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Film: The Bounty

The Bounty is a 1984 film telling the story of the famous 1789 mutiny on the British ship HMAV ''Bounty'', in which sailors of the Bounty mutinied and cast their commanding officer Lieutenant William Bligh adrift on an open boat. Lt. Bligh and the men who were loyal to him (over half the crew) eventually made it to the Dutch colony on the island of Timor after a harrowing voyage across the ocean. The mutineers, led by first mate Fletcher Christian, made a home for themselves on Pitcairn Island in the south Pacific, where their descendants remain to this day.

The film stars Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh and Mel Gibson as head mutineer Fletcher Christian. This film was originally supposed to be a pair of films directed by David Lean, but after a long production delay Lean left the project and Roger Donaldson directed.

See also Mutiny on the Bounty, the trilogy of novels that were made into blockbuster films in 1935 and again in 1962. Those films, based on the novels by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, were not nearly as historically accurate as this film.


Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic / The Drunken Sailor: The ship's doctor, who drinks himself to death before the Bounty leaves Tahiti.
  • The Baby Trap: Averted, naturally, as for Tahitian women, having babies is a priority.
    King Tinah: My daughter...She has something of yours.
    Christian: Of mine?
    King Tinah: [showing her belly] You are here now. Tamari note .
  • Based on a True Story: Far more accurate than any other film adaptation of the mutiny.
  • Burial at Sea: Happens aboard the Bounty when one of the sailors dies on the way to Tahiti.
  • Burning the Ships: At the end Fletcher Christian has the Bounty burned, to make sure that the mutineers are committed to living on Pitcairn Island and to prevent anyone from trying to get back to Tahiti or England.
  • Camera Abuse: Water splatters the camera lens as the Bounty makes landfall in Tahiti.
  • The Captain: Bligh first, and then mutineer Christian. Neither of them actually holds the naval rank of Captain during the events of the film, however.
  • Captain's Log: Bligh keeps one. Towards the end of the film Christian keeps one as well.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Mauatua, daughter of the king of Tahiti, who falls in love with Fletcher Christian. (Her name in actual history was Maimiti.)
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Well, that's the whole point, isn't it ? Choose between friendship, military obedience and love.
  • The Determinator: William Bligh, who leads the men who were loyal to him on a three thousand mile voyage in an open boat to safety in the Dutch colony of Timor, after Christian and the other mutineers set them adrift.
  • A Father to His Men: Christian—too much, as this causes him to lead the mutiny against Bligh.
  • Going Native: Captain Bligh worries that this is happening to Christian and the men in Tahiti, and he is right. Fletcher Christian falls in love with a Tahitian girl, and the rest of the men are in no mood to submit to Royal Navy discipline again after enjoying quite a long vacation on Tahiti, with the surf and sand and the sex with island girls.
  • Happily Ever Before: For multiple parallel storylines.
    • The film ends with the mutineers landing on Pitcairn Island and burning the Bounty. It's rather melancholy, as they realize they are stuck there forever, but they have their home and their women. The film does not mention the violence and murder that led the mutineers and the Tahitian men that accompanied them to kill each other, leaving only one mutineer alive (along with a bunch of women and children) when an American ship found them on Pitcairn Island in 1818. (Descendants of the mutineers still live there today.)
    • Churchill (Liam Neeson), who stayed behind on Tahiti, was murdered by another mutineer, who was in turn executed by the Tahitians. Most of the other sailors who stayed behind on Tahiti either drowned when the ship that eventually fetched them wrecked, or were hanged after returning to England. However, Peter Haywood (in the film, the young officer who lets Churchill and the others desert), was pardoned and returned to a long and successful career in the Royal Navy.
  • Harmony Vs Discipline: After all that time enjoying the pleasures of Tahiti, the crew isn't in the mood to submit to Bligh's discipline again.
  • Heroic BSOD: Christian gets very upset during the mutiny. All he can say when Bligh confronts him is "I am in hell!" (a direct quote).
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with Captain Bligh appearing before a Royal Navy court of inquiry which is investigating the loss of his ship. This serves as exposition, as the officers on the court ask Bligh questions about the mutiny, followed by scenes from the mutiny. Eventually, Bligh is acquitted, and commended for saving the lives of his loyal crew.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl / National Geographic Nudity: The Tahitian women generally go topless. Their frank and open sexuality winds up being one of the reasons the Bounty crew mutinies.
  • Jerk Ass: Bligh isn't portrayed as a villain but he isn't really a people person. He may also have a point about the men having gone soft in Tahiti. After Bligh's attempt at a heart-to-heart with Christian fails, he seems to take it personally, and winds up picking on Christian even more. This turns out to be a big mistake.
  • The Longitude Problem: Not explained with lines of dialogue, but there, and a big problem for Christian towards the end. Christian knows what latitutde Pitcairn Island is at, so he sails the Bounty east, figuring that eventually he'll hit the island. Unfortunately, since he can't get an accurate fix of longitude, he doesn't know how far away the island is. It turns out to be farther away than he guesses, leading his crew to the verge of a second mutiny ("There is no island!") before they finally see it.
  • Man on Fire: This happens early in the film as the Bounty struggles to make it through Cape Horn.
  • Manly Tears: When his daughter decides to leave Tahiti with the mutineers, King Tynah breaks down sobbing, knowing he will never see her again.
  • The Mutiny on the Bounty is one of the most famous examples of this trope.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Bligh alludes to this before Christian casts him adrift, asking how Christian can command "this rabble" when Bligh couldn't, even when he had the law behind him. As it happens, the crew nearly mutinies against Christian, who has to keep order with a pistol before the Bounty finally makes landfall at Pitcairn Island.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Discussed by one of the sailors on Bligh's open boat, who suggests that the others do that with him after he dies. Bligh refuses, and they make landfall in Timor before it comes to that.
  • Pet the Dog: On the open boat Bligh is doling out the pitiful amount of food they have (the carcass of a bird that got caught in the sails). When asked who gets each piece, he goes through the officers one by one. Purcell angrily shouts that the officers shouldn't be treated special with their limited food and some of the regular men haven't had anything in days. Bligh shows how he's grown, instead of punishing him for his outburst (as he would have before he lost the Bounty) he orders his share of the food given to Purcell, indicating that he's learned that discipline must be tempered with kindness.
  • Shown Their Work: Christian's "I am in Hell!" is a direct quote.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: King Tynah treats his daughter's pregnancy like this. When he calls Christian to him to inform him she is pregnant, he thinks he's in trouble. But Tynah tells him that his daughter now has a piece of him that will always stay here in Tahiti.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Captain Bligh orders the flogging of three sailors who attempt to jump ship and stay behind in Tahiti. Although he is within his rights to do this as a punishment for desertion, this decision helps lead the crew to mutiny.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Christian calling Bligh "William":
    Christian: William, about your decision to go around the Horn...
    Bligh: William? Not sir? Not captain? William.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: One of the primary themes of the film is the need to uphold naval discipline as opposed to individual welfare, and the necessity for sacrifice in both cases.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Bligh slowly loses control after they set sail from Tahiti. As he tries to instill discipline in the men (thinking it is what he needs to save the ship) they just see him in a worse and worse light. He finally completely loses it over stolen coconuts-ranting and raving and screaming at the men and ordering them fed half rations in retaliation. His breakdown is the final straw for Fletcher to commit mutiny.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The king of Tahiti is horrified and disgusted after Christian returns to the island and tells him what they've done, mostly because he's afraid the British will blame his people for it.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men

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