A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty, where Marlon Brando portrays Fletcher Christian, the reluctant and ambivalent leader of the mutineers. There are some violent scenes -- sailors are flogged, chained, and keel-hauled. There is also some tame sexual innuendo as the sailors learn of the Tahitian island women's attitudes towards lovemaking. At nearly three hours, the length might stretch the patience and attention spans of younger viewers, but then again, this is a glorious version of this immortal story with actors at the peak of their craft, and the excitement and drama in each scene only lets up during the intermission.
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What's the story?
The HMS Bounty has been sent to set sail from England to Tahiti, where her sailors will collect breadfruit to be taken to Jamaica, where the East India Tea Company will cultivate the breadfruit to feed their slaves. The Bounty's captain is William Bligh (Trevor Howard), who soon reveals himself to be a merciless tyrant. His first lieutenant, Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando), tries to maintain a stoic sense of duty to ship and country, but finds this to be increasingly difficult as Bligh inflicts cruelty after cruelty on his crew. After five relatively relaxing months in Tahiti waiting for the breadfruit to be in its growing season, the Bounty disembarks for Jamaica. Bligh inflicts additional cruelties; when he learns the breadfruit need more water than normal to survive the trip, he rations the sailors' water supply to almost nothing. Driven to near madness, exhaustion, and death, Christian eventually sees no alternative but to lead a mutiny against Captain Bligh, and as leader of the mutinied ship, Christian learns that, no matter how justified the insurrection, he and his men are now without a country, and no safe port.
Is it any good?
This is an unforgettable story, brought to life by unforgettable actors. As portrayed by Marlon Brando, Fletcher Christian is a doomed figure, a reluctant and ambivalent man pushed to mutiny after all potentially saner and safer options have been exhausted through the tyranny of Captain Bligh. As portrayed by Trevor Howard, Captain William Bligh is a leader blind to everything but the mission for which they have set sail, a leader who believes his rank protects him from the harsh treatment and suffering he inflicts on his sailors. Together and separate, the magic these two master actors bring to this version of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is a truly memorable experience to behold.
While not the most historically accurate rendering of this legendary story, and in spite of some rather dated, almost stereotypical portrayals of Tahitian islanders (though certainly sympathetic, especially for the time the film was made), the deeper story, and the deep internal conflict Brando brings to the role of Christian, carry the day. It's nearly three hours long, but except for the intermission, the action and tension do not let up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about cinematic interpretations. What do you think are the challenges in making a movie based on a historical event that has also become the stuff of legend?
How accurately do you think the film portrays the cultural differences between the sailors and the Tahitian islanders?
In terms of historical accuracy, this film is seen as being inaccurate in crucial moments. Why do you think some artists sacrifice accuracy for moments that might heighten the drama and the story?
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