The Water Horse
- The Water Horse redirects here. For other meanings see water horse.
|The Water Horse|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jay Russell|
|Produced by||Jay Russell
Barrie M. Osborne
|Screenplay by||Robert Nelson Jacobs|
|Based on||The Water Horse
by Dick King-Smith
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Editing by||Mark Warner|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||111 minutes|
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (known on-screen as simply The Water Horse) is a 2007 American-British family fantasy drama film directed by Jay Russell. The screenplay, written by Robert Nelson Jacobs, is an adaptation of Dick King-Smith's children's novel The Water Horse. It stars Alex Etel as a young boy who discovers a mysterious egg and cares for what hatches out of it: a "Water Horse" (loosely based on the Celtic water horse) which later becomes the fabled Loch Ness Monster. The film also stars Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, and David Morrissey.
The film was produced by Revolution Studios and Walden Media, in collaboration with Beacon Pictures, and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Visual effects, which included the computer-generated imagery of the water horse (named "Crusoe" by Etel's character) were completed by the New Zealand-based companies Weta Digital and Weta Workshop—visual effects companies who worked with Walden Media before on the productions of The Chronicles of Narnia films. The Water Horse was released in the United States on December 25, 2007 and in the United Kingdom on February 8, 2008.
In 1942 Scotland a boy called Angus MacMorrow lives in a large manor house on the shores of Loch Ness with his mother Anne (housekeeper), his sister, a cook, a maid and an old game keeper. Later they are joined by Lewis Mowbray, who comes to work as a handyman in the manor. Angus' father—a sailor in the Royal Navy—is missing since his ship has been sunk in the war. However, Angus is unable to accept that he may be dead.
One day, while looking for seashells in the tidepools (in the movie the loch is saltwater), he discovers what appears to be a large mysterious egg. He leaves it in his father's shed and returns later to check on it. An unknown creature hatches from it whom he calls 'Crusoe' after Robinson Crusoe, that becomes the fabled Loch Ness Monster. Angus keeps the creature a secret, but eventually tells his sister and (reluctantly) Lewis about it. Lewis explains to Angus that it is a "Water Horse" and that it could be a boy or a girl, that it lays one egg, then dies before it can see it hatch. The next day troops of the 12th Medium Regiment Royal Artillery arrive at the house. They are commanded by Captain Thomas Hamilton a friend of Lord Killin, the owner of the house who is serving with the Royal Air Force. An artillery battery is set up near the lake as defence against possible attacking or hiding German U-boats and the troops set up camp on the grounds of the house. An anti-submarine net is also raised at the mouth of the lake to prevent the possible entrance of German U-boats into the lake. one night, when the men are invited into the house for dinner, Crusoe roams freely "but unnoticed" around the house ,running into the cook's bulldog who starts chasing him, eventually into the dinning room were the dog is blamed for the mess. Meanwhile, Crusoe spends the night in a fountain feeding on the fish, were Lewis finds he has grown so big that he and Angus have no choice but to let him roam wild in the loch.
Captain Hamilton persuades Angus' mother to allow him to teach Angus some discipline and make a soldier out of him. She agrees but after a few days Angus escapes and returns to the lake where he left his friend. Crusoe lets Angus ride on its back. After some time, it begins to dive underwater, coming to the surface from time to time for breathing. Angus, having aquaphobia, loudly protests that it should stop diving, but later enjoys himself, perhaps even overcoming his phobia for the sea. The peaceful setting doesn't last long; Crusoe suffers from shock after almost getting hit by an exploding shot from "Victoria" (a cannon; originally meant to stop submarines) aimed at the lake during an interrupted firing demonstration.
Angus, who interrupts the demonstration by destroying the gun with a ball-shaped bomb to save Crusoe from getting killed, enrages Hamilton and upsets Angus' mother, who slaps him in the face and then sends him to his room for a month as punishment for destroying and causing destruction to Victoria.
