Pirates of the Caribbean at World’s End [2007]

Two words: Deeply Unsatisfying.

Raymond Carver wrote a book of short stories called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. It’s a haunting and aching kind of book, where the surface material distinctly presented to the audience (i.e. the text) tells only a fraction of the story. It is truly beautiful. A few years later he wrote a second short story anthology called Cathedral which took most of the stories from WWTAWWTAL and “fleshed” them out so that they were explicit. Fucked the whole thing up.

Anyway. The original movie was a pure money-spinning Holywood Blockbuster based off a Disney ride that had no pretensions to class, grandeur, or anything more than being 2 hours of fun. They got that 100% right. I’d be completely comfortable saying that in that class of movie, it’s one of the best ever. There are other movies I like more, don’t get me wrong, but for a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, the original Pirates was as good as you get.

In Pirates 2 & 3 it seemed to me like they developed ideas above their station and tried to blow away the audience by exceeding all expectations in ever frame of film, and they failed miserably. Instead there are a lot of pointless and interminable action scenes, patchy characters and an epic-scale plot totally outside the purview of anything legitimately described as “an enjoyable romp.[1]” At turns too silly, too serious, too loud and always too long… I found Pirates 2 & 3 to have failed on virtually every level.

As I think I said after King Kong… you come away from these movies realizing that there aren’t any flaws grevious enough to consign them to the echelons of The Hulk, but they’re not movies you’ll ever want to watch again, let alone endlessly reinvestigate with your friends the way we tend to revisit The Matrix, Star Wars, The Princess Bride and others.

[1] The Dom Post reviewer must have been stoned.

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15 Responses to Pirates of the Caribbean at World’s End [2007]

  1. jarratt_gray says:

    Clearly you didn’t see the same Hulk that I saw. That was a great movie. I can understand completely that it wasn’t what anyone was expecting (except me because I have seen enough Ang Lee to know you wouldn’t get an action movie). It pushed the boring army conspiracy story to the side, which so many films these days can’t do, and told the story of a man fighting to stay a man. It culminated in a supernatural battle with forces out of this world, and yet a part of it – the old force of nature – and yet it remained a struggle to remain his humanity against the very man that took it from him so many years ago. One of the most satisfying special effects action sequences ever.

    I haven’t seen Pirates yet so I not able to judge, but I can understand your point about meaningless and overly long action sequences. For some reason filmmakers seem to think they will make their film more epic, but it is story and heroics that make thing epic, not long action sequences. The action needs to have story, not just momentum (like that ridiculous but admittedly funny wheel swordfight of Pirates 2). It certainly seems to be a constant in major Hollywood films these day too; The Two Towers had meaningless overly long action throughout the Battle of Helm’s Deep; Kingdom of Heaven the worst siege ever; Matrix 2 the battle against the Agent Smiths; Attack of the Clones the pointless conveyer scene; Revenge of the Sith the ridiculous final duel on repulsor lift robots over flowing lava. Need I go on.

    I’m all for good action, and I’m still waiting for them to do an entire episode of 24 which is a real time car chase, or an entire episode which is a real time robbery with no dialogue like Rififi (if you ever want to see a good heist movie check out Rififi, a great old French film).

    I know Transformers is gonna be a huge let down too. I can tel by the two really bad trailers I’ve seen so far. If you can’t make a good trailer for a movie that makes me want to see it then I don’t think I want to see it. Even if it is Transformers.

    I had high hopes for Pirates 3 too.

    Ah well.

    • mashugenah says:

      Yeah… I saw the Hulk when I wasn’t in a great mental space, and was heavily prejudiced by the hatred of my best mate. Maybe I should give it a second chance…

      I’ll be interested to hear what you think when you do get round to seeing P3 though.

      • jarratt_gray says:

        Hulk is a very different movie. The pacing is slow and you kind of need to adjust your brain to suit it. I found this with The English Patient too actually. It is a slow meandering movie and the first time I saw it I was like, er… okay. But the second time I enjoyed it a lot more because I knew about the pace and adjusted accordingly. Going into a movie like Hulk and expecting Spiderman or some other fast paced modern action movie and you will be totally thrown.

        It’s like going back and watching Star Wars now. It is so slow compared to modern films. I’m not sure when our need for story/action acceleration began, but it seems to be the way most action and story in driven these days. Making Hulk stand out to me as a film that takes a chance on telling a more human story and developing it slowly rather than rushing from action set piece to action set piece.

        I will be interested to see what I think of P3 too. I’ll be in a space to like it, and I did enjoy the second movie. But I enjoyed the 2nd Matrix too and I’ve only watched the 3rd once ever.

        I like epic films, but not all films need to try for epic, and it’s possible that Pirates never should have been going there.

        But Johnny Deep is also very cool.

  2. xullrae says:

    But, but, but…..Johnny Depp!!!

    That makes up for everything!

    • mashugenah says:

      lol. He’s pretty cool, but not as cool as Geoffery Rush, and even the pair of them can’t entirely ameliorate the poor design of the movie. Still, I take your point, JD is pretty awesome.

  3. But what if I liked the Hulk and King Kong? 😉

    • mashugenah says:

      Then you can sit in the corner with Jarrat.

      I liked King Kong… but I couldn’t totally buy in, and think it easily could have been a more streamlined and coherent experience. I think it could have changed in that way and still made the “points” that it aimed at viz the nature of love v. obsession.

      • jarratt_gray says:

        I never said I liked Kong though.

        I did think it was great (I didn’t even mind the overly long battle with the dinos or the pit of bugs) right up until they got to New York. Then they totally lost me. What was a really interesting tale about some cool human characters was completely lost. It because totally about the humanisation of the monkey. Sure I get that is part of the film, but what the heck happened to the writer. I never bought into the love between Kong and the girl, it should have been more like obsession. In fact it was like obsession and she returned his love in kind. I have no problem with the submissive motif, but I’m not sure her character was like that in the beginning.

