in case you didn’t know Marshal Carrie was GETTIN’ HER GUN OH EM GEE. He calms down for most of the second half of the the film, but his direction for the first half was just plain annoying.
They swapped out a female supporting character for a male one and the result was pretty much nil, plot-wise. In fact, they might have done well to have left the gender well enough alone – we all know Greg Rucka knows damn well what he’s doing when it comes to creating engaging female characters.
Whiteout isn’t so much an action move with big jackets as it is a Western with ice instead of cacti. I was weary of the waifish Kate Beckinsale in the role of tough-ass Marshal Carrie Stetko. She’s way, way too tiny, but by the last scene Kate’s done a pretty decent job of getting into Carrie’s head. Really though, the movie is at its best when it remembers the ice is bigger than any of these people, and shows you just how dangerous it is to be on Antarctica (yes, on, not in) when life is business as usual, much less on Antarctica with a killer loose. Carrie was more at odds with the ice than she was with the Bad Guys anyway.
This is a great matinee flick. Go in expecting to see what happens to human bodies when they die in Antarctica. Go to see a fight scene in the middle of an Antarctican snow storm. Go to see a good little whodunnit caper that’s much more interesting than most thanks to its unique setting. Have some popcorn, have some fun – but please don’t expect this movie to be more than what it is.
And then go home and re-read Whiteout. Or read it for the first time. The book is (as always) waaay better than the movie.