Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean

Since it’s setting boxoffice records, any review of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST is utterly meaningless. I should write such a flawed Home Run. But since I paid actual money to see this swashnumbing affair I feel compelled to at least vent.

NO SPOILER ALERT – I saw the movie and still don’t know what was going on.

First off, the first PIRATES was leagues better (20,000 leagues better). Johnny Depp’s character was so fresh and fun. This time he was Greg Germann in raccoon eye make up.

For all the hair raising chase scenes and special effects I couldn’t be more bored. A half hour into the picture I was praying someone would flash a CAPITOL ONE card and all the pirates would go away.

Have they already exhausted their villains to the point where Jack Sparrow now has to battle the Swamp Thing?

In one sequence he’s chased by Zulu warriors. Excuse me but what Carribbean island is THAT supposed to be?

But my big problem was this – what the fuck was going on?? There’s this ship of slime pirates, and then a map, and a bad guy from the last movie gets hired on the ship, and Keira Knightley is stowing away on another ship, and then some Voodoo lady who’s been eating licorice offers cryptic advice, and there’s a dice game that makes no sense, and Keira’s dress is floating in the water and that is supposed to mean something, and Orlando Bloom’s clothes never get dirty, and they capture a little monkey for some reason, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon visits Jack one night, and Jonathon Pryce complains about wearing a wig, and it’s real important Jack keeps a jar of dirt, and there’s a three-way sword fight between Jack, Orlando Bloom and the bad guy from the last movie where they’re all accusing each other of things more confusing than any BIG SLEEP plot point, then they cut back to the George Washington looking guy who I hadn’t seen in a half an hour and completely forgot about and he’s …I dunno where, plotting something, I dunno what…and Jack’s palm gets black then it goes away then it comes back again, and he makes a deal with Octopus Beard Guy to do something in three days – I have no idea what -- or he has to give over 99 souls – not sure how one does that, and gorgeous Keira Knightley is forced to wear a pirate hat, and there’s a magic compass that always points to Disneyworld or something, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon turns out to be Orlando Bloom’s father and has a starfish attached to his face that he never thinks to remove, and cannon balls blast through Jack’s ship but it somehow never leaks, and many of our characters get caught in this giant runaway wooden wheel that looks like a prop from last year’s Reward Challenge on SURVIVOR, and there seems to be a rum shortage, and Jack does something good so Keira Knightley hand cuffs him, and Octopus Beard Guy can sometimes grow to the size of Catalina, and for all his slime no one on his ship slips while walking on the deck, and there are Red Coats for some reason, and letters of transit or a pardon in a leather case, and after all that NOTHING IS RESOLVED.


If only the movie was six minutes and the ride took two and a half hours.


david golbitz said...

You simply didn't understand the subtext of this movie. It's not what the characters did that matters, it's what they didn't do.

And something about a hero's journey.

And method acting.

Say, that big sea beastie sure was somethin', wasn't it?

Whaledawg said...

Not to take away your thunder Ken, but this guy has the best review out there.

"Best as I can tell they took 4 or 5 random screenplays and loaded them into a shot gun. Then they paid a PA or an assistant to peice them together and then hand that too the actors."

Anonymous said...


Great review! Ya ever get the feeling that the director and film editor must have been on acid when they pasted this thing together (not to mention the screenwriter)? --I guess Keith Richards playing Jack's father in the next one is going to be very appropriate...

Anonymous said...

All you have to do is stand in a movie complex and watch the people exiting films like Pirates or most of the top grossing movies. Look at their faces ... lucky if anyone has a higher IQ then 25. Knuckle dragging drooling mutants.

Anonymous said...

The dice game actually does make sense, although clearly they didn't explain it. They're playing a poker-based dice game called Liar's Dice, and playing with a twist I hadn't seen before where you include other players' dice as part of your bid. It's a pretty fun game - here is a wikipedia entry on the rules:'s_dice

Emily Blake said...

I didn't see Pirates. Now I know why. I didn't see Superman either. I did see X-men 3 but was severely disappointed. It seems like all the big hyped movies this summer have not lived up to their expectations.

I think I'll just hold out for the snakes.

Anonymous said...

