THE WATER HORSE
THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP
The Water Horse certainly obtained some good notices when it opened. It comes from a 1990 book by Dick Smith-King, who also wrote the original novel that became Babe (1995). For an American director, Jay Russell does an excellent job of capturing a sense of World War II period and the flavour of rural Scotland. The background scenes of the loch and surrounding areas are stunningly photographed, even if Scotland is represented by New Zealand for the better part. (Which does lead to some amusement in seeing a number of familiar Kiwi actors cast in supporting parts and attempting to wrestle with Scottish accents).
That said, one must quibble with a few pieces like David Morrisseys fears of Nazi submarines infiltrating the loch when in fact Loch Ness is landlocked and some 50 miles inland, or the films attempting to give the impression that the legend of Nessie only emerged in 1942, when claimed sightings of the monster have stretched all the way back to 565 A.D.. The photo of the monster, which is correctly cited as being the basis of the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster, was taken in 1933, nearly a decade before the films cited date of 1942. Furthermore, it was shown under detailed examination in the 1990s that the photo was a fake (which is something that the film acknowledges sort of). In addition, one finds it incredulous the film having two tourists turning up at Loch Ness and never having heard the legend of the monster when the entire regions tourist industry is based around cashing in on the monster.
The main problem with The Water Horse is that it falls into predictable patterns. The first half of the show seems to follow the same path as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) in the story of a young boy finding a fantastical creature, taking it home and having to keep it hidden from his mother. This director Jay Russell conducts reasonably well, even if most of the film seems assembled around a series of semi-comedic scenes where the water horse gets loose or needs to be concealed from one or other person. In these parts, The Water Horse is a likeable film it pulls some heartstrings but is not without charm and earnestness.
However, I feel that Jay Russell tended to lose track of things in the last half, which essentially ended up being run by the Weta Workshop. There are long extended scenes of Alex Etel swimming underwater, riding the creature as though it were an actual horse (which tend to go on for such protracted length that one wonders how the kid doesnt end up drowning) or of people being spooked by its full-sized appearance. The climactic scenes centre around a set of events that have been dramatically contrived in order to pump up a big drama about the water horse being hunted and shot at by navy ships. (The film does have a surprisingly anti-military theme throughout). The big climax feels like it is there because the film does not seem sure of where to go and so puts on a spectacle show. One cannot help but think the film would have worked far better had it aimed at achieving a more modest climax.
The Water Horse is one of the films from the new US-based family film producing combine Walden Media. Walden Media has so far been behind other films that include The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Charlottes Web (2006), Bridge to Terabithia (2007), Mr Magoriums Wonder Emporium (2007), The Seeker: The Dark is Rising (2007), City of Ember (2008), Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (2008), Nims Island (2008), Tooth Fairy (2010), The Giver (2014), A Dogs Purpose (2017) and The Star (2017).
The Water Horse is directed by Jay Russell, who had previously made films like My Dog Skip (2000) and Ladder 49 (2004), as well as the Disney fantasy film Tuck Everlasting (2002).