        So I mostly liked the movie but it felt all wrong and kind of meaningless toward the end.

        Also the Ice skating was a totally needless way to show off special effects.

  4. eloieli says:

    Heat

    Has the best action sequence ever.

    Well maybe not the best.

    Ronin also has an exceddingly cool one as well.

    Both of the action sequences in these movies are deeply embedded in the story.

    And I liked the Hulk.

    And King King, although it was about half an hour too long…

    • jarratt_gray says:

      Re: Heat

      Heat does have one of the best shootouts ever. It is a pretty cool movie as well. Not an action movie, but that is probably why the shootout was so good. It was defined by the parameters of an action movie. The shootout had meaning and momentum. It had story and purpose.

      It’s pretty hard to define best action sequences though.
      For example two of the coolest scenes I can think of are really short, but they have this magical ‘wow’ quality about them.
      – Start of The Matrix, when Trinity first goes into Bullet Time, hanging suspended in the air as the camera crabs around her.
      – Not a movie, but the first time Nathan actually flies in Heroes.

      Other scenes of note that come to the top of my head include;
      – Lightsaber duel in Empire (Yoda vs Dooku in Attack of the Clones gets a nod as well from me, though the story was lacking the effects were fun). And the original trilogy has other good stuff too (as well as some lame stuff like the Speeder Bikes)
      – Several moments in Battlestar Galactica (but I don’t want to spoil them)
      – Gundam Seed Destiny (probably none of you have ever seen it, and being Anime I’m not sure if it counts for action sequences), when Kira first gets Strike Freedom and totally outclasses like 20 mobile suits
      – Start of Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy is getting into the tomb.
      – X-men 2 when Nightcrawler goes after the president.
      – Starship Troopers – first drop
      – Braveheart The long spears battle
      – Kill Bill has very cool final battles at the end of both movies.

      There are many many more of course. I’m just thinking of a few off the top of my head (and off my shelf of DVDs)

  5. Saw Prats 3. I loved it. WIll Mash ever speak to me again? 🙂

    • mashugenah says:

      Yes, but it might just be to ask probing questions about what you liked. 🙂

      • First off, I tend not to analyse parts movies until after my overall gut reaction has settled and that reaction was very positive.

        What specific things did I like? That’s a little more tricky. I can identify that most of the issues people seem to be raising with the movie didn’t bother me . I found the movie to truck along with quite a bit of pace and I didn’t feel the length (it felt like one of the shortest 3 hour movies I have seen – in a good way). I thought the plot was just right in terms of complexity, consistent with 1 and 2 if you take into account the level of background set. I liked the amount of new characters introduced (though Sao Feng felt oddly between a minor and major character) and the depth to which most were explored (the primary characters remained centre stage). I felt it was a satisfying wrap up of the other two movies (which I watched the previous 2 nights, better than 2, though not as good as one. I laughed in all the right places and was genuinely impressed and wowed by the end sequence.

        So on a non-cerebral level, it was a lavish and fun action blockbuster with a great cast of actors playing pirates, a real depth to the fantasy world it created and moments of awesome.

      • mashugenah says:

        The thing which disappointed me most about the Star Wars prequels was that the core material wasn’t shit, but the execution was very poor. The Phantom Menace is eminently salvageable. Delete Jar Jar and substitute the Jedi up one mentor chain (Anakin becomes Kenobi, Kenobi becomes Qui-gon, Qui-gon becomes Yoda)… you then have deleted the annoying child and annoying alien, but otherwise everything still works. It works better because it’s trying to do fewer things. Likewise, Revenge of the Sith can be saved by paring back the fight scenes (especially the stupid factory scene!) and re-writing the love-story dialogue (some additional work in movie 2 on the relationship could even save most of the shitty dialogue in 3.)

        King Kong is the same… jettison the last 30 minutes of the movie and suddenly it’s a single coherent entity rather than a solid movie and a crappy sequel rolled into one (as well as being a better length.)

        And ultimately, I suspect that’s the problem with Prats 2&3. Ditch the two pirates from the original movie, they’re unnecessary. Ditch the pseudo love-triangle between Will, Jack and Elizabeth (IMHO: didn’t work, felt very artificial). Mostly though, I think they needed to pick whether the East India or Flying dutchman stories were their central interest… the way they tried to do both fell a bit flat, but I thought either could have been accentuated to work. Oh, and tell Verbinski that if any action sequence is longer than 20 minutes you’ll cut his balls off.

      • I agree that the movies mentioned above contain a level of bloat and this is not a good thing. Sequels (and trequels :)) in particular are suspectible to this due to the amount of baggage they retain. However, it doesn’t necessarily make for a bad movie, it all depends on how much is actually used and resolved. For example, X Men 3 suffered for having too many plots and characters that by the end did not get used or resolved. Matrix 2 and 3 also suffered from this with having developed 2 big bads. In comparison, I thought that it was clear in Prats that the Flying Dutchman was the villain in Prats 2 and the East India Trading Company was the villain in Prats 3.

        I didn’t find that there to be the same level of unresolved elements with Prats 2 and 3. I thought that they used all the pieces well and resolved those elements that needed resolving, often in quite clever and creative ways. For example, despite the dissatisfaction I felt at the end of Prats 2, I greatly respect how they managed to really twist many of the central characters to places which a hollywood blockbuster wouldn’t normally dare to go. I liked the love triangle, it really kept me guessing in Prats 2 and I liked how Prats 3 got over it pretty quickly.

        The only real extraneous character that bugged me was Sao Feng but I still liked elements of the picture and it wasn’t enough to detract me from the good stuff.

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