I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Kon-Tiki

tn_kon-tikiKON-TIKI is light, well-constructed and direct, just like the raft it’s named after. It’s the true story of the Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl embarking on a dangerous raft trip to try to prove that ancient Polynesia could’ve been populated by South Americans. This was before American Idol and stuff so back then you would have to try to prove or discover things to get famous. And then instead of a reality show you would film an actual documentary about your adventures. They just didn’t know any better, you know? I’m sure if Jacques Cousteau had known about sex videos he would’ve just done that instead of winning an Oscar by having an ax fight with a school of sharks while Louis Malle filmed him.

Anyway, Thor here comes up with this theory while living on an island, and he wants to write about it, but all the publishers of scientific books and magazines (I’m calling you out, National Geographic!) laugh him off as an idiot. He comes up with the raft idea but still has trouble getting funding, ’cause this was before Kickstarter. He has to go around talking to people who often think he’s a crazy man. Which he kind of is I guess.

There is some humor, including when he goes to meet the president of Peru but doesn’t know what he looks like and keeps calling everybody else in the palace “Your excellency.” The money is slow coming but he does manage to put together a 5 man crew including some tough guy WWII vets and an engineer who looks just like Andy Richter who doesn’t really offer that much to the team but he really wanted to go and he seems like a nice guy and everything, so why not?

mp_kon-tikiThey meet a famous peg-legged explorer who advises them to always copy what the natives do, not use modern technology, because the natives have survived that way forever and they know what the fuck they’re doing. Thor takes this advice to heart in the building of the raft, though it has a pretty elaborate cabin, I kinda don’t think they were rollin with that much luxury back in the day. Also they bring radios and an inflatable raft (a raft within a raft!) And yes, he lets a guy with a film camera come to make a documentary (like Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube in ANACONDA), but that’s not really an exploring cheat, it’s not like it’s gonna make anything any easier.

When they leave on the trip it’s sunny and they’re laughing about the danger they’re putting themselves into. Ha ha. But this journey is supposed to take about 100 days. Inevitably they get into a storm, get off course, get mad at each other, worry that the boat is gonna sink or fall apart, question the mission, lose hope, almost give up, almost die. They are frequently harassed by sharks, and the shark FX and/or footage are really impressive, especially for a non-Hollywood movie. They don’t JAWS it, they show the sharks quite a bit and I assume they have to be mostly CG but they look and move like real animals, not your usual SyFy beasties.

The crew are all blond and grow beards and sometimes some of them are easy for me to mix up. But they have a convincing ruggedness, I believed they could do this. Maybe it’s ’cause they start looking like One Eye from VALHALLA RISING after a while. You don’t usually see this many strong silent types in one enclosed space.

As their reward for filming a movie on the water, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (MAX MANUS, BANDIDAS) get to do the next PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie. I guess it’s kind of like how Joe Dante did PIRANHA and then they wanted him for every water movie, including a JAWS spoof movie that never happened. Actually this one might not be a bad choice, you can see from this movie that they could at least handle the look and scope of the PIRATES pictures.

The documentary that the actual rafters made won the best documentary Oscar in 1951, and in 2012 this movie here was nominated for the best foreign language Oscar. Of course, that didn’t stop the Weinsteins from releasing it in the U.S. with a menu that defaults to a version where they dubbed it into English and cut it from 118 minutes to 95. [update: I am informed that it is not dubbed, they cut it from a separate version that was shot in English.] This was after the Oscar nomination and it only played on 3 screens anyway so there’s no pretense of trying to make it more commercial for stupid people. It’s like that one butler said, some men just want to watch the world burn.

If you just want to watch a harrowing raft trip though, watch the original cut. The crew of the Kon-Tiki were on a raft for 101 days, I think you and I can handle 118 minutes on a couch.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 at 2:47 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

25 Responses to “Kon-Tiki”

  1. I went to the Thor Heyerdahl museum in Oslo and it was amazing. Dude was a true hero, in my opinion, or, at least, did some pretty heroic shit more than once.

  2. Does anyone remember the Tiny Toons parody of the original documentary? Ah, Mango Juice!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbepxXKCVRA

    I swear I learned more about films, culture, and history from those 90s Warner Brothers cartoons than I did in school.

  3. Randy: I went to that museum too. Impressive stuff. I particularly liked the telegrams he sent out in trying to recruit men to his voyage. How can you turn down any adventure from a guy who signs off as “Thor”?

  4. Saw this on Netflix only because I was curious about the filmmakers after reading they were signed on for the next Disney PIRATES movie. Pretty great movie and I was absolutely floored by the realistic CGI, recreating animals no less! This is also the second thing I’ve seen Gustaf Skarsgård in (the other being the TV show VIKINGS) and he seems be stuck playing the lone weirdo who knows things others don’t.

