Speed Reads

Don't call me Ishmael

Watch Chris Hemsworth battle whales, madness, and the elements in Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea trailer

Watch Chris Hemsworth battle whales, madness, and the elements in Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea trailer

Ahab and Ishmael these men are not. But Ron Howard's forthcoming whaling epic, In the Heart of the Sea, tells the far more horrifying, real-life whaling adventure that inspired Herman Melville's 1851 novel, Moby Dick.

And oh, what an uplifting tale it is. A crew led by captain George Pollard, Jr. (played by Benjamin Walker) and First Mate Owen Chase (a deliciously ruddy Chris Hemsworth) set out in the whale ship Essex from Massachusetts in August 1819.

While sailing through the Pacific Ocean more than a year later, the ship is attacked by a sperm whale and sinks. The men attempt to sail to South American in whale boats only to fall victim to starvation and dehydration. The few survivors who had floated adrift for months are rescued in February 1821.

The eponymous book by Nathaniel Philbrick, published in 2000, used written accounts from Chase and a teenage cabin boy named Thomas Nickerson (played by Tom Holland in the film).

Howard's version of those events as seen in the trailer promises the kind of heart-pounding suspense only a battle between man and a merciless Mother Nature can provide — a massive ship snaps in half like a twig, screaming men are swallowed whole by the sea, an endless black horizon is dotted by the fiery remains of the crew's one-time home.

And as for the whale? It's not white, but its bus-sized tail whipping off the crest of a wave will instill an anxiety rivaled only by a certain great white shark that leapt out of the movie-set waters nearly 40 years ago.

Ready, sailor? Watch a trailer for In the Heart of the Sea, out March 2015, below. --Lauren Hansen