Shackleton's incredible voyage: why isn't this a movie?

10+ years ago I read Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. For those not familiar, it tells the true and well-documented story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated trans-Antarctic expedition in the early part of the 20th century. Short version:

-ship caught in pack ice, slowly crushed/sunk.

-men offloaded tons of supplies and equipment before it sank, then lived on the ice for over a year before piling into a couple of small boats and heading for (uninhabited) Elephant island.

-From there, Shackleton and five others took one of the small boats on an 800-mile journey across the open ocean to South Georgia Island.

-They came ashore on the opposite side of the island from the whaling station they need to reach, so they made the first crossing of the island on foot, taking several days to cross a treacherous mountain range and summon a rescue for their fellow men back on Elephant Island.

It’s an amazing story. In spite of unbelievably harsh conditions and long odds, out of 50+ men on the expedition, not a single one of them died. My dad read the same book and was so enamored of the whole affair that after he retired, he and my mom went to visit Shackleton’s grave on South Georgia Island (Shackleton had died a few years after the expedition).

So here’s my question:
I see that an IMAX movie exists about this story, and I’m sure there are one or two PBS documentaries out there about it as well. but if Tom Hanks can extract award-winning drama from a bloodstained volleyball, why has Shackleton’s odyssey not been made into a mainstream motion picture? Is there some obvious reason? I mean shit, a group of men missing for several years near Antarctica, and in the end they get rescued with zero fatalities? Talk about intense drama and a perfectly happy ending - this story seems made for Hollywood.

ISTR (although I didn’t watch it) that there was a cable (A & E?) miniseries of this with Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton.

  1. No romance.
  2. “Not a single one of them died”.
  3. No car chases
  4. not a sequel to a blockbuster
  5. no one has super powers
  6. no cops
  7. no hot babes
  8. not in French, in B&W
    9 Not very politcally correct.

Yeah, Kenneth Branagh already did it (and was a dead ringer for the real Shackleton):

Because there’s no T & A potential in an Antarctica film - at least that’s what people thought until this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

A great many of them died, shortly after their return, in WWI.

Funny, I don’t recall any car chases, super powers, cops, or hot babes in Lincoln, which was also not a sequel. I guess Lincoln just didn’t get made. :rolleyes:

Never mind, there were lots of deaths, though neither depicted as thrilling nor delivered with a quip* as in most action movies, and it was politically correct. :dubious: Oh, there was a bit of romance near the end. :stuck_out_tongue:
*Yes, Booth arguably worked a quip of sorts into the assassination, but it didn’t make it into Lincoln.

Lessee, Scott of the Antarctic almost fits this list except for (2): unfortunately, Scott and a few others died. That was a good Antarctic exploration flick, too, except that Scott was a dick for ignoring excellent advice, which resulted in said deaths.

For the record, the IMAX film is terrific. I can’t really recommend watching any IMAX film on your home tv, but if you can find it at a local IMAX theater, it’s worth the trip.

You are certainly right about Scott being a dick. I actually think he wanted to die after he saw he lost. That way he’d be a hero to the British public.

But that film was made in 1948, and did not do well except in GB. It wasn’t even nominated for any awards I know of.

What am I missing here? There was a movie made in 2000, called The Endurance starring Liam Neeson.

yes, Shackleton is not a good candidate for a movie-because he brought all his men home alive. Scott is of far more intereste-because he died. the fact that his death (and the others) was caused by his own stupidity is not mentioned-England needed a hero, and Scott fit the mold.
Actually , Scott was a screwup his entire life (his ship collided with another), so he was told to retire from the RN. His Antarctic expeditions were marked by incompetence and class devisiveness (Shackleton had all of his men living together on equal terms). Scott ignored the advice of many explorers (Nansen told him to use sled dogs).
But I guess getting killed qualifies one for deification.:smack:

Off the “movie” topic; but I gather that when the expeditionaries reached South Georgia in 1916, they asked “when did the war end?” (taking an Allied victory for granted); and were gobsmacked to learn that it was still going on full-blast.

If I’d been among them, I think I’d have quietly melted back into the White South for a few more years…

That’s a documentary. I assume the OP is talking about a narrative feature.

I think this sort of period piece/adventure film isn’t considered a big potential moneymaker by studios anymore. I’d group it in the same category as Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Four Feathers, Hidalgo, King Arthur, and Robin Hood, none of which did exceptionally well at the box office (particularly in the U.S.), mostly because they don’t pull in enough young viewers. If a really famous director, producer, or actor had the clout to make the movie, the studio might think of it as a prestige piece for potential awards, but it’s probably a losing proposition, money-wise, especially considering that the budget would have to be large.

TV is probably the right medium for it. I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard very good things about the Kenneth Branagh version.

10 They were all British and no Americans were involved.

Maybe 15 or so years ago, Hollywood had two different big-budget Shackleton features in the works. It was going to be one of those Armageddon/Deep Impact or Mirror, Mirror/Snow White and the Huntsman things. Don’t know why neither one got made (or at least not released).

I live just down the road from Dulwich College where Ernest Shackleton went to school.

The spine-tingling thing is that actual boat - not a replica - is sitting in the reception area of his old school. If you ask nicely they will let you walk around - maybe a good idea to phone ahead:

Jeez, I’d think that the fact all of them survived would be a PLUS for making a Shackleton movie. What grabs people more than success against the odds?

I agree with the OP - the Shackleton story has much more variety and depth than Scott’s ill fated march to the Pole.

Incidentally, an Australian/British group of adventurers has just recreated the voyage of the James Caird from Elephant Island to South Georgia, including climbing and crossing. When I heard of their plan I expected them to disappear but they succeeeded.

True, all of Shackleton’s mem survived, but I’d just like to add one thing about the Shackleton that gets overlooked. The Ross Sea Party.
I can’t imagine the feelings that must have gone thru the everyone’s heads after the rescue celebrations, then realizing. . . Before we return home, we have to go back to Antarctica, because some more of our men might still be alive on the other side of the continent… As it turned out, most of them had. made it. Their story is pretty compelling, too.