Friday, May 20, 2011

Let's Review a Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

Well The Curse of the Black Pearl was a run away success and thus the Disney studio sees nothing but dollars signs and the ability to build a brand. The command comes down: make more movies! Well there have certainly been worse sequels put out than this.

One thing that I will say I liked about this film right off is that it holds to its own continuity. One of the things that annoys me so much about sequels, especially Disney ones, is that they will often readily ignore or outright contradict previous events and character motivations in order to have a story. That is certainly not the case here. Here there was great effort to tie this film to what had come before and to have the characters grow in plausible ways. I don’t care for a lot of the character development, especially in the third film, but I applaud the writers for not treating this as just another paycheque to phone in and move on from.

Now this movie, like the first, starts off strong with the rain on Elizabeth and Will’s wedding day, and the flow of Beckett’s soldiers over whelming the screen, setting the bleaker tone this film is going to have. The visuals here are stunning as usual and the music remains wonderful. It builds at the epic moments and provides a nice atmosphere in scenes like the Tortuga bar fight.

One of the first problems I’ve noticed with this film though is the pacing. There just seems to be so much padding in this thing. When I first watched this in the theatre and we get to the point where Will is going on the wrecked ship to look for the key it honesty felt like the movie should be close to over and we hadn’t even seen the villain yet. I think the biggest contributing factor to that is that the island sequence before it just goes on far too long.

The island sequence is there to establish that Jack isn’t safe on land, but you don’t need to show a long ceremony were he is going to be eaten, flip him through the air with a pole, and drop him through several bridges down a cliff to show that. Same with the bone cage with Will and the crew. Either have it break when it goes up the tree or when it goes over the cliff, don’t show both actions it’s excessive. One of the other issues I have with this is the tone shift. With the crew trying to get away from the natives (tense and dramatic) while Jack gets fruit thrown at him (comedic) it doesn’t provide comic relief from the tense moments it jerks me out of the movie. Again all this was in the movie for was to establish that Jack isn’t safe on land. Well I’m sorry, but you don’t need a ten minute long sequence of mostly slapstick to show that Jack isn’t safe on land, and besides all it really did was show he wasn’t safe on that particular piece of land, what’s to stop him from going somewhere else? What about cutting the scene in half and having some line about “that was the last safe haven and even Beckett’s filth has reached it. We must stay at sea. Mr, Gibbs, keep the ship moving, quickly!”

Another major problem I have with this film is that Jack seems to stop being a good man. Which was one of the reasons I loved the first film so much. Did he keep things from Will there? Sure, but he was also up front about the dangers and he didn’t deliberately put Will in danger like he does when he gets Will to row out to the shipwreck to be his debt to Davy Jones. Normally I wouldn’t use a deleted scene to illustrate my point, but in this instance I think it sums my point up nicely:

Elizabeth: You were going to trade Will for a ship.

Jack: We could use a ship! In fact I was not going to trade Will for a ship, because as long as Barbossa didn’t know about bloody Will I had something to barter with. Which now no one has! Thanks to bloody stupid Will.

He even directly saves Will’s life in the cave. He could have stuck to the deal that he actually made with Barbossa and gotten his ship if that was all he wanted, but he didn’t.

While in the first film he did want the Pearl back he tried to minimize the casualties by trying to negotiate as opposed to fighting outright, (this can also be interpreted as Jack doesn’t want to risk Will and that that is a legitimate take as well, it simply isn’t my interpretation.) and things like telling Norrington to blast Barbossa’s crew with the canons. There is far less risk to Norrington and his men battling this way against something that can’t die than a fight at close range. You can even see it in the way he questions Barbossa when Barbossa tells his men to take a walk, “not to the boats?” This time he wants out of his bargain with Davy Jones only and to hell with everyone else.

Speaking of our villain, Davy Jones is awesome in all ways. Starting with the way he looks and this, to me, is example of a good use of improving technology to enhance a film. Motion capture that can be done on location rather simply shooting an empty plate and then filming in the shot with motion capture done separately and compiling them. It allows for more spontaneity in the person doing the CGI character and the interaction between the actors is genuine because they don’t have to play to empty air; which is one of the most difficult things to do in acting. They have something to focus on, to respond to. The technology is used to better the story rather than having a bunch of scenes with special effects simply to show off the special effects. As Jones says, “I am the sea.” And he and his crews’ look is there to enhance that.

