Having read In the Heart of the Sea several times, I was actually pretty excited when I heard this movie was being made. This seemed like one of the few times that a "true story Hollywood won't make because no one will believe it" was actually going to be made. Even better, I didn't see how they could screw this up- sure, they'd probably fudge some facts a little, and combined some events or people, but that has to happen (and some is expected) in order to make a watchable movie.
Well, they managed to screw it up... Completely fabricated/changed large amounts of the story, changed the character of the people, and virtually ignored the harder aspects (I assume so people wouldn't be offended).
Some of the bigger issues:
- Melville "based" Moby Dick in part on Owen Chase's published account of the story. Thomas Nickerson's account was not published until
1984, and there is no evidence Melville ever talked to him
- Pollard was indeed a first time captain, and actually gave Owen Chase a fair amount of input on the running of the ship- completely opposite of
the movie's representations
- To (hopefully) no one's surprise, the whale did not pursue them across the Pacific following the wreck
- Chase did not send a boat back to the island (incorrectly identified), the three men were found almost a year after the Essex sank. Matthew
Joy died at sea in Chase's boat.
- 4 of the men were cannibalized, Owen Coffin drew the mark to be killed, and Pollard offered to protect him, which Coffin refused. (ironically,
Pollard had decided to make for South America, instead of the closer Marquesas, but allowed Chase and others to overrule him due to a fear
the islands may have cannibals)
- Owen Chase continued whaling for a further 19 years, 1 more trip as a first mate, the rest as captain, he did not go to sea as a merchant
- Pollard was not bent on pursuing the whale that sank the Essex, despite what the movie claims. He did however serve as captain for one
voyage on a merchant vessel, before leaving the sea to become Nantucket's night watchman.