Friday, January 14, 2011
Why Dead Man's Chest is the best and, so far, only *good* Pirates of the Caribbean
Oh, yeah, I just went there. Pourquoi? Read on...
The Curse of the Black Pearl has a pretty ridiculous story: a bunch of dangerous pirates desperately want to shed their immortality... and the script has our heroes spending the whole movie trying to avert that catastrophe. Huh? It also get pretty convoluted in the last third, as this or that person becomes temporarily invincible, or not... and then the ending, where the uptight British officer just lets the heroes go, is about as dumb as it gets.
Dead Man's Chest has a far better story: it's coherent, each character's actions make sense, and it builds to a single, rousing climax. More on this later.
... I'd slag on At World's End's story here, but really, what would be the point?
DMC gets massive character-work points by declining to ask Orlando Bloom to do anything but look vaguely daring, unlike the other two movies, in which he plays a significant role. Also, undead Barbossa is a pretty lame villain: so he stole Jack's captaincy... and? Both are pirates!
Now, Davy Jones, there's a bad mother- who gets off on being evil and collecting souls. He's also a marvelous CG work. But AWE sidelines him and tries to make him sympathetic (hello? Torturer... soul-stealer... bad guy... huh?), with the main villain being Beckett, who's great as a B-plot slimeball, but does or says nothing interesting in AWE.
Most of all, though, DMC has the most Jack, and this is the only movie where the main protagonist (being Jack himself, unlike the other two) has a significant character arc. (And no, Will deciding to be a pirate in COTBP for little other reason than the ability to bone Keira Knightley isn't a strong arc, as he started off wanting that.) DMC turns Jack from a purely selfish and cowardly POS into someone who recognizes the evil he's done and is prepared to risk his life to right it. As for AWE... I didn't see any significant character movement for anyone at all, beyond maybe Jack's decision to seek immortality - which happens offscreen.
AWE only has one final scene set in the Caribbean, so screw that movie. And even COTBP defenders must surely admit that its limited budget shows in cramped exterior work and other general limitations, whereas DMC is filled with spectacular outdoor locations, much more interesting weather, eye-popping action that doesn't involve a quasi-dance sequence in which Knightley is thrown straight up at the camera like a circus performer... and for those who charge that the DMC action is ridiculous, well, so is Jack, so it all fits.
Now, I've been to the Caribbean and other tropical places, and DMC is the only Pirates yet that really reminded me of what it felt like to be there.
DMC wins again; it improves upon the first movie's theme by making it loopier and subtler. The AWE music, OTOH, no doubt reflecting the lack of Caribbean/Jack action, was a wash.
She's hotter as a tomboy in man clothes than in a dress she doesn't fill out. (Sorry, girl, that milkshake date offer's still good anytime, but it's true.) And in DMC, she gets more screen time than Bloom and flirts with Jack. Win-win-win.
Each of the movies has them, but DMC's are, to my mind, the funniest and most interesting. And, you get those two or three shots of the clock being raised that looks exactly like the Hill Valley clock, so big points there.
Did I mention DMC has the most?
What about On Stranger Tides?
Well, it's not out yet, and IF it gives Jack the main focus as well as good character work, it might give DMC a run for its money. But by ditiching Bloom, being set in the Caribbean and not having COTBP's plot, it's already ahead of the first and third films.
... Truth has been served.