A Pirate’s Life for Me

Captain Jack Sparrow.

I recently decided to watch all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies back to back. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was either going to be a hell of a lot of fun, or so bad that I’d wind up strangling myself with a belt. I saw these in the theater upon their initial releases, and haven’t seen them since. All I could remember was Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, wearing makeup, and acting quasi-gay. To make matters worse, these were all very popular, and, like Transformers 2, popular things are often horrible. Not to mention, it’s a film series based on a ride at Disneyland/World. There were a lot more things going against this trilogy than going for it. But, as I always say, sometimes you just gotta shit your pants, and — wait, that’s not it — how does that saying go — oh nevermind, let’s just get on with the review.

The Curse of the Black Pearl

Jack Sparrow: Gentlemen, m’lady, you will always remember this day as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow.

Norrington: That is, without a doubt, the worst pirate I’ve ever seen.

The first of the series, from 2003, is certainly the strongest of them all. It has a fun vibe running through it, and it doesn’t give a shit if you don’t like it. One of the most interesting things about this movie is that Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is not the main character. The two main leads are Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). Sparrow shows up from time to time and affects people and situations, but he isn’t integral to the plot. He has his own motives, and sometimes they align with the heroes and sometimes with the villains. Interestingly, he is also the comic relief of the film, not so much as he’s written, but due to Depp’s quirky portrayal. His introductory scene, where his tiny boat sinks but he still manages to step gracefully onto the dock was pretty damn funny. 

Everything in this movie works. The acting is top-notch all around. The characters are likable; even the bad guys, led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), are fun to watch. The plot is very straightforward, and lends itself well to the action/adventure genre. With this being a pirate movie, it has all the things you would expect to find in such a film: sword fights, naval battles, looting, pillaging, treasure, parrots, and people growling ARGH! The action scenes are varied and exciting, but not so long as to overstay their welcome. There is also a dash of the supernatural which helps distinguish this movie from other films of the genre.

Arrrr, matey.

Disney did include several Easter Eggs for people who have experienced the Pirates theme park ride (i.e. everyone). This would include the sacking of Tortuga, the prisoners trying to lure the dog with the jail cell keys in its mouth, and the singing of pirate songs. They don’t overdo it with these things, they are just present for the occasional joke or background item. You never get the sense they are trying to make the movie fit the experience of the ride (which would have resulted in a terrible movie), but instead they just try to capture its essence.

Even though the running time reaches 2 and 1/2 hours, the breezy storytelling, intermixed with fun action sequences, allow the film to fly by. It never drags for a second, and it is a blast from start to finish. If this was the only Pirates movie ever made, it probably would be remembered as a classic.

Verdict: Awesome

Dead Man’s Chest

Elizabeth Swann: I’m here to find the man I love.

Jack Sparrow: [looking away] I’m deeply flattered, son, but my first and only love is the sea.

Elizabeth Swann: Meaning, William Turner, Captain Sparrow.

Jack Sparrow: [turning around] Elizabeth! [turning back to Mr. Gibbs] Hide the rum.

I think this movie gets a bad rap. Sure, it doesn’t come across as effortlessly as its predecessor, but it certainly isn’t a bad film. It came out in 2006, and was highly anticipated. The filmmakers tried to craft a plot that would extend for two films, instead of making another self-contained picture. This was a mistake. The overall tale became too convoluted for its own good. However, Dead Man’s Chest still has a lot to offer.

The villain, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), was a welcome addition. Not only was he a special effects marvel to look at, he provided a foil that seemed appropriate to our heroes after already having dealt with supernatural forces in the first film. His pet beast, the Kraken, was also a delight in the CGI department, and lent quite a deal of tension in scenes where it appeared. One nice thing about having backing from Disney, is that the budget was high and the production values were very good.

Who should I stab first?

All of the characters return in some way or another. Mostly, their motivations all worked and made sense in the confines of the story. Yes, this is more a plot driven affair than the character-driven first movie. No, that does not make it any less enjoyable.

The only part I disliked was the scene with the cannibals. It seemed bizarre and completely out of place, like it belonged in an entirely different film. Otherwise, this movie had all the same things that made the first one great: sword fighting, naval battles, pillage and plunder, treasure, and adventure.  I think the biggest problem is that since it doesn’t tell a standalone tale, it seems more like a vehicle for the third movie than anything else. While it isn’t as objectively well-made as the first film, I found myself enjoying it just as much. Plus, the cliffhanger ending was great.

