Whiteout (2009 Film)

Posted: February 26, 2018 in Baer
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I doubt that many people remember the film Whiteout. Of those, significantly less probably realize that it was based on a comic book. Luckily, Brian C. Baer is here to remind us of these things. Enjoy!

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Dominic Sena’s adaptation of the Oni Press series Whiteout premiered and then was pulled from theaters with barely a whimper. This wasn’t much of a surprise, though. It was clear the studio suits didn’t have much faith in the project, between the reshoots by Stuart Baird (Star Trek: Nemesis) and Len Wiseman (Underworld), the two-year delay between wrap and release, and the changes made to Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber’s source material.

Whiteout tells the tale of Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), a US Marshal wracked with PTSD, unraveling the mystery behind the first murder in Antarctica. With a massive winter storm incoming, she traces the victim, and the masked killer who attacks her, to a crashed Soviet plane and its 50-year old cargo.

woThe by-the-numbers whodunnit isn’t given much room to shine beyond its setting. The tension is hit and miss, the direction is bland, and critics rightfully drubbed it for a climax that’s nearly impossible to follow. The CGI wasn’t great in 2009, and it doesn’t look any better today. Still, Tom Skerritt turns in a typically wonderful supporting performance and there are a few squirm-inducing moments when Stetko loses two fingers to hypothermia.

When released in 1998, the comic series won a few awards and was immediately taken up by Hollywood. It made the rounds through a few studios, nearly being made in 2004 with Reese Witherspoon, before it ended up at Dark Castle Entertainment with Warner Bros. set to distribute. But at no time in this long preproduction had the script ever included two female leads, as the comic had.

wh2Since the first draft, the screenplay had replaced British special agent Lily Sharpe with Robert Pryce, a UN security agent. In the finished film, he is played by Gabriel Macht (whom you may remember as the Spirit in Frank Miller’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit). It’s not that Macht does a bad job, but another male pseudo-love interest replacing a unique female pseudo-love interest doesn’t do much to freshen up the standard thriller formula.

And then there’s the shower scene. Even counting the five-minute opening Cold War flashback, Whiteout rushes to get Kate Beckinsale undressed before the ten-minute mark. In interviews, producer Joel Silver admitted this was “gratuitous” in nature. “Sometimes,” Beckinsale added with a shrug, “you do what you’re told.”

While Rucka seems fine with the movie’s changes overall, he has gone on record as stating this version of Stetko isn’t as tough as the one he wrote. While Beckinsale was best known as an action star in 2009, these filmmakers still seemed uncertain about making her too competent or formidable. The shower scene didn’t help.

It’s easy to look back on a film like Whiteout and point out what should’ve been done. Even if the plot broke no new ground, a stronger heroine or two female leads would have won it more praise. Maybe if someone else had been cast, the character of Stetko would’ve seemed stronger. Maybe if there was no shower scene, any actress would’ve seemed stronger. But still, in 2007, no studio would’ve gone for a thriller with no strong, visible male character. In 2007, this movie likely couldn’t have been made without Kate Beckinsale attached. And then, only if she had a shower scene. And only if it happens in the first reel.
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