Sunday, July 13, 2014

"The Perfect Wave": Surfing, and a near-death experience after a sting by a ("free") box jellyfish

The Perfect Wave”, from director Bruce Macdonald, combines surfing and evangelical Christianity, an idea we’ve seen before (with “Soul Surfer”, for instance).  It gives the viewer a great wide screen world tour, from New Zealand, to Australia (including the outback), Bali, South Africa, and Mauritius.  And it give us a near death experience (as in “Heaven Is for Real”).  The film even has posters (in a family bedroom) of the “The Endless Summer” (Bruce Brown’s 1966 surfing adventure, which I actually saw while in graduate school in Lawrence, KS).
It is the true story of Ian McCormack, but moved up in time about thirty years, so it has cell phones and Skype.  As it opens, Ian’s parents, back home in New Zealand, pester him to be more helpful to his mother’s church causes, but at 24 he wants to leave home for a surfing adventure.  He even sells his car to pay for it.  There’s a flashback where as a boy he told his mother that he didn’t believe in all this religion.
Ian, played by Scott Eastwood, is extremely likeable.  He goes with a pal Craig.  He demonstrates his social skills in hitchhiking through the Australian outback, which I would not do.  In Bali, he meet Anabel (Rachel Hendrix) and seems to start a romance.  It seems, from camera appearances (perhaps carelessly edited) that she has even shaved his chest.   But then it breaks up.  Ian can go over the top with jealousy.

The recklessness (or indestructibility) continues with some bungee jumping in South Africa, before he catches a ride to Mauritius. At night, when surfing, he gets stung by a box jellyfish, or sea wasp.  This is a bizarre creature indeed (Wikipedia link ), almost alien.  Its venom is among the most poisonous in the world, neutralizing the body’s potassium and sometimes causing quick cardiac arrest.  It’s not included among Reid Ewing’s “Free Fish” (he showed the conventional one as gross enough, although he also played with a sting ray in that short film). 
Ian has trouble getting help from the locals getting to the hospital.  Actually, if he survived on his own as long as he does in the film, he probably would not “die” as shown.  But the film gives us a near-death experience, which is rather interesting.  He seems to wind up in “The Core” (as in Eben Alexander’s book “Proof of Heaven”, reviewed on the books blog, March 30, 2013).  But then some dark angels appear, and finally Jesus (James Burke-Dunmore) speaks to him, forgives him, and says he can go back, but he has to win others to Christ.  Now, I find the idea of having to agree to recruit others (for anything) to stay alive oneself rather threatening.  I don’t think that’s what would happen.
But part of the near death sequence comes from his mother’s prostate prayer in her home in New Zealand.  She learns that he is in trouble telepathically, which I do buy. 

Ian recovers immediately, rising from the bed after having been pronounced dead (like Lazarus) and is back to normal almost immediately, as if nothing had happened.  Medically, that wouldn’t happen.  Box jellyfish venom is very painful and recovery is long and capricious. (See TV blog review of Discovery Channel “Killer Jellyfish” Dec. 14, 2007). 

After the showing, at the AMC Hoffman Center in Alexandria, VA, a woman gave me a DVD of “A Glimpse of Eternity” by Ian McCormack and report on it soon.  McCormack also has a 2-hour YouTube video “Box Jellyfish Death: Miracle Story”.

The film was shown as wide-aspect (2.35:1) but had trouble fitting the screen, as a little bit of text was cropped in the credits.  The real McCormack speaks during the closing credits.
There was a small audience late Sunday afternoon.

The official site is here.  The distributor is Mission Pictures. I don’t know if this was a paid theater rental. 

Wikipedia attribution link for aerial view of Port Louis,  Mauritius  Author is Peter Kuchar, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license. 

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