Monday, May 09, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean -- arrgh!!

In anticipation of the opening later this month of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 17, my daughter Annie put together a “Pirate Paaaarrr-ty”. She invited a bunch of friends to watch a marathon – the first three PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEANS, along with home baked pirate snacks and decorations. Even my Bob’s Big Boy got into the spirit.

The first installment was a hoot. Johnny Depp’s take on Captain Jack Sparrow was fun and unique – more of a “swishbuckler” than “swashbuckler”. Orlando Bloom was dashing, and it’s always entertaining to see Keira Knightley kidnapped. Sure, there’s a certain suspension of belief. I can’t believe Keira Knightley would be held captive by the pirates and not passed around like a joint. But that’s movie magic. I enjoyed the film in the theater and this weekend as well on DVD.

POTC 2 was an utter mess. Saw that in the theater and found it such a trainwreck I never bothered to see POTC 3. When 2 originally came out I reviewed it in my blog. Here’s the full review, but here’s just a sample:

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 etc.

So I skipped the screening of POTC 2. But came back for some of 3, just out of curiosity. I had no earthly idea what was going on. Neither did the others in the room and they all had SEEN this movie at least once before.

The pirates are in a dead world and there are three Jack Sparrows and they sink the ship and hang underwater for several hours until it’s dawn, which rights the ships somehow and they’re back in the real world. There’s a Pirate national convention for some reason and everyone follows these rules that they make up as they go along. Geoffrey Rush, who was killed in the first one, inexplicably comes back in this one. And all he does is eat green apples. Keira Knightley goes from damsel in distress to kick-ass action hero and finally, king of the pirates. That's pretty impressive for someone who weighs 80 pounds.  There are Asian pirates, African pirates, living corpse pirates, and I think I saw some of Captain Hook’s men, too. Licorice voodoo woman grows to 50 feet and then explodes into a thousand coconuts for no reason at all. Just an utter mess.

The next sequel is the prequel we’re told. This time with no Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, which tells me they’re the only two actors who asked to read a script first. But Keith Richards is back. He’s the only actor who can play a pirate without having to get into costume and make-up.

So I imagined a scene if I were asked to write PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 4. This is me and the studio executive.

ME: After three movies and practically nine hours, what pirate genre moment hasn’t been done?

STUDIO EXEC: It doesn’t matter.

ME: The franchise is already getting extremely repetitious.

STUDIO EXEC: It doesn’t matter.

ME: And what was once fresh is now just a series of clich├ęs.
STUDIO EXEC: It doesn’t matter.

ME:  But you'll get terrible reviews.

STUDIO EXEC: It doesn't matter.

ME: No one can follow the story.

STUDIO EXEC: It doesn’t matter.

ME: If this next installment is the prequel, hasn’t the audience already been told everything that’s going to happen?

STUDIO EXEC: It doesn’t matter.

ME: And won’t the fans of the series feel cheated without Keira and Orlando?

STUDO EXEC: It doesn’t matter.

ME: I see you have a new director, Rob Marshall. Isn’t he known for staging musicals and big dance numbers not action?

STUDIO EXEC: It doesn’t matter.

ME: Well then, hell. What does matter?

STUDIO EXEC: We make $500 million and keep the lines long at Disneyland.  Nothing you've brought up will have any effect on that. 

ME:  Well, I'm an artist.  I have integrity.  I can't do this.

STUDIO EXEC:  Here's what I'd pay you.


ME: I can have