Skip to content


Last night we watched the movie version of Whiteout. I didn’t expect much from it, since I vaguely remembered it getting panned, but we bought it used for $1 at Blockbuster, and figured we had nothing to lose. Just a second, let me check on that…yes, it got panned. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 7%, which strikes me as rather harsh. It proved bad, but not that bad. A bland and stupid thriller set in and around the antarctic McMurdo research facility.

Which is a shame, because the comic book upon which it’s based is top-notch. More specifically, volume I is—there was a sequel that simply doesn’t stand up. Picture the opening page, divided into four narrow, horizontal panels featuring a plane slowly landing. A series of narrator’s boxes read, panel by panel, “Bottom of the world. Antarctica. The ice. No place to go but up.” Now turn the page. The next narrator’s box, reading “But when you hit bottom, you can always start digging,” is engulfed in a big, two-page splash. Someone in a parka kneels over a body half-buried in snow, while another person standing nearby in his own parka remarks, “Hell of a place to die, huh Marshal?” If you can see those first three pages without feeling the hooks sinking in, you have no soul.

Marshal Carrie Stetko has to solve the murder before the annual personnel change before the arrival of the antarctic winter, battling the ferocious elements as much as the killer. Also, she has to grapple with her own demons, the stigma of exile by the service to McMurdo for botching an earlier assignment, the stigma of being female in a very stag environment, and the currents of cross-purposes in the multinational environment, especially those of friendly (?) British agent Lily Sharpe. But it’s the ice that makes Whiteout special.

The movie makes a hash of the comic, freely mixing story elements from both original and sequel, adding elements of its own, ditching the parts that gave the comic its noir film feel, replacing butch and beleagured Carrie with dishy Kate Beckinsale (and a gratuitous strip-and-shower scene right up front), undercutting the cramped feel of McMurdo dorms with ludicrously large and lavish private quarters, and just generally pissing all over the source material. I can’t help but feel the bad reviews are fueled more by indignation at this disregard for the comic than by weaknesses of the movie itself.

When source material is a flawed gem, or merely flawed, there is every reason for a movie version to get all revisionist. The film version of Wanted turned a stinking pile of comic book crap into a passable popcorn-cruncher; the filmed stage version of I, Claudius turned an initially racy but eventually repetitive novel into something extraordinary. But when you start with something excellent, then by golly preserve that excellence, or just leave it alone.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *