(2007) dir. Gore Verbinski
viewed: 06/03/07 at UltraStar Poway 10, Poway, CA
Though it wasn’t getting the best reviews in the world, I had actually liked last summer’s installment in the “trilogy-plus” Pirates saga, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), more than the average reviewer or viewer and had been on board with this whole series since the “original”, a term I use loosely for a series of films based on a amusement park ride, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). Clearly, Johnny Depp stole most of the show in the first two, but I actually liked all the clever character designs and special effects as well. It was the kind of movie Hollywood ought to be able to do correctly more often than not.
This time around, the film is bloated (nearly 3 hours long) and peppering in characters and plot-lines like a cook who thinks that more will improve the flavor, gets completely confusing and ridiculous to actually try to follow. The narrative strains are so multiplicative that I couldn’t keep up, but the whole thing kept moving around so much, it really didn’t matter that much. The film succeeds more in bursts of action or sequences that work, and who know? If someone could have edited this thing down, maybe a decent flick lives below it.
The casting is one of the series’ pluses. Johnny Depp is well-noted for his hammy Jack Sparrow, but Geoffrey Rush is excellent as Barbarosa and some of the light humor extra pirates pinch hit their gag lines and so forth with aplomb. The casting of the extras is even really good. Where did they find all these weird-looking, bizarrely-built people to play these pirates? They did a good job, I’ll give them that. Though Keira Knightley is pluckishly annoying but cute but annoying but somehow manages to play exactly the role that they want: a cute, pluckish, grrrl-power chick who can kick-ass and change costumes with the best of them.
And another thing, the pirate “lords” and their meetings — stupid enough as a concept, and typically politically correct in adding in characters of every major ethnic group (uh, culture…continent?)
Art design-wise, I think this film is great. I liked the image and the concept of the ships “falling off the edge of the world” and the pirate lair with the stacks of pirate ships is great, too, reminding me of my love for the lost art of matte-painting backgrounds in old fantasy films. And the fish pirates. They were cool last time, too.
They film has many flaws and slow points and is tremendously longer and more complicated than it needs to be. One of the most glaring side notes is the weird surrealist world in which Johnny Depp first appears. It’s meant to be surreal (he is in the land of the dead or something) and comedic, what with a whole host replica Johnny Depps and campy comedic goofiness. Was this whole sequence really necessary? Maybe it was trying to make up for the fact that the favorite actor of the film doesn’t get screen time until a whole half hour into the bulging “epic”. Anyways, there is lots of similar fat on the film, which ultimately detracts but doesn’t completely ruin the experience.
I understand that Depp has said that he’d be up for a fourth film and with some of the open-ended ending, one can see this next one coming. Will they learn from this one? Do they care as long as they make lots of money? Probably not. Will I still be willing to go see it?