By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
I was a weird kid. While most of my peers were busy with Starfox and The Simpsons, I was nose deep in the adventures of Heinrich Schliemann and Robinson Crusoe. Even above both of those, and a man who combined aspects of them both, was Thor Heyerdahl.
Like Schliemann, he had an interesting theory of history that nobody else believed, and the balls to go out and prove it himself. And like Crusoe, it would lead him on a South Sea trial of survival that would require all of the wits and inventiveness at his disposal.
Plus, there was a sweet parrot
Heyerdahl’s theory was that the population of Polynesia originally came from Peru, instead of Asia as originally thought. Since all the Peruvians would have been able to use were balsa wood rafts, nobody believed this trip was even possible. So Heyerdahl went and built such a raft himself, enlisted some inexperienced volunteers, and undertook the dangerous voyage himself. This film is a dramatization of what happened.
Kon-Tiki has much in common with fellow Oscar nominee Life of Pi. Both are tales of high adventure and survival that capture the beauty and danger of the Pacific. While Kon-Tiki certainly doesn’t have a Life of Pi budget, it is the most expensive Norwegian production ever, and every kroner shows up on screen. It’s full of beautiful shots and some of the best special effects work of the year, particularly in the thrilling shark sequence that rivals any I’ve ever seen.
Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg have already parlayed their nice work here into a Hollywood deal, and interesting stylistic touches like a black and white raft building montage echoing Heyerdahl’s 1950 Oscar-winning documentary of his trip show their talent. It would not surprise me if star Pal Sverre Hagen follows them to Tinseltown, as he combines good acting chops with some Norwegian Ryan Gosling-lite looks.
Don’t worry, Ryan. You’re still my #1
There’s another, less flattering reason why Ronning and Sandberg are perfect for Hollywood. Their storytelling is overwhelmingly conventional, hitting all the familiar beats and resorting to clichés like phones breaking up and help arriving in the nick of time to move the plot and create tension. Some moments, like Heyerdahl dragging his sick wife through the jungle to catch a boat that could saver her life, when it would have been faster, more efficient, but sadly less dramatic if he’d just run ahead alone and asked them to wait, are nearly laughable.
Spoilers, I guess
There’s nothing nearly laughable about a shark eating a parrot. It’s entirely laughable. As cool as the shark sequence was, it was way overblown compared to what really happened, and while Heyerdahl’s real parrot didn’t make it, it was lost in a storm, and certainly not Mega Shark’d.
Take a minute and watch this. I swear it’s worth your time.
While this account of the famed Kon-Tiki expedition is a bit on the conventional side, it’s still a beautiful, compelling story of high adventure.
Take a Drink: whenever someone doubts Heyerdahl
Take a Drink: whenever a new type of sea life is seen
Do a Shot: shark!! (you call it if you want to include whale sharks)