Two people who previously saw Crusoe while fishing on the lake attempt to take a photo of it in order to become rich. When they realize that they won't be able to photograph the real thing due to the exploding part of the Victoria gun landing in the loch along with a ruined bullet, they decide to create an imitation, which results in the real-life faked picture of The Loch Ness Monster, also known as "The Surgeon's Photo".
The photo, however fake, piques the interest of a few soldiers who venture out on the lake at night to kill it. the same bulldog that chased Crusoe starts barking to locate him, at the edge of the loch ,Crusoe surfaces only this time he has the advantage in size. On the loch, no one can hear the dog barking any more "this could mean that Crusoe probably killed or ate his old rival" . The surprise attack proves futile for the soldiers, as Crusoe easily capsizes their boat. Angus attempts to calm Crusoe down and wades into the lake where he loses his footing and sinks. Crusoe comes to Angus' rescue and saves his life. After much coaxing from Angus, Crusoe decides to leave the loch for shelter and safety. However, new guns from the nearby Artillery battery open fire upon Crusoe, mistaking it for a German U-Boat. Crusoe attempts to jump over the anti-submarine net but instead crushes it with its weight and escapes from the lake, which also causes all their guns to blow up again. It is implied that Angus finally accepts that his father may never return home while he sees Crusoe's departure from afar, along with Lewis and his family. (The story ends with the fact that, while several people claim to have seen Crusoe over the years, Angus never saw it again and yet never doubts that it was real.)
After the story was told (it is revealed that the story teller is Angus himself), a mother calls out to her son, who is walking down the beach and spots a rock. The rock looks similar to the egg that the water horse, or 'Nessie' as known in modern times, had hatched from. The last thing that is heard in the film is a crack from the egg, hinting to the viewers that Crusoe has died, but not before leaving a descendant behind to be the next Nessie.
- Alex Etel as Angus MacMorrow
- Emily Watson as Anne MacMorrow
- Ben Chaplin as Lewis Mowbray
- David Morrissey as Captain Thomas Hamilton
- Priyanka Xi as Kirstie MacMorrow
- Craig Hall as Charlie MacMorrow
- Brian Cox as Old Angus
- Erroll Shand as Lt. Wormsley
- Joel Tobeck as Sgnt. Walker
Director Jay Russell first read Dick King-Smith's book years before the film was actually made. "With the technology where it was at the time and the cost of that technology, we couldn't get it made then," said Russell. "Technology needed to catch up. It did, and it allowed us to do things I envisioned without it costing $300 million."
Filming took place in 2006 in New Zealand, Scotland and at Miramar Studios in Wellington. Most of the film was shot in New Zealand, with Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu doubling for a Scottish Loch. The filmmakers found that some of the landscape and geography there was similar to Scotland. However Russell said, "There was no way I was going to make a movie about the Loch Ness monster and not shoot at least part of it in Scotland."
The scenes in and around the MacMorrow family's house were shot on the 100-year-old Ardkinglas Estate on the shores of Loch Fyne in Scotland. The owners of the estate continued to live in the house while the crew was filming there.
Visual effects on the film were handled by New Zealand visual effects specialists Weta Digital and Weta Workshop who mainly did Crusoe. Most of the roughly 600 effects shots in the film involved Crusoe. And many of those shots involved the creature (Crusoe) interacting with water, which, in terms of the history of computer graphics, has always been a particularly difficult substance to deal with. In terms of the design of the creature, Weta Digital tried to not humanize him but instead based some of his expressions on real animals such as a dog. "We wanted to create something which seemed familiar, but was unique at the same time," said Russell. "As a result, Crusoe’s face is a combination of a horse, a dog, an eagle and a giraffe." When creating his movements and body shape at various stages of growth, the animators referenced animals ranging from baby birds to seals to whales.
The Water Horse was formerly scheduled for two different release dates in North America: September 21, 2007 and December 7, 2007. No reason has been given as to why either date was dropped, but the film was released across 2,772 screens in the United States, Canada and Mexico on Christmas day of 2007. The MPAA rated the film PG for some action and peril, mild language and brief smoking.
