“Whiteout” gets lost in the storm

The comic book adaptation gets garbled by director Dominic Sena.

Kate Beckinsale  slowly crawling to her gun
PHOTO COURTESY DARK CASTLE ENTERTAINMENT

Kate Beckinsale slowly crawling to her gun PHOTO COURTESY DARK CASTLE ENTERTAINMENT

Tony Libera

âÄúWhiteoutâÄù DIRECTED BY: Dominic Sena STARRING: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt. RATED: R SHOWING: Area theaters Comic book adaptations are like a box of chocolates; you never know what youâÄôre going to get. One hopes that an impressive comic will translate into an equally impressive picture, but history has proven that even the most celebrated of source material canâÄôt assure a film adaptation that is up to snuff (e.g. âÄúBatman & Robin ,âÄù âÄúThe Punisher ,âÄù âÄúPopeye âÄù). There were high hopes for âÄúWhiteout,âÄù a celebrated graphic novel from Oni Press, but like so many before it, this film fails to live up to its predecessor. âÄúWhiteoutâÄù opens in 1957; a plane full of undoubtedly nefarious Ruskies flies over the frozen nothingness of Antarctica when the co-pilot decides to get trigger happy over a mysterious padlocked crate. An airborne shootout takes place, everybody kills each other and the plane plunges to its icy doom, leaving the audience to wonder what just happened. Fifty years later, we catch up with Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), a way-too-hot U.S. Marshall with a standard haunted past, who in two days will end her self-imposed pseudo exile and return to the States, where she will immediately turn in her badge. Her grizzled old doctor pal also wants to head back so he can see the young grandchild heâÄôs never met. Unfortunately, thereâÄôs been a murder, the âÄúfirst in Antarctic history,âÄù and the sweet stench of âÄúretironyâÄù hangs in the air. At root, the filmâÄôs troubles lie in its approach. Director Dominic Sena, whose other âÄúnotableâÄù movies include âÄúSwordfish âÄù and the remake of âÄúGone in Sixty Seconds,âÄù paints this world using the color by numbers method, which doesnâÄôt bode well for a film titled âÄúWhiteout.âÄù The plot transpires in standard âÄúLaw & Order âÄù fashion, where charactersâÄô motives and emotions are all too apparent, if not explicitly and repeatedly stated, and twists are telegraphed from so many miles away that the film becomes less of a mystery and more of a long, dull wait for the obvious conclusion. Sena also opts out of an adult gaze, instead filming âÄúWhiteoutâÄù like an adolescent boy given a camera. The first scene with Stetko starts with a simple tracking shot following her from behind. She enters her room and begins to slowly peel off her many layers of clothes. The scene culminates with Beckinsale getting naked and hopping in the shower. ItâÄôs one of the most arbitrary scenes in recent cinema. Sena also throws in a handful of what are supposed to be dramatic action sequences, but instead they come off as hilariously bad Benny Hill -type chase scenes missing only the wacky music. Stetko stumbles and fumbles around in the snow as her would-be killer slips and slides behind her with an ice pick. The climactic fight scene takes place in a whiteout, adding to the hilarity of the action scenes by making them visually incomprehensible. âÄúWhiteoutâÄù had the potential to be an intense dramatic thriller, but itâÄôs lacking in so many areas that it became just another entry into the ever-expanding pantheon of unfortunate adaptations. Once again the problem is one of direction, as the Dominic Senas and Zack Snyders (âÄúWatchmen âÄù) and Brett Ratners (âÄúX-Men: The Last StandâÄù ) of the world continue to bite off more than they can chew. Comic book fans longing for substance will just have to wait until Christopher Nolan (âÄúThe Dark Knight âÄù) decides to get back in the game.