I took my kids expecting (a) plot holes big enough to fit the Black Pearl thru, (b) scenes using more special f/x than Depp uses eyeliner, and (c) dialogue lowbrow enough for a pirate to spew but witty enough to send lemonade gushing out of a 7 yr. old’s nose – and I personally loved the movie for what it was.

As a storyteller myself, the flaws were as obvious as Disney’s promoting of its cash cow, but I did learn something from the movie. Sometimes audience, most of which aren’t storytellers themselves, can care less about plot points and character development as long as their popcorn is warm, their Coke is cold, their candy is sour, and the movie in front of them keeps their kids entertained for two hours.

Oh yeah, I also the one surefire way to get away with crafting a confusing plot is to end the movie with a cliffhanger.

Anonymous said...

Like Christopher, I went into this hoping for a roller coaster ride in the worst way, and that's exactly what I got.

I loved every stupid insane overlong underplotted minute of it.

Yes, I do so wish there was more that made sense in this thing and that whatever mess will be straightened out in the next movie. I also wish that world peace was on the United Nation's slate for next week, but neither one is going to happen.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

They had to make up a tribe because decendants of many of the real tribes, like the Caribs, protested during the Dominica shooting that they were being portrayed as cannibals. History books say some tribes were. But, to keep peace, T&T made up a tribe. Glad they did. They got away with that uber charming necklace of toes.

Where are said holes? Many reviews said the first one was full of holes but all it really required was a more careful view.

But as you said, does it really matter? The wallet of the viewer is louder than the voice of the critic.

I, too, loved every insane moment.

default said...

Best review I've read. I'll only add this: I wanted so badly to like the film. I wanted a frolicking adventure with the Captain Jack Sparrow I met in the first film. I tried, throughout the film, to hold on to hope. It'll pull it off in the end, I tried to tell myself.

But then there was no end. No resolution. All that, for nothing. I felt cheated. Beat. Used. Yet I left the theater trying to convince myself that I'd just had a good time.

I hadn't. All the gags, and escapes, and jokes and action sequences just added up to a colossal, boring mess. Yet I'm still hoping to meet the Jack Sparrow I once knew in the next movie. The fun Jack. The drunk Jack. The not-a-cowardly-asshole Jack. Maybe they'll pull it together. I'll take the ride one more time, and keep hoping...

Anonymous said...

Ken what were you expecting “Gone with the wind”? I mean the movie is a sequel of a movie based on a ride and pirates are the heroes. I went expecting a little escapism and some laughs and it did that. As for a plot it’s a comedy and plots have never been essential for them to succeed. The Marx Bros never had half the plot Pirates did and most of their films are considered classics. The same goes for Abbott and Costello, the Bob Hope road movies and most of Mel brooks work. “Dead Mans Chest” is the first just fun movie to come out in several years. It not “Ben Hur” but it never claimed to be. I say just lighten up.

Tenspeed & Brownshoe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tenspeed & Brownshoe said...


I loved the movie. Saw it twice.

Implausible? Hell yeah!

Entertaining? Hell yeah!

Better than most blockbusters? With the exception of the insanely perfect Spiderman movies...hell yeah!

I'm always a little annoyed when someone says they're confused by a film. Especially one like Pirates. All anyone really had to do attention.

Put it this way, you know you're really not following a movie when you think that Davey Jones was turning into the Cracken. Ken, I KNOW you understand story a bit better than you're letting on...

Actually, my partner in blog, Brownshoe, is exactly the same way. He hates everything.

But I did notice I don't see The Artful Writer listed in your LINKS anymore...


Will said...

If you have ever chastized a movie, any movie, for trading story for plot, then check yourself when spitting on this one. It is an organic, reeling story driven by characters who want different things and end up careening into and ricocheting off each other, rather than fulfilling plot points in mandated order. Yes, it is both complex and shallow, but folks who complain about this movie not being short and linear are suspended from using the phrase "audiences are smarter than Hollywood gives them credit for" for thirty days.

I am very happy that this movie made a pile of cash (Disney's floating it in the Caribbean, calling it an island and shooting parts of the third movie on it, I think) despite the complaints from critics that it's too long and confusing.

I liked it the first time, liked it a lot the second time. I won't complain about getting two hours of visual candy and interesting cartoon characters for my money. Neither will I complain about a summer action movie that's got enough meat on it to watch twice.

It's not a swashbuckler, though, and the sword fights in both Pirates movies have been terribly weak, but with this one I made my peace with the fact that they're cartoons, not swashbucklers.

John said...

What a major disappointment. The 1st movie had great throwaway one liners that get better and better with each viewing. Jack was a wonderfully ambiguous character in the 1st movie.

You could take any single 15 minute set piece in the 2nd movie, cut it out and throw it on the edit room floor, and not impacted the film one whit (besides making it shorter).

Granted there were some wonderful performances by Bill Nighy and Stellan but they were offset by the horrible script.

There were also some truly awful special effects scenes that were visually jarring to see including the climactic Capn Jack vs. the Kraken showdown. It certainly didn't look like a $200 million production (most of the $ must have been in salary).

The kicker was the ending which totally invalidates the 1st movie (which I absolutely loved). I haven't been this disappointed since the 2nd Matrix film.

Anonymous said...

OK, there's a bunch of off-the-mark comments here - praise heaven! I was afraid the comments would be as consistently entertaining and incisive and inspiring (seriously) as the blog (notwithstanding the 'it made no sense' stuff going on in this post - c'mon, Ken, the story made sense and fit together fine, it was just largely a colossal waste of time and energy). Sorry to be a bitch here, but a couple of you are pissing on the wrong fire.**

Don't confuse 'complex' with 'complicated,' Will. With the exception of the Matrix films there aren't many complex actioner blockbusters to be found. Deadwood is complex; PotC2 just gives you a lot to keep track of. Too many 'cool' setpieces, but then that's what the film was made for! Looking at an early draft of Ted and Terry's script for the original PotC there are fewer bits of stupid comedy than clambered onto the screen; most of the bloat in Dead Man's Chest is Verbinski troweling on 'atmosphere' and extending each cartoonish gag to twice the needed length. (Never have I cared less about the stunts in a film, as cool as the final 3-way sword-swinging contretemps was.)

But by and large I wouldn't fault the writers on this one - line to line it's a cleverly-dumb film. And most of the actors dialed it up a bit - Bloom almost has a personality in this one! Unfortunately Depp's part felt overwritten by half. I know, you can't know the script from the final film, but this time out ther was a palpable disconnect between the wit and the action. It was just...dumber.

Mainly, like Tenspeed, I don't like to hear people criticise a film by claiming not to have followed. Maybe it's hard to turn off the Writer Jones for two and a half hour, Ken, or maybe I'm possessed of a shocking superhuman intelligence (I refuse to rule out the latter), but the brute logic of each sequence, the 'connect index card 37 to index card 38' vibe, is more rudimentary than complex. Not as good as the first - less intelligently enjoyable, but every once in a while it's nice to just be breathless for a while. And the film aspires to nothing more noble.

I hope to God.

** Brand new metaphor. Useful? Lovely? Rubbish?

Anonymous said...

I still liked the Hamsterwheel of Death. Bunch of cool stuff here for the next ride.

Anonymous said...

Well it's good to get an honest opinion. :)

Though all those levels! Fixed amount of urine, encroaching-hell imagery, time pressure, inability to urinate because of encroaching hell...

Anonymous said...

Personally I loved it. Sure, it's not as good as the first movie - that almost never happens, let's all deal with it ;) But as sequels go it was great.

I do wonder if people just have no idea of maritime mythology - you do know who Davy Jones was meant to be, right?

Tenspeed & Brownshoe said...


I work with a lot of people from other countries and they always talk about how dumb we are. I've vehemently argued what a dull stereotype that is.

It doesn't help when people say that they couldn't follow the plot to Pirates of the Caribbean.

By Ken Levine said...

People from other countries think we're dumb because we elected George Bush as President ... TWICE!

Tenspeed & Brownshoe said...


"People from other countries think we're dumb because we elected George Bush as President ... TWICE!"

That's true but I'll go on record as saying that the complicated and antiquated voting system in America
is a bit more complex than a movie starring Johnny Depp, a Huge Octopus, and that guy from that Hugh Grant movie that wasn't very funny.

Anonymous said...

If John Kerry ran again, people would vote for George Bush three times.

Rules notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...


You are a cranky old man, pissing on other people's work. I've never heard you compliment anything.

It's so easy to play the curmudgeon, it's just too bad you're not as funny as you think you are.