Picks and Pans Review: The Bounty

UPDATED 05/14/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/14/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

When Anthony Hopkins whips off his wig as he enters a court inquiry at the start of The Bounty, you know you're in for a revision as well as a remake of the old high-seas tale. It's clearly neither the classic 1935 Charles Laughton-Clark Gable original of Mutiny on the Bounty nor the clunky 1962 Trevor Howard-Marlon Brando version. This film sports all the state-of-the-art accessories of a 1984 epic: stunning cinematography, a score by Vangelis and a feisty cameo by Laurence Olivier as the admiral heading the investigation into the mutiny aboard her majesty's ship. Robert (Dr. Zhivago) Bolt's screenplay also trades pomp for psychologizing. It views Captain Bligh as both right and self-righteous, and there's even a suggestion of unrealized homoerotic love between Bligh (Hopkins) and his pal-turned-nemesis Fletcher Christian, played by Mel (The Year of Living Dangerously) Gibson, who mobilizes the mutiny. Despite these innovations, Australian director Roger (Smash Palace) Donaldson doesn't make the most of the adventure. Saddling himself with a flashback structure, he telescopes crucial sections, such as the Tahitian idyll during which Gibson falls in love with the native chief's daughter. The movie never arouses much feeling, even though it's a story about passion. When the elderly Tahitian chief breaks into sobs as his daughter chooses to leave their island, the scene is as disruptive as it is moving: It shows how emotionally frostbitten the rest of the movie is. Hopkins does a fine job as Bligh; he at least delivers hints of the emotional content that Donaldson neglects. But Gibson is treated like a decorative object; while he's photographed to advantage, he's never permitted any of the bravura intensity Gable exhibited. The Bounty ends up a $20 million curiosity: It's competent, yet as a remake it never justifies the retelling.(R)

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