Thursday, December 13, 2007

At Wits' End

A week or so back I finally caught up with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. At the time I felt it really wasn’t worth talking about.

The first film had been a real romp, like The Adventures of Robin Hood with a completely-off-his-face Errol Flynn, except on water... which would make it more like The Sea Hawk with a rolling drunk Flynn. And undead pirates. It was fun. It was a hoot. It was certainly far better than any film based on a theme park amusement ride should have been.

While the second movie had its moments – shooting the undead monkey and all that business with the cannibals – suddenly it stopped being fun. This time around I don’t think I even cracked a smile. It probably didn’t help that I had rolled in from work with a splitting headache and probably should have been lying down with a damp cloth on my forehead.

Not seeing it at the cinema meant I obviously missed out on the big screen experience and a pounding soundtrack so loud I’d probably have ended up with a splitting headache... But if I had slipped out during the summer to sit amongst the popcorn munchers I’d probably have sat there wondering what the holy living fuck was going on. At least watching on disc I could shuffle back to try and get a bead on who was double-crossing whom at each particular moment, although after a while I pretty much gave up on trying to make any sense of it.

I guess they figure people don’t want a rerun of the same. Dead Man’s Chest already made the ongoing story more complex. Here it just became burdened down with over-complications, which was a shame. Compared to the Jason Bourne trilogy, which stayed lean and fast as it followed through Treadstone, Neski, and Blackbriar, with a pen, rolled up magazine, and hardback book, to reach a satisfying conclusion, Pirates of the Caribbean slumped into a stodgy mess.

With so many characters shoehorned into the story, elbowing other out the way, hopefully Jonathan Pryce and Jack Davenport both trousered massive cheques for turning up and being jostled out of the picture. Although one thing At World’s End did have going for it was the welcome return of Giles New and Angus Barnett, back as Murtogg and Mullroy, first seen guarding the docks at Port Royal, especially since they ended up as crew on the Black Pearl.

As overcomplicated as the story was, wrestling its way through the tangle of narrative threads, director Gore Verbinski’s increasing overindulgence in the last two films didn’t appear to help any. There were some spiffy shots, like the Chinese junk sailing through the night lit by the stars above or the Black Pearl cresting the dune in Davey Jones’ Locker, but ultimately they just slowed the already dawdling narrative to a crawl.

When it came to the destruction of the British flagship, Endeavour, blasted apart by the Pearl and the Flying Dutchman, it just when on and on and on, culminating in the ridiculously long shot of Tom Hollander’s Lord Cutler Beckett walking across the deck, through the shower of shrapnel and wooden shards. Wouldn’t it have been neater if, right after he had muttered “It’s just good business,” the ship went up in one big bang as the powder ignited rather than a slow-mo action movie jerk off?

Then again, by that point I was pretty much beaten into submission to truly care. I was still astonished it had taken almost a whole hour before they rescued Han Solo from Tatooine... you know what I mean...

Anyway, I brought this up because I watched the film again (or at least a fair portion of it), trying to get myself to like it. Now, having picked up the new 5-disc boxset, in my spare time I’m trying to see if I can, after all these years, like Blade Runner.


At 6:28 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

Funny you mention the migraine-inducing soundtrack. It really annoyed the hell out of me.

The script was shite. But almost every Hollywood script these days is shite. They all seem to be hacked out in an afternoon by a couple of teenage boys who've forgotten to take their Ritalin.

Then again, that may be the target audience.

At 11:10 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

I really wanted to like it, because the first one had been just so ace and skill. Hell, even my folks liked the first film when they caught it on the box, and that's saying something.

It just caught a case of the dollar-grabbing disease from sucking on the Hollywood money cock. Which is a shame.


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