War Movie Watchalong – Master & Commander

This is the first time I’m doing a watchalong and I’m quite excited. The first pick was Master & Commander and we watched it before and are now posting the answers to the questions today.

How did you like the movie?

I have seen Master & Commander before and always liked it. The story is suspenseful, the characters are interesting and what is even more important to me, the cinematography is stunning. It is one of those movies you can re-watch and you will see it in a different way every time.

Is Aubrey a good Captain?

I think this depends on how you define a good Captain. He certainly is a very charismatic Captain and his people would do everything for him. He is also said to be very lucky and since seamen seem to be a very superstitious lot, it’s good for him to be considered lucky. This assures their respect. But apart from being charismatic and lucky, he is adept and very cunning.

Who is your favourite character and why?

I’d say, it’s the young boy, Blakeney who looses an arm but stays so brave and poised. The boy is very intelligent and learns a great deal as well from the Captain  as from the doctor. I liked how he is able to pick the best from every one and make the best out of every situation.

Cpt Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin, the surgeon are very different. How did you like their friendship?  Is it plausible?

They are perfect contrasts and they make each other’s characters shine because they are so different. I did however not always think it all that plausible. The discussions yes, I can see that you can be very different and still have a great friendship, great discussions but I would doubt a man like the Captain would enjoy to play music with the doctor.

Aubrey and Maturin disagree on the responsibilities of a ship’s captain.  Who is right?

I do belive that in general Aubrey is right. He is a very capable Captain, he knows his business but in this particular instance, he isn’t following his own principles anymore. He has become a fanatic, drive by his ego. Maturin, rightly tries to reason with him but to no avail.

What did you think of the way the French are depicted?

They are shown to be the aggressor and very sneaky too. But, as the end shows, they are also very cunning. I didn’t have too big a problem with that. The French are shown as negative but not as stupid, on the very contrary, it’s because they are so cunning that Captain Aubrey feels challenged.

The story of the Jonah is quite intriguing, What did you think of it?

Seaman are said to be superstitious and it isn’t surprising. Life on a ship is hard and you are constantly exposed, to your enemies, the weather conditions, nature… It’s a precarious life. As much as they believe in luck, they believe in bad luck. The story of the Jonah is a means to explain why they are running out of luck. They try to catalyze the tensions and pick a scapegoat. It’s very unfair and shows how easily the seamen believe in tales. I thought it was very uncanny.

What was more important – getting the enemy or collecting scientific samples?

That depends on the point of view but I would say, the mission was over and they could have dedicated their time to collecting samples. They were not told to follow the French to the end of the world.

Was it ethical to disguise the Surprise as a civilian ship?

It was a fantastic idea but I think, no, it wasn’t ethical. It served its purpose. I was wondering if something like that could have happened. Were there rules of warfare? I don’t know.

Did you think the ending was satisfying?

I have, as I said, already watched the movie before but had completely forgotten the ending. I was surprised to see that it ended like this. It was satisfying because it showed how clever the enemy was but there is no proper end to the story. I’m meanwhile surprised they didn’t make a sequel  but I’m glad they didn’t. Those sequels often water down a orginal idea. The end also showed that the French Captain was as obsessed as Aubrey himself. These are two worthy opponents.

Here are the links to the answers of others

Novroz (Polychrome Interest)


15 thoughts on “War Movie Watchalong – Master & Commander

  1. […] You can see the post about the questions here and the answer by Caroline here. […]

  2. Novroz says:

    The first think I realized from reading your answer is that I forgot that Jonah question!! ow well. yeah seaman really superstitious,even in Manga (one piece), they have superstitious.

    I think collecting samples is Marutin’s hobby, Aubrey has no obligation to do it. Yes,he wasn’t told to follow the ship but he wasn’t told to collect samples either…his instinct as a fighter made him chase the ship instead of collecting samples.

    Blakeney is my second favorite character (oddly I will never favorite the captain).

    • I liked the Jonah story a lot, I found it gave the whle movie an additional dimension.
      No, they didn’t have to collect samples but it still seemed more reasonable than chasing a ship across the ocean.
      I’m not sure who would be my second favourite character. I do like the Captain though, I guess more than the doctor.

  3. TBM says:

    Hello! Like you I love this movie. I saw it when it first came out and since then I’ve watched it a couple of times. A couple of years ago I read the novel. I think this tainted my view of the captain. The novel made him seem a little more obsessive. Due to this, I don’t know if I think he is a good captain. I think he becomes too interested in not only capturing the French ship for the the war effort, he also becomes crazed with the desire to take the ship as a prize and make money. I did enjoy seeing the friendship blossom between the the Captain and the doctor. From what I heard, the rest of the series builds on this friendship.

    However, I don’t think that getting scientific samples takes precedence over the war effort. That is one thing I enjoy about their friendship, like a good marriage they balance each other out and at the end of the day they work together.

    I felt that the French weren’t depicted enough in the movie to get a good sense of them as an enemy. The captain’s move at the end did seem like a brilliant move to stay alive, but I felt it was also cowardly. That, however, is coming from someone who has never fought in a war so I don’t know what I would do in his place.

    • Is it only one novel? I thought it was a whole series.
      They are a bit like a couple, you are right. Aubrey is obsessed but i think the French captain is as well. We do not see all that much of the French but you can’t say the depiction s negative. I didn’t think what the French captain did was cowardly, it was like disguising the ship as a Civilian ship.
      You could call that cowardly as well. I think, given the circumstances it was rather wise, from both sides.
      In any case this is a movie that grows on me. It’s beautiful and suspenseful.

