Brief Thoughts: Kon Tiki

Kon-Tiki:  3 out of 5

I honestly wish I could delve deeper into certain movies, but alas, I get incredibly busy and can only deal with certain movies to a briefer extent than I would like sometimes.  This is why I write these occasional "brief thoughts" posts on movies I have seen, as I want to at least offer some of my own perspective on them.

Kon-Tiki is a film based on a true story, which was already depicted on film in the 1950, Academy Award-winning documentary of the same name, Kon-Tiki.  This new film is a historical drama that tells the story of how adventurer Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) set out to prove his theory that people from South America could have settled the Polynesian islands in pre-Columbian times.  He does so by finding a crew of fellow Scandinavians willing to go on a daring journey on a balsawood raft, constructed exactly as these people would have done in the past.  Once at sea, the crew face various obstacles, which includes the weather and various predators of the sea, which is made more difficult by the fact that they are only working with equipment that would have existed in the past as well, as far as sailing the seas goes.

I really wanted to enjoy this film more than I actually ended up doing.  Being one of the nominees for Best Foreign Film at the 85th Academy Awards and producing a fairly compelling trailer that really had me excited for the movie, I can chalk it up to expectations not quite being met, but at the same time, I believe Kon-Tiki has some obvious issues.  It mainly comes down to the characters.  Once we get to sea, they are almost all fairly bland individuals.  There is maybe a trait or two to separate a couple of them, but for the most part, I didn't really engage with these people that are a part of a harrowing journey.  This especially goes for the lead character, Thor, who ends up coming off as quite bland overall.

To its credit, Kon-Tiki is a gorgeous film, thanks to both its strong cinematography and visual effects by the company Rhythm & Hues, the team also responsible for Life of Pi (who nabbed an Academy Award for their effects work on that film, which also relied heavily on a great and beautiful depiction of life at sea).  Kon-Tiki is happy to show off the boat, the seas, and the various creatures and obstacles the crew comes into contact with and those moments tend to be quite thrilling in the kind of way that has you gripped into the moment, regardless of what actually happened and what is being dramatized.  That is the aspect that makes this film worth a viewing overall, even if I am more curious as to what the 1950 documentary is like, given that it was actually shot by the crew, in the moment.

I wanted to enjoy Kon-Tiki more, but the film felt like a merely average representation of an interesting story.  The characters are too thin to make it more of an engaging feature and the fact that not enough really happened on this journey to make more of a big deal out of this feature ends up detracting from the film.  It is no one's fault that adding a shark attack every so often to keep one engaged was necessary, but there just was not a whole lot more for me to sink my teeth into.  It is certainly a gorgeous film, with enough moments to make it worth a look, just not any better.

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at


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