Jones like Barbossa is also a villain with layers to him. Just as Barbossa wasn’t just shooting up Port Royal because it was fun, although I’m sure he enjoyed it, but because some citizen in that town has what he needs. Jones isn’t doing this just to be bad, he’s doing it to make everyone suffer like he has. Jones has been betrayed and, to rip off a line from another Disney work, “When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.” Is it right? No. Is it human and still sympathetic? Absolutely. It’s much more fun to watch a villain like this than to watch evil Mcnasty twirling his moustache and cackling.

Another good moved was deepening the character of Norrington. I said in the last review that Norrington is a good guy. He is the guy we would normally root for and he does stay quite consistent with that, leading to a rant worthy end that would befall him in the third movie, but we’ll get to that. In this film he has fallen a long way, perhaps becoming a Captain Ahab of sorts when he sails his ship through the hurricane, and wants to regain what he has lost. His is quite the anti-hero because he still wants to ‘lawfully’ hunt pirates and really to him Beckett is not a villain. He’s the guy trying to hunt down the last pockets of piracy and Norrington gives him the leverage to do it. He just doesn’t realize that for Beckett the ends totally justify the means, which is not the case for Norrington. As well see in the third film when he gets the sword Will made. He recieved that in his service to others and he knows that is certianly not what he is doing under Beckett. Now the movie makes it clear that we are supposed to boo him for doing it solely for his personal gain and that’s an important thing to note for dealing with character motivations in the next film.

Well I said what I liked so back to the stuff I hate, and boy do I hate the Jack Elizabeth Will triangle. Words cannot fully describe how ridiculous I think this whole thing is, but I’m going to try anyways. Why does Elizabeth suddenly want Jack? She already knows that the pirate life she fantasized about as a young girl is not the reality. She is already free, at least partially, from her constricting life with being able to marry Will and develop beyond her social class so what is so great about Jack? Yes they flirted in the last movie, but that was clearly done by Elizabeth to get Jack incapacitated so she could make the smoke signal to alert the Royal Navy. In the commentary the writers mention that one of the things the compass is pointing to might be Elizabeth and we have that whole thing with Tia Delma about Jack ‘taking what he wants.’ Well why the hell does Jack suddenly want Elizabeth? He hasn't seen her in at least a year, if we say Jack was captain for two years before the mutiny, ten years for Barbossa, and than one more year to make the thirteen he bargained for with Davy Jones. Why is she suddenly on his mind so much?

Well the stupid triangle does sort of help us get to the place where the chest is and it’s time for an action scene. Or at least that’s how it feels to me, that we have to have a sword fight for the sake of having a sword fight. Now the sword with Pintel and Ragetti and Elizabeth against Jones’ crew is fun and the start with Jack, Will, and Norrington on the beach and the bell tower is great, but once we get to water wheel it goes from cool to gratuitous and we have more padding, as this thing slugs its way to the end credits.

Now in the first film the ending was my favourite part and in this film it’s my least, not counting the last thirty seconds. Jack has come back to help the crew defeat the Kraken, and then gives a nice line about abandoning the Pearl. “It’s just a ship, Mate.” Because it is just a ship, the Pearl isn’t freedom anymore. As long as Jack has the black spot and the Pearl is marked for destruction by the Kraken the ship is really his prison. Now his whole speech is the reason I hate the next scene so much. No it’s not just about the whole love triangle crap; though having Will see them kiss does nothing but create false drama for the next film. No the thing that annoys me is that Jack has come back for them, letting that good man peak out from the scumbag we’ve had to watch all this time, so why undermine that by having Elizabeth make him stay? Show that he is a good man. Even if you really want to have the kiss stuff just show Jack getting free of the cuffs while the lifeboat is still within reach and have him not go to it. A noble self-sacrifice of a good man who is going to face his death with his eyes wide open, rather than slimy man squirming out of the cuffs before facing the beast like a man when there isn’t any choice anymore.

And so the film ends and...well what can I say? It wasn’t an improved sequel by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t totally horrible either. I put it in the so okay it’s average category. The music is good as always, the villain is very good, the visuals of the movie are still great. Some of the characters grew in interesting ways, even though most don’t. Still I hate the love triangle, I hate the pacing, and the ending was a total letdown except for the twist with Barbossa, who, thankfully, was the clincher for getting a lot of us to the theatre for the next instalment in the trilogy.

No comments:

Post a Comment