Throwback Thursday Review of “The Bounty” (1984)
Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Run time: 132 minutes
This review is a first for me. Normally, I try to make my “Throwback Thursday” reviews personal ones. Taking movies that I loved as a child (or young adult), re-watching them, and writing about whether or not the nostalgia factor is enough for the movie to hold up is fun. Sometimes, it’s even better because the nostalgia is there, but the movie is actually still great and I get to rave about it. With “The Bounty”, the 1984 re-imagination of “Mutiny On the Bounty”, I decided to choose a movie that, although it was a great film from the past, I had never seen. With no fond memories of me and my friends (or family) watching it countless times on VHS, I had to hope the movie was actually as good as people have said it is since it’s release. I was not disappointed!
Imagine a sprawling epic, based on an infamous tale, starring Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson! Oh… Did I mention that it was also written by Robert Bolt, the same Robert Bolt who wrote the screenplays for both “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia”? That epic film is “The Bounty”, and it is every bit as great as you would hope after reading those names.
The story of the H.M.S. Bounty had been adapted for the big screen before. Once in 1935 and again in 1962. Like the 1984 version, the prior two had also featured Hollywood icons in the lead roles. William Bligh and Fletcher Christian had been portrayed by the likes of Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Marlon Brando, and Trevor Howard. Director Roger Donaldson got the pleasure of having the two friends turned enemies played by Hopkins and Gibson. The two are both very good in their respective roles, but it is Hopkins as Bligh that truly lifts the film and communicates the anger between the two men.
Hopkins’ portrayal of the much-hated captain is a more sympathetic one than say that of Charles Laughton. Hopkins’ version really isn’t that bad of a guy. He is just obsessed with his image and the prospect of dangerously circling the Cape of Good Horn. What really causes the mutiny though is that his crew, once in the arms of exotic, beautiful (and very, very naked) women and living it up in a Tahitian paradise, doesn’t want to go back to the reality of their duty as seamen on a royal ship.
The more Bligh insists that they continue their voyage and leave the island behind, the more the men despise him for trying to put an end to their newfound, blissful lives. This is highlighted in Gibson’s Mr. Christian, who can’t come to grips with the idea of leaving his newly pregnant lover for the harsh life at sea that he signed up for. Well, something’s gotta give, hence the “Mutiny” part of the previous titles. The only wish I had, at the end of the movie, is that they had continued the story further and showed what happened to the crew after they landed on Pitcairn Island. Oh well… maybe we will get that version next time the story is adapted (which should be soon if current trends in Hollywood continue).