Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

The Depps of Despair
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, PG-13, 72%

I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to movies. I don't like to complain and am usually awestruck by your typical summer popcorn film. I love the spectacle, the grandeur, and the fun. Special effects and over the top visuals are what the big screen was made for, and just a decent execution of some big action is usually enough to make it worth the trip out to the cineplex for me. Which is why I find it hard to understand my feelings on the latest Pirate adventure from Mr. John Depp and the crew.

I didn't like it.

Not just, "it was OK", but I genuinely didn't like it. As in the "I would actively encourage people to avoid it" type of "not like it". I wouldn't use the "h word" or anything (that would be hate) but I thought it was pretty lousy. And unlike Spiderman-3 which I actually found myself wanting to revisit more as time went on, the more I've thought about Pirates the less I have any desire to see it again.

When Pirates 1 (I know that's not it's real name, but forgive me if I don't want to be typing out Curse of the Black Pearl/Dead Man's Chest/At World's End/Insert Your Own Overly Wordy and Useless Subtitle Here) came out it was a surprise hit. No one expected a movie based on an ancient Disney ride to be worthwhile, and then Mr. Depp put on an incredible character study and made gold doubloons where there was only sand before. Then Pirates 2 happened and I was disappointed in much the same way I was with the second Matrix, it seemed only a half story with an awful and tedious non ending. Still, even with "Pirates: The Second One" there were some fun moments that I really enjoyed, it was just ruined by the last quarter hour.

So what happened?

Well, if everything that is wrong about #2 can be seen in the last 15 minutes, I think everything wrong about #3 can be seen in the first 15 minutes. The movie starts with a drawn out, morbid scene that has very little if anything to do with the rest of the film except that it is a microcosm for all I found annoying about movie 3.

Who did what to whom and when was that again?

Maybe it was just me but I was "at wit's end" trying to stay with "At World's End". Maybe I didn't remember everything I was supposed to about the last movie, or maybe I'm not as astute a movie viewer as I had previously thought, but I found myself often asking questions like, "Why was she mad at him again?" and "Am I supposed to recognize that?" One of the most important aspects of any story is knowing the motivations of the characters and I couldn't keep them straight. I knew that in the end it was supposed to be Pirates vs. the SBDs (Snobby British Dudes), but the characters switched sides so many times and for so many reasons that I felt like an Indiana Pacers fan trying to remember who is on my team.

Are we there yet?

These last two movies reminded me of what it must have really been like to sail the seven seas. Lots of nothingness broken up only by the occasional pretty sight or enemy encounter. The longevity is even more annoying when you realize that 2 and 3 were, in essence, one film, one 5 HOUR plus film in two parts. I firmly believe these could easily have been a single 2 and a half hour film, and it would have been much tighter and held my attention. Of course to do this, you would need to take out at least a dozen of the useless side plots, but that only further emphasizes my point.

Been There, Done That

I think I'm done with the Pirate thing. Enough of the bloodshot eyes, enough of the dirty faces, enough of the tattered flamboyant clothing, enough of the funny accent, I get it already, and it's worn thin. I'm tired of the "on again, off again" shtick between Will and Elizabeth. In fact, during the "wedding scene" that was supposed to be this romantic culmination in a unique piratey way, I rolled my eyes so hard I had to get on my hands and knees and search the theater for them. I just couldn't have cared less about their relationship by that point, and it made that already drawn out scene even more of a burden. And here's the thing I can't believe I'm about to say, I'm tired of the Jack Sparrow bit. More accurately I think Johnny Depp is tired of it and it showed in his performance. Again, maybe it was just me, but when Jack is introduced in his Davy Jone's Locker induced insanity, and then he is introduced again, and again and so on until his personality fills the screen, the sheer volume of his performance was just too much. I found it delightful and engaging when it was fresh in the first flick, but by Pirates 3 I seem to be finding it like a supremely rich cheesecake. Sometimes after a couple bites, I just can't take anymore.

Shoulda been rated ARRRRRRRRR

Sure it's an old joke, and honestly I don't think it quite deserved an R rating, but it certainly was a very hard PG-13. The movie opens with the mass execution of dozens of people finishing off with the hanging of a child, not to mention the other numerous gruesome deaths throughout. My wife and I are grown adults and I think mature enough to deal with said darkness (though wife o' Dice did mention covering her eyes on occasion) but this film has been promoted as a family film, and based on the sold out audience we saw it with people didn't think twice about bringing the kids. You name the age, they were in the theater with us. The little boy (maybe 4ish) sitting right in front of me spent much of the movie pulling on my leg hair so I know they were there. The point is, I'm not usually one to get all riled up about this stuff, but I haven't been this distracted by knowing that children were watching since I saw "Passion of the Christ" (a movie I love by the way, but it's a bit much for the little ones). Come on parents, get a clue, do some research, and hire a babysitter. Of course the fault isn't all in the parents lap, a good portion falls to Disney who continues to market these films in their family division. Of course I'm the uptight parent that can't believe people let their kids watch the Shrek films, so maybe I'm the crazy one here.

Add to these things that I still haven't gotten over the fact that the main message of these films is the glorification of anarchy, self satisfaction, and greed and there just isn't much positive to walk away with. I suppose I could talk about the great performance of Geoffrey Rush or maybe the moments of genuine humor from some of the side characters, but those are merely the peanuts lost in the matted pirate's hair of "At World's End". You can pretend there is a meal in there somewhere, but you will go away hungry in the end.

C-