The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

Posted Friday, July 4, 2008, 7:01 PM

As soon as the movie began, showing the spectacular landscapes of Scotland, I immediately recognised it. "That's not Scotland, that's New Zealand." And it turned out I was correct, as I soon spotted some familiar New Zealand actors in the cast.

In truth, Scotland and Otago are very similar in appearance, hence the Scottish settlers in the Dunedin area, but even so New Zealand has a distinctive look that's all its own.

Anyway, that's just the backdrop to the film. The real story is about a boy who is missing his Father, away at War, and needs a friend. He stumbles upon an unlikely item when he was down at the lakeshore, and it turns out to be the egg of the legendary Water Horse, a supposedly mythical creature. As it grows and gets spotted by various locals, it is clear this is the source of all the Loch Ness Monster sightings over the years.

It's a sweetly told story, with a hint of brutal reality scattered throughout, about a friendship between a boy and his monster, and the people who variously discourage and encourage him. The conflict between the military captain and the friendly handyman characters is particularly well handled, and adds a very effective sidestory to keep the characters interesting. The bad guys, however, if you can call them that, are a little under developed.

The visual effects, some of which were composited by my friend Cameron at Weta Digital, are almost universally outstanding. In some shots the interactivity of its motions in the water, especially in the bathtub, were stunningly realised and extremely convincing.

I will enjoy watching this film in the future, and it may become one of my favourites.

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