Verdict: Good

At World’s End

Hector Barbossa: I trust you to know your place in front of Captain Sao Feng.

Elizabeth Swann: Is he that terrifying?

Hector Barbossa: He’s a lot like meself, but absent me merciful nature and sense of fair play.

I have to wonder why this movie wasn’t titled At the World’s End. The official title seems grammatically idiotic, but that really has nothing to do with the movie at all. The third and final movie in the trilogy came out in 2007, after being shot back to back with Dead Man’s Chest.

The major issue I have with this film is that it is just too damn long. It’s a bloated, convoluted mess, with a ridiculous running time (170 minutes!) and only one action scene. For the final film in an action/adventure series, that does not seem like enough action. Of course, that action sequence comprises the last 30 minutes or so, and it was fucking stellar, but it didn’t make up for the lethargic pace of everything that came before it.

The plot still remains somewhat straightforward: everyone wants Davy Jones’ heart. However, it can become a chore to try and follow the various motivations of all the characters who want the heart. Sparrow wants it so he can achieve immortality, Turner wants it to free his father, East India Trading Company Dude (Tom Hollander) wants it so he can make Davy Jones do his bidding, and Davy Jones wants it so he can be free from being anyone’s slave.

Barbossa really wants the movie to be over by this point.

The thing that makes the movie convoluted is that at one point or another everyone teams up with the EITC Dude and betrays their comrades. There are betrayals, double-crosses, and triple-crosses. It happens so frequently, it’s hard to keep it all straight. When EITC Dude showed up with Davy Jones and Turner at the end, I couldn’t even remember what kind of deal Turner and EITC Dude had made. All this maneuvering is not very interesting, hard to follow, and ultimately hurts the film.

The movie should have been peppered with action sequences, and then had one giant finale. Most of the heavy lifting from the plot should have been confined to the second film with the third being the big payoff. Unfortunately, they didn’t do that. As the final movie drags and drags, it hurts the entire trilogy. It makes me wish they had stopped with the first Pirates movie.

Still, the production values are outstanding, the special effects great, the acting very good, and Jack Sparrow is fantastic as always. Objectively, I think the movie did a good job of giving each character, including the villains, their moment to shine, and wrapped up all the storylines with a neat little bow. But subjectively, I just found myself really fucking bored. I wish the series had ended on a better note. Oh wait, there’s a fourth movie!

Verdict: Average

On Stranger Tides

On second thought, let’s pretend this movie doesn’t exist, savvy?

Verdict: Shitty

22 Responses to “A Pirate’s Life for Me”

  1. September 28, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Great post. I like all of these films a bit less than you do, except the fourth which I thought was okay.

  2. 4 Sandro
    September 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I remember how disappointed I’ve been after watching the 2nd Pirates film. Overloaded plot, the humor wasn’t that funny, focus on Bloom/Knightley pissed me of and the action was way too over the top. But the worst thing was the lack of a charismatic villain like Barbossa. Davy Jones sucked ass. The star of Pirates 2 is the “Flying dutchman” itself, not its captain. They did really well to bring Barbossa back in the third film. Even though I agree that the third film is as overloaded with unnecessary shit I liked it a lot more.

    Stranger tides:
    Didn’t you upload a long review of that one or am I schizo?

  3. 6 worldsbeforethedoor
    September 30, 2013 at 5:11 am

    I absolutely loved the first movie. I think I grinned like a little kid through the whole thing. I hated the second one and never watched the 3rd or 4th. I got really fed up with all the double crossing and thought Will Turner should run so far and fast from Elizabeth before he got stabbed in the back….literally.

  4. 8 lokifire
    October 3, 2013 at 10:19 am

    It’s sad, but I can’t even enjoy the first movie anymore, because I know it only leads to the last three.
    I should probably check into therapy for that, because the first one was quite good.

  5. October 4, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Echoing the other comments here. Loved the first one. Fell asleep through the second one. Didn’t bother with the others.

    Mostly I’m jealous of your ability to watch 7 hours of movies back to back.

  6. October 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I really enjoy the first movie, I’ve seen it several times, and I don’t even like movies in general. I think the way they extended the plot in the second movie was acceptable, but not necessary. To be honest, the second and the third I will probably never bother to watch again. Not to mention they ended it all pretty depressing. Never saw the last movie. Anyway, great post!

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September 2013


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