Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dead Man's Chest

In the middle of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the two rancid pirates Pintel (of the bad hair and teeth) and Ragetti (of the bad eye) debate the correct pronunciation of "kraken," and in the middle of a packed opening-weekend theater, Sydney and I were the only people to burst out laughing. The woman behind us hissed: "I don't get it."

Much later, after an apparent climax gave way to yet another elaborate bit of scene-setting, the same woman said aloud: "You mean it's not over yet? Lord!"

The critics seem to share this woman's opinion. Their consensus seems to be that the much-hyped sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is both too confusing and too long. As if that weren't true of the first movie, too! The only real problem with the new movie is that now we're expecting all the shtick, whereas the first one took us utterly by surprise. Disney probably should have let this one take us by surprise, too, rather than bombarding us with so much pre-release hype and merchandizing that millions who didn't even see the first picture shuffled in that first weekend and found themselves, like the woman behind us, hopelessly confused. They thought this was going to be a real pirate movie, and look what they got instead!

Sydney and I enjoyed the new picture a lot. Elements we loved included: Davy Jones and his half-crustacean crew; the kraken, and Jack's beautifully staged final confrontation with it; the runaway water wheel; the shipboard uses Elizabeth finds for her dress; Stellan Skarsgard as Bootstrap Bill (who actually seems, amid the camp, to be sincerely playing an actual character with actual feelings); Naomie Harris as the seer Tia Dalma; Kevin McNally as the roaring first mate Mr. Gibbs (who's channeling Thomas "Land, Katie Scarlett" Mitchell even more than in the first movie); all the Pintel-Ragetti bickering; and the whole Elizabeth-and-Jack relationship, including her compass' annoying tendency to point only at him.

Sure, I could have improved the movie at the script stage, with 30 minutes' work and a pencil, but of what recent movie can I not say that? I'd have cut most (if not all) of the opening exposition, including the introduction of Jack and the Black Pearl's crew; I'd let the cannibal sequence be our introduction to Jack and the crew this time around (having the audience discover them the same time Will discovers them, basically); and I'd better explain what's going on with that dice game aboard Davy Jones' ship, so that the scene had the emotional resonance the filmmakers intended. I'm sure I'd have made other tweaks, but so what? All was forgiven at the end when the Special Guest Pirate clumped down the stairs, and he wasn't even Keith Richards.

1 comment:

Tracy S. Miller said...

Wow, Andy! Tracy and I are delighted to have found your blog! (Hat tip to Barry...)

As with most all of your writing, I found your review of Dead Man's Chest to be spot on. I loved it for all the same reasons, and could have only been happier if you had been allowed to wield the pencil as you said.

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