No 475 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Director - Gore Verbinski
Oh, it starts so well. Beautifully in fact. The opening shot of rain pouring into overflowing tea cups is not only gorgeous cinematography, it is the most openly English shot I have ever seen in my life. There is some wonderful slow motion running about and we're introduced to the new big bad... well little bad.. Lord Bennett, representing the East India Trading Company and representing something else, something important. This is, after all, the time in which the East India Trading Company got massive. When I was reading up on Tea (as one does) I began to get an idea of how massive the company was, but this film makes it instantly clear - it is big. Bigger and more powerful than an island's Governor. He has warrants for the arrest of everyone who aided Captain Jack.
So Elizabeth, Will and even Norrington are pulled back in to Captain Jack Sparrow's mad little world.
In fact this film manages to crowbar in a lot of returns from the first film. Sadly, the most annoying ones being the return of Pintel and Regatti as the 'comic relief'. I loe Mackenzie Crooke, but when you are blessed with Captain Jack, you do not need comic relief... let everyone else live their weird and slightly straight laced live and let Captain Jack flounce around.
This trilogy gets progressively more muddled. One of the reasons that the third part isn't in this list is that by then, the franchise was a bit of a mess, trying to fit more and more layers of extravagance and myth into an already bloated story. Here is hoping that with Pirates 4 it all gets stripped back down to its part one origins.
Here, we can see the beginning of this fascination with pouring myth over myth over myth. However, the story is pretty damned good. Jack made a deal with Davy Jones to get his ship back. In return, he gives Davy Jones his soul (after an allotted time). The time is up and Jones wants his soul. So we have a sea pursuit with Jack against Bill Nighy's Davy Jones.
Jones is an incredible creation. To this day I think he is probably the best CGI in a film. You just can't tell where prosthetics end and CGI begins in his constantly moving tentacular face. It probably shines best in his organ playing scene. There is something remarkable about the scene. The independent tentacles sweeping across the keys and the genuine performance of pain and despair on Davy Jones' face. What is remarkable is that even though it is hidden behind masses of digital and prosthetic make up, even though it is delivered with a completely different (to his usual voice) Scottish brogue, it is still recognisably Bill Nighy. Something about the eyes.
So the new characters are largely brilliant. The links to the original film are quite clever (we get to meet Will's pirate father Bootstrap Bill and we learn more about Captain Jack's unusual compass) but the film suffers from trying to out stage the first.
So the scenes of over choreographed swashbuckling - complete with flips and leaps and tumbles - have become further over choreographed. So now we have a (genuinely excellent) fight with three combatants sharing two swords (a lot of throwing swords between each other) and the utterly bonkers fight between Captain Jack, Will Turner and Norrington. Not enough to have them fight in a three way duel (already quite unusual) - they have to do it on top of the giant water wheel as it rolls through the jungles of the island.
It is utterly preposterous. Whilst it does look cool, it just shows what happened to the franchise. By film 3, POTC was so conscious of set pieces and moments that the plot severely suffered. However, this is not the franchise's biggest crime.
The next bit of my blog is a bit of a rant about how the film ends. There will be spoilers in. I will also dole out some spoilers on the Matrix trilogy (because it illustrates my ranty point) - so let it be warned.... If you don't want to know things about these films don't read it. Let me say that the Pirates of the Caribbean films have an excellent score and move on. End of Blog.
Otherwise.... let me bitch and moan.
I HATE IT when films don't end properly. It is lazy and insulting to the audience. It also means that we're expected to shell out twice as much to know how a story ends. Now I don't mind when a story continues into the next film. Lets look at Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. They have an overall arc but each film is structure. The general plot of that film is concluded by the end of the film. I don't mind that. I just don't like ending mid plot. Kill Bill did it - splitting up the film into two halves, when with tighter editing it could have been one, better, film.
But for me the biggest criminals are The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean. In both of these films, all we have is a second film acting like a trailer for the third and final film. It is all just set up. The Matrix even ends on a DUN DUN DUN 'to be continued' panel. No! This isn't a TV show! This isn't fucking Lost! I want my resolution. I paid for a story.
It is the same with Pirates. The two plot elements in this story are as follows: Jack has to honour his debt to Davy Jones and William Turner wants to rescue his father from the Flying Dutchman. Whilst Jack's Story is sort of finished - the debt is paid when they RELEASE THE KRAKEN which subsequently devours the Black Pearl, captain included. But Will's story is barely touched on... just leave it for the third film. Hell the final act is just setting up subsequent plot elements for the third film.
Again, like Pirates it even ends with a DUN DUN DUNNNN moment as the recently revived Barbossa struts down the steps of the voodoo lady to rescue Jack from the afterlife.
By all means give us a trilogy. Link the stories together. But don't end midway through the plot! That is why we watch TV.... grr