A promotional poster for the film, featuring silhouettes of Etel's character and Crusoe on the loch, was seen as early as June 2006 during the New York Licensing Show alongside promotional art for the Disney Fairies and Kung Fu Panda. Another poster that features Etel's character with Crusoe on the loch during the daytime was released in October 2007.
Two teaser trailers were released in quick succession in June 2007. The first was a teaser created specifically for the Rock Ness Music Festival on June 9 and 10, but was leaked onto the internet and later pulled. A different trailer was released to Yahoo.com on 22 June 2007 and became the official teaser.
Internet promotion includes several different official different websites in the English (with individual websites for the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia), Spanish, French and Russian languages. They were launched by Sony in early November 2007 and feature photos, video clips, a video blog, games and information on the film's plot and production. Another website was created by the film's production companies, asecretthisbig.com, and is dedicated to the examination of the Loch Ness Monster's existence in reality. Additionally, the film has a YouTube account which features the video blogs from the official website, as well as additional video content.
Two sweepstakes were created for The Water Horse. The first, "See It To Believe It," awarded the winner with a family trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific. The second, "Unloch the Legend" awarded the winner with a family trip to Scotland.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics. As of December 26, 2007, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 73 percent of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 56 reviews, classifying the film as "Certified Fresh", reaching the consensus that "The Water Horse is a fine family film. It takes a classic tale and infuses it with extra imagination, sly humor, heart, and inventive special effects." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 73 out of 100, based on 16 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Pete Hammond of Maxim magazine gave the film 4 stars out of 5, saying "It's not only the perfect holiday movie, but perhaps the most wondrous film of its kind since E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial touched down." Hammond said the character Angus is "expertly played by Alex Etel," said the film was "skillfully directed by Jay Russell", and said the special effects were "stunning" and "rival the year's best." Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half stars out of four, complimenting the film's "real story about complex people" and the "first rate supporting performances" of Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin and Brian Cox.
The film does take some liberties with Scottish geography:
- The opening shot is of Eilean Donan Castle which is on the west coast of Scotland, some 35 miles west of Loch Ness.
- A panning shot past Urquhart Castle (which is on the shore of Loch Ness) reveals some large islands in the loch, but Loch Ness contains no such islands.
- The film plot has Loch Ness opening directly into the sea via a wide channel between high cliffs, making it a saltwater loch. In fact, Loch Ness is a freshwater loch with its surface some 80 ft above sea level, and is connected to the sea (about 5 miles to the north) by the shallow River Ness, which flows through the City of Inverness. For this reason, anti-submarine nets would not have been needed on Loch Ness, as no submarines would have been able to navigate the river, even if there had been important military targets in the loch (which there weren't); the actual operation of the anti-submarine nets shown in the film owes little to reality.
- During the underwater sections the Loch has fairly clear waters. In reality Loch Ness has very opaque waters, with visibility mostly being a lot less than 5m.
The film also has some chronological inconsistencies:
- The production of the "Surgeon's Photograph" of the monster is shown as part of the plot, though this photo was originally published in 1934. In the film, the "Surgeon" is unable to catch a photo of the actual monster, and instead rigs up a fake monster for purposes of the photograph.
- Angus has a toy ship which is clearly seen and is the SS United States – but this ship was not built until 1952.
Box office performance
The film was a moderate box office success and grossed about $9 million during its opening weekend. As of October 2010, the film has grossed a total of $103,071,443 worldwide due to gaining about $40.4 million in the United States and about $62.1 million in foreign countries, according to the website Box Office Mojo.
The DVD was released on April 8, 2008, selling 646,841 units in the opening weekend for a total of $12,678,084. As of 2012, 1,611,757 units had been sold for a total of $30,598,707.
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- Official website
- The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep at the Internet Movie Database
- The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep at allmovie
- The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep at Metacritic
- The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep at Box Office Mojo
- Interview with director Jay Russell about The Water Horse