      • TBM says:

        Yes it is a series. I’m not sure how many novels are in the series and I’ve only read the first in the series. I did enjoy the first one and I hope to eventually read the entire series. Good point that both captains deceived the other. I didn’t see it that way at first, but now you having me thinking.

      • I even think what Aubrey did was worse. Total deception.

  4. warmoviebuff says:

    • How did you like the movie?
    It is a great movie. Other than the appropriate lack of female characters, it has something for everyone. Great battle scenes, great acting, period atmosphere, special effects, plot, etc. Peter Weir’s effort in making this movie was nothing short of amazing. I really appreciate the attention to detail. Having read a lot on Napoleonic Warfare at sea, I can vouch for the realism of the film.
    • Is Aubrey a good Captain?
    He is a great captain in his charismatic leadership, but his decision making is a bit questionable. All British captains were dictators so he could do anything he wanted and he decided to follow his “white whale” regardless of the consequences.
    • Who is your favourite character and why?
    I liked the Doctor because he is an intellectual like myself. He stands up to the very formidable Aubrey. He is the only civilian on a ship of sailors, most of whom are beneath him intellectually. I can relate to that as a teacher LOL.
    • Cpt Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin, the surgeon are very different. How did you like their friendship? Is it plausible?
    It works for me. They respect each other and handle their disagreements like gentlemen. It is plausible in that there are such friendships in real life, but they are very rare. I loved the fact that Aubrey ended the quest to save his friends life and then Maturin abandoned his specimens to help his friend’s quest. I agree with your mentioning of the captain playing music, but it is integral to the book series and not impossible since Captains came from the upper class and might well play an instrument (having been forced to learn as a child).
    • Aubrey and Maturin disagree on the responsibilities of a ship’s captain. Who is right?
    I side with Maturin. Was the sinking of one French ship (at a time that the Royal Navy dominated the oceans) worth risking a valiant crew? In Napoleonic Warfare, it was almost unheard of for a lesser gunned ship to seek combat with a higher rated ship. If Aubrey had not cheated and won, his ship would have been destroyed and if he had survived, he would have been court-martialed.
    • What did you think of the way the French are depicted?
    They are not demonized. One interesting thing is they are faceless and menacing. I liked the end where the French captain proves to be as devious as Aubrey.
    • The story of the Jonah is quite intriguing, What did you think of it?
    It does a good job of showing the superstitious nature of sailors. I really felt sorry for the guy. It was telling that the captain agreed that it was not logical to blame one guy for the ship’s problems, but he thought there might be something to it. It was probably common for some midshipmen to be incompetent because you did not get that position based on ability, but based on social status.
    • What was more important – getting the enemy or collecting scientific samples?
    Considering getting the enemy was mostly an obsession of the captain, science should have come first.
    • Was it ethical to disguise the Surprise as a civilian ship?
    No. I found this act of “cheating” to be disconcerting. Is it fair for soldiers to wear the other side’s uniforms and carry their flag into combat? There have to be some rules otherwise war becomes even more savage. By the way, there ARE rules against this sort of thing.
    • Did you think the ending was satisfying?
    At the time I first saw it, I did. Sadly, now it just reminds me that there will be no sequel so we will never know what happens. All that because this magnificent movie did not do well enough at the box office to warrent a sequel. And how many “Saw” movies have been made now?

    • I’m amazed how often we answer very similarly, although you add a lot of historical details that I didn’t know. Thanks for that. I really felt that disguisng the Surprise wasn’t ethical and I’m glad to hear that already during those times there were rules.
      I didn’t know that the only reason why there wasn’t a sequel is because it didn’t do well. I didn’t even think that it didn’t do well. That’s very surprising. I’m not one for sequels at all but this would maybe not have been a Saw-type sequel as it is based on a series. Lucky we still have Hornblower.
      I wouldn’t have minded a captain playing music if they hadn’t chosen Russell Crowe… That didn’t work for me.
      Btw. Did they really have such young boys as officers?

    • Novroz says:

      I can relate to that as a teacher LOL

      You’re a teacher too? Ah that’s explain why we both like the doctor. I always find people with intellectual as an interesting character.

  5. warmoviebuff says:

    Great minds think alike (except on Colonel Blimp).

    Your mentioning Hornblower reminded me that in the first one (The Duel) he keeps the French flag flying on a captured ship in order to save the Indefatigible. This was arguably more unethical than Aubrey’s deception. The lesson is that if you win, there is no war crimes trial. Who stood trial for Dresden?

    Yes, midshipmen started at early ages. Horatio Nelson was 13 when he reported aboard a ship and became a midshipman and that was older than some. It was similar to being apprenticed.

    I did not like Crowe’s pony tail more than I disliked his music. I think I read where he learned some violin for the movie.

    The movie cost an estimated $150 to make and made $93 million. A sequel would have cost just as much and made less, most likely. It’s simple economics.

    • True, guess once you wond you get away with almost everything.
      Those midshipmen look much younger.
      He doesn’t strike me asomeone who would play the violin in real life… But he’s married to a singer, so what do I know, right?
      It does look like an expensive movie. Still, no idea why it didn’t work. Was Crowe not at the height of his career at that time?

      • warmoviebuff says:

        It didn’t work because it did not have pirates in it.

        If you were to say anything negative to him about his violin, you would be wearing it.

        The blonde looks to be about ten and the other around 13.

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