  5. Actually the film wasn’t (entirely) dubbed, the scenes were shot twice, once in Norwegian and the second time in English. The Netflix was in English and I got pissed off because I thought it was dubbed until I looked it up on Wikipedia, so then I calmed down, ha. Still would love to see the Norwegian/uncut version though:

    “In an unusual technique, the film was shot simultaneously in both Norwegian and English, with each scene being filmed twice, first in Norwegian and then in English. This resulted in two versions of the film to be released, one primarily for the Norwegian domestic market, the other for an international audience. In a few cases, such as action scenes and computer-generated sequences, they used the same shot, later adding English with dubbing.”

  6. HOW MANY FUCKING SKARSGARDS ARE THERE LIKE I DON’T FEEL SHORT AND OUT OF SHAPE ENOUGH AS IT IS

  7. The Skarsgårds are the Baldwins of Sweden.

  8. Majestyk, Stellan has 8 children, and they’re all over 6,3, so the Skarsgård family will be mocking out shortcomings for years. I’m not a big fan of either this movie, or Heyerdahl, but Rønning and Sandberg are talented, that’s for sure. There was a huge debate about fiction versus reality here in Norway last year when the Watzinger family came out against the way the movie portrays Herman. Apparently he was tall and dark haired, and he never suggested using steel wires.

  9. You guys should know that Heyerdahl is open to a lot of criticism; many have called his ideas pseudoscientific and borderline racist. Basically, his whole deal is that certain elements of civilization had to be spread by one civilization to another; he discounts the idea of two cultures independently developing the same ideas. His journeys established that such cross-cultural pollination was *possible*, but there remains virtually no evidence to support it. It’s not much better than any given “aliens built the pyramids” theory, and about equally dismissive about the abilities of ancient civilizations (particularly non-European ones, it should be said). So we got a kinda 7 YEARS IN TIBET situation with KON-TOKI; what the guy did was indisputably awesome, but the reasons he did it are kind of uncomfortably whitewashed.

    See, for example, this article: http://scienceblogs.com/aardvarchaeology/2010/11/04/thor-heyerdahl-and-hyperdiffus/

  10. RBatty024 = holy shit, thank you for reminding me of that!

  11. Glad you liked that, Griff. Whenever I take a sip of something with Mango in it (which isn’t that often) I always say to myself, “Ah Mango liquid refreshment!” There was also a Ingmar Bergman parody on Animaniacs that completely went over my head at the time.

  12. Surprised you didn’t like this more, Vern. If it isn’t the very essence of “striving for excellence” I don’t know what is.

    For those of you who haven’t seen this, it has what I think is basically the single best movie shark scene EVER. I have NO idea how they pulled it off, because it sure seemed real to me.

  13. RBatty024 – those Spielberg produced cartoons were so great, I wonder why he totally stopped producing cartoons? (and video games)

  14. Griff – The cartoons that Spielberg, Warner Bros. and Paul Dini were putting out in the 90s are like nostalgia cat nip for me. I was also a huge fan of the Lucas Arts adventure games from around the same time. I believe The Dig was originally supposed to be a movie, before Spielberg decided to make it into a video game.

  15. RBatty024 – the 90’s was a damn golden age for animation, outside of the aforementioned Spielberg produced cartoons, you had Liquid Television on MTV, you had the Nicktoons, you had the shows on Cartoon Network, you had classic The Simpsons, you had the “Disney decade” films like THE LION KING and on the anime side you had all time classic films like GHOST IN THE SHELL and PRINCESS MONONOKE and all time classic series like NEON GENESIS EVANGELION and COWBOY BEBOP

    I thank the good Lord every day I got to be a kid in the 90’s, even if I’m now paying the price by being cursed to be a twenty something in the 2010s

    and speaking of Spielberg, he used to be more of a multimedia guy, producing not just cartoons but also a few video games like MEDAL OF HONOR, I wish he’d get into stuff like that more, I guess he still produces a few TV shows and movies that no one cares about, like SMASH and REAL STEEL though

  16. Griff, you’ve got to get off the 90’s dick. It’s worrying how much you are obsessed with that decade. A lot off cool stuff came out in the 90s, but the 2010s are awesome. Disney in the 90s had warthogs singing about farting or whatever but you know what’s better than that? Fucking Pixar. Everyone likes to bitch about how much better videogames were back in [whenever you were 12] but games these days are great. I’m playing through ASSASSIN’S CREED IV: BLACK FLAG right now… I would have cut off my mothers legs to play something like that back then. Now is full of win and awesome.

    And you know what pop culture medium sucked in the 90s? Comic books. I’ve got a longbox of terrible Liefeld comics to prove it. Completely ruined by “investors” and their double-bagged, foil-stamped variant-cover bullshit.

