Monday, May 28, 2007

This Film is Rated "ARRRRH"


Several years ago, when my lovely wife Christine and I attended the Disneyland premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, I thought it was the best pirate movie I'd seen since Burt Lancaster's classic The Crimson Pirate decades before. Granted, intervening films like Pirates, Swashbuckler and Cutthroat Island made that a comparatively easy thing to accomplish, but still...

In PotC:tCofBP, swords were crossed, swashes were buckled, and in Captain Jack Sparrow, the always-brilliant Johnny Depp created a character unique in movie history. Granted, I was already inclined to like the film since it was being written by friends of mine and, thanks to their generosity, Marv Wolfman and I had spent a day on the set, meeting Keira Knightly, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush, and watching the crew shoot the climactic sword fight in the treasure cave. In fact, I still have a few "gold" doubloons from the cave floor laying around the house somewhere as a memento. But I also like to think I'm enough of a professional that I won't let personal allegiances interfere with me giving an honest review.

In point of fact, I did not particularly like the first sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Although I had fun much of the time while I was watching it, in the end I felt it was overlong, left far too many plot threads dangling (the problem with most middle films of a trilogy), and turned Jack Sparrow from a charming rogue to a repugnant, self-serving thug. While I know that the writers had always intended Jack to be totally amoral, it doesn't mean I have to like it.

I guess that's why I thrilled to report that I absolutely LOVED the latest (and, theoretically, final) chapter in the saga, Pirates of the Caribbean: at World's End. While it is by far the longest of the three films, clocking in at a little under three hours, the time seemed to fly past. There was none of the usual squirming and fidgeting that occurs when you're becoming impatient, waiting for the film to end. Frankly, I'd have been just as happy had the film never ended. The entire cast of the previous film was back and, wisely, all new characters added were in service to the half-dozen different stories they already had in place and needed to resolve. The two standout new characters were, of course, the incomparable Chow Yun-Fat as the leader of the Singapore pirates and the incomprehensible Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow's pirate dad. While still self-serving, Depp's Jack Sparrow was once again the charming rogue and, as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, Orlando and Keira took their characters to whole new levels of romance and butt-kicking. As the monstrous Davy Jones, the always-extraordinary Bill Nighy was at turns terrifying and heartbreaking.

In many ways, though, what impressed me most about PotC:aWE was the skill with which screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio managed to resolve all the many dangling plotlines left over from the previous films, and the often-ingenious ways in which they did so. Everything ends satisfactorily in PotC:aWE, though not necessarily in the way one might expect. There is nothing that I can think of that hasn't been addressed and resolved. And that, in itself, is a major magic trick. In fact, the only thing I can think of that could have improved the film is that every member of the audience be given a Tia Dalma-to-English Dictionary, as Naomie Harris's Caribbean accent couldn't be cut with a sharp new machete.

Pirates of the Caribbean: at World's End certainly will not need my recommendation to break buckets of box office records this weekend, but I'm giving it anyway. Go see it. You won't be sorry you did.

1 comment:

Thom Zahler said...


I really liked the third "Pirates" as well. In fact, I thought it was so good that it made the second one better. I'm wondering if the second doesn't suffer from being a middle.

Of course, the first is still the best. Being an artist, too, I miss that gold soaked Disney visual look in the first. The second was almost black and white and muddy. The third was better, but still not as punchy as #1.