Originally, I had no desire or plans to see Pirates of the Caribbean. You may recall, in my second Hyperion X ever (998), I was giving my take on upcoming summer movies, based on previews, and I had this to say:
Pirates of the Caribbean Now here's something to get excited about...no, I can't do it. People: there hasn't been a good pirate movie since the days of Errol Flynn, and he slept with young girls. Maybe to make a good pirate movie you actually have to be a pirate. Better yet, I understand that this movie is based on a Disneyland ride...I'm sorry, but who the fuck comes up with these ideas? Forget about killing the Daddy Daycare people. Please, loyal subjects, go find whoever thought of making a movie about a ride and tell them the only acceptable rides would be the Teacups, or if they want to make a horror movie; It's a Small World...
But then, Hyperion Institute contributor Butterscotch wrote and told me she'd seen Pirates and it kicked ass. This was followed by several other people weighing in similarly, as well as positive reviews, and so last night when my father suggested we go see it, if for nothing else to get out of house-which was Auschwitz oven hot-I succumbed.
And smack my face and make me wear a dress made out of cheese, boy, am I glad I did. Many of you have probably seen it, but for those of you who haven't:
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is the actual title, and if you think that's a tad ostentatious, you're right, but there is a method to their madness. This way they are set up for a sequel. And let's be honest, any blockbuster that does not set up their movie for franchise status, as well as video games, promotional tie ins, and what have you is not being fiscally responsible. I would say to also set up the movie to have a ride made out of it, but in this case, we're already there!
I've never actually been on the Pirates ride at Disneyland and World, but I can safely tell you that's just a starting point for name recognition. And, since this is a movie about Pirates, complete with rum, talking parrots, and more clichés than you can stick a peg leg at, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Now, as to the plot (and for you anal retentive types I promise not to give away anything vital): pay attention, for it's important you understand what's going on. Just kidding! A little pirate humor there (very little). Don't worry if you can't follow this.
There are some pirates, and they are cursed, and of course this curse requires them to, among their piratey duties of raping and pillaging, kidnap and sacrifice this young girl named Elizabeth Swann (played by Keira Knightley; more on her in a moment). But, wait! This girl happens to be the woman Will Turner (played by Orlando Bloom of Legolas fame; more on him in a minute too) is in love with, although-cue the violin music-he's never been able to tell her-and so Mr. Turner teams up with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp; more...you get the idea), to go after the Pirate ship and save the girl.
There's more, but you'll figure it out. To my knowledge, nobody goes to Pirate movies looking for Shakespeare, although one wonders how that might work: "To be, or not to be...Argggh!"
The real question everyone has is: how much fun will I have? The answer: more fun than Kobe Bryant watching an episode of "Oz." Seriously, this movie is fun in a way that so few movies even try to be anymore. The movie is a bit long, with a huge intro, and takes a while to get going. And, the ending is drawn out, although clearly that's a set up for the sequel, but I'm not really complaining, because the pacing is pretty good. There are a lot of fights, but they are spread out, and between that we get a lot of great piratey dialogue, some pretty cool special effects, and enough ham acting to scare the kosher out of anyone.
As you know, in my regular column I've been writing a series on movies, and I've been preaching to you that directors are the key to whether you'll like a movie or not. This case might be an exception. The only movies I'd seen by the director Gore Verbinski are The Mexican and The Ring, two of the most disparate movies you can imagine, so that doesn't tell you much, although I liked both films. A bigger reason the director is not as important here is the producer is Jerry Bruckheimer, who, for better or worse, always manages to put his personal stamp on movies far more than the director.
The main reason, though, is that in Pirates, the actors really do make this movie, far more than the sword fights, special effects, or script, which are all good, but pretty standard fare for this type of blockbuster. We're talking about four people here:
Captain Barbossa, played by Geoffrey Rush, who is the King of over-actors, although here it's a good thing. Barbossa is the pirate captain of the Black Pearl, a mysterious ship with many secrets (most previews and reviewers have given this away, but just in case you don't know it I'll stay mum). Rush gets to play Barbossa in a classic Captain Hook-like style, but with a few tics thrown in. Really enjoyed him.
Will Turner, played by Orlando Bloom, who most of you know as Legolas from Lord of the Rings. Bloom does absolutely nothing for me-and I'm usually pretty fair about admitting when guys are hot-but I've talked to sooooo many women who would lick this guy up like a melting sundae that I'm willing to admit I may have missed the boat. If you are one of these women, you should be happy, even though he has a bit too much eye make up (Turner is not a pirate or a member of an '80s hair band, the only two groups who get to wear enough eye makeup to look like a raccoon). But, he does have long hair, and looks meaningful quite a bit. Acting-wise Bloom is really at a bit of a disadvantage, since he's overshadowed by the more flamboyant performances around him, but he does okay.
Elizabeth Swann, played by Keira Knightley. You heard it here first, so write it down: this girl is going to be a major star. At first, I thought Knightly was going to be the prototypical "girl" in these type of guy movies, who looks pretty, but pretty much has nothing to do but fall into distress and get rescued. And, for a while, Knightly pretty much does that, looking quite fetching in a period costume (of which, there's quite a few corset jokes, which I'm sure you ladies can relate to better than I, since you're the insane people who wear that kind of crazy stuff). However, about 2/3 of the way through the film Knightly comes into her own, and becomes quite the heroine herself. I became more and more enchanted watching her, and now am committed to seeing all her previous work (including a BBC production of Dr. Zhivago, where she is supposedly naked at 17. God bless Britain and their lack of standards).
Captain Jack Sparrow, Played by Johnny Depp. I'm one of those people who likes Depp occasionally, but also can get quite annoyed by him. It's like he's incapable of playing a role unless he makes the character quirky to the nth degree. Well, in Pirates, he takes all those oddball characters from his past, fuses them together, and transforms himself into the role of a lifetime. I'm not kidding. More than swords and curses and tight bodices, Johnny Depp is the best thing going in this movie. At first you're not sure if his character is gay, crazy, drunk, or a combination of all three, but soon it doesn't matter. Depp plays Sparrow as an anti-pirate, but still comes across exactly as he should. I just don't have words to explain what a conjured trick his performance was.
As you may recall, I grade movies three ways. My Skepticism Scale (from 0-10) would rate a solid 9 here. If you take one single thing seriously, may you be forced to change your name to Smee.
Pirate movies is too small a category, so I see this movie as a Popcorn film, one you see to enjoy and not think about too much, and accordingly I give Pirates a Genre Grade of A-. A few points off for the length, but a lot of fun.
My Pantheon Percentile is a 75, which means this movie is better than 3/4th of all movies ever made. It's not an Oscar contender, but it's the most fun you can have without waking up next to a sheep. People get drunk, stabbed, kidnapped, gouged, and even say "Avast!" What more can you ask for in a pirate movie?