This is one of those unfortunate films that’s wonderful without being very good, enjoyable without being memorable, filled with admirable things that don’t add up to much.
Marlon Brando gives one of his quirkiest performances as Fletcher Christian, a supercilious twit who’s called to heroism, but too late in the tale to make us admire him. When he’s on screen you can’t take your eyes off of him, even though you often wish you could.
Everything about the film is a mixed blessing. Splendid shots on the open seas and on location in Tahiti alternate with mediocre back-screen shots. The score by Bronislau Kaper has the feel of a grand epic symphony without any melodic, stirring passages.
The movie is always one step away from becoming a grand entertainment, and never quite manages to take that step. It’s big enough and ambitious enough to keep you engaged for over three hours, but not magical or dynamic enough to inspire you for more than a few shots or scenes at a time.
It’s both entertaining and dispiriting in equal measures.