  17. it’s not just the 90’s though, I’m also obsessed with the 70’s and the 80’s, shit man, I’ve even found myself getting increasingly nostalgic for the 2000’s lately, basically any time period that’s not the 2010s, I hate this fucking decade, to be honest, I wish it was already over and yet we still have six years to go

    I don’t know how much of this is just personal feelings, but so many things from this decade seems designed to annoy the shit out of me on a personal level and make me feel worse, yes, this era has it’s perks, I’m using one right now and to be fair not EVERYTHING pop culture related sucks, I still like video games, I still like modern anime, but I find myself growing increasingly tired of modern movies (MAN OF STEEL was really the straw that broke the camel’s back for me) and the prospect of BATMAN VS SUPERMAN and AVATAR 2, 3, 4 and shit just make feel exhausted

    and then we have all the TV shows that people jizz themselves over, like BREAKING BAD, I’m just not a TV guy, it’s never been my bag, I don’t watch that stuff with rare exceptions and yet that’s what everyone obsesses over these days, I feel left out, like there’s a party I wasn’t invited to, we can’t have movies that everyone unanimously loves anymore no matter how good they may be, we can’t have video games that everyone unanimously loves anymore either, everything has to have negative comments and negative opinions, except TV shows, which are exempt from that, nobody disses BREAKING BAD, why?

    and finally, just try to watch shit like this http://www.vice.com/vice-special/apocalypse-man-part-2 and still have a positive opinion about the present day, I mean fuck, I try to be positive and have a positive attitude but everything about the modern day goes against that

    thanks for tolerating this rant, I need a drink….

  18. also, I like the irony of me having a smiling anime girl as my Gravatar and yet espousing such cynical thoughts, haha

  19. sometimes I feel like Sandra Bullock in DEMOLITION MAN, if you know what I mean

  20. Since the world stopped renewing itself in the 90’s why bother with bad remakes and/or copies from the present? My favorite movie period is 1965-75, but I can go as far as 1995. There’s nothing made today that’s better than the stuff they came up with back then. Nothing.

  21. So I’m the only one who thinks that 2012 was probably the best year of film in my lifetime, if not ever, then? Sigh.

    (Seriously… I saw sixty-seven films in the cinema that year, and disliked exactly two of them. I know this because I made a big-ass list.)

    Y’know, I have a relative who grew up during the French new wave, and it sometimes seems that every film he sees has to be compared to the films of that era, and probably negatively. And c’mon, I don’t doubt that there were some great films back then, but IT’S ALMOST SIXTY YEARS AGO. My point being, if you get yourself too trapped in nostalgia, you risk closing yourself off to what’s good about today.

    Plus, y’know, 2013 kinda sucked, especially for movies. (I saw thirty-something films, of which five and a third I had a largely negative reaction to. Also all the really good films didn’t even get released over here in the UK, or got put off until 2014. I’ve only just had the chance to see “Llewyn Davis” today.) Don’t let one bad year put you guys off.

  22. Nostalgia is fun, but I try not to wallow in it. For me the first half of the nineties is probably my nostalgia sweet spot, but there’s a ton of great movies being put out today. For a while I did have a theory that our current obsession with remakes and nostalgia comes out of 9/11 and the global recession. For Americans it has been well over a decade since the world seemed “normal” or “safe.” Culture aside, it’s a really terrible time out there for a lot of people. In this environment who wouldn’t spend a lot of time escaping into the past?

  23. by the way, Pixar has run into some trouble this decade, their last great film was TOY STORY 3, they’ve decided to cash in now with sequels (does the world really need a sequel to their most overrated movie FINDING NEMO?), so using them as an example of what’s good in the present day may not hold water

    I want to be clear though, it’s not just childhood nostalgia for me though, I have a lot of nostalgia for my teenage years as well, which is sometimes even stronger because I can remember my teenage years a lot better than I can my childhood years, basically the nostalgic cutoff point for me is when I turned 18 and things got complicated

    even the political situations of my teenage years don’t dissuade me from nostalgia, say what you will but at least the Bush years were clean cut and simple, you were either for the guy or against him, the Obama era is one of moral ambiguity, vagueness, murkiness and just plain weirdness, what are you supposed to believe anymore?

  24. I know Pixar is in a bit of a slump right now, but to say animation peaked in the 90s is stupid. Even the non-Pixar stuff is getting better all the time. I’ll take HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON over 90s Disney and all their singing animal bullshit any day of the week.

    Lots of people diss BREAKING BAD. Its flaws have been discussed on this very site. The reason almost everyone likes it is because it’s really fucking good. And I still think your animu shit counts as TV.

    Anyway, everyone knows the 70s is best decade for movies. That’s when the studios panicked and gave giant piles of money to insane people and said fuck it, do whatever you want. That’s never going to happen again.

    Griff, you are growing up and realising the world is a lot more complicated than you thought. Welcome to adulthood. Burrowing into nostalgia isn’t the answer. Go watch MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.

  25. I never said animation peaked in the 90’s, I just said it was a particularly strong decade for it

    and I know a lot of this is just me growing up, one of my new year’s resolutions for this year is to try to have more of a positive outlook on the modern day, I just don’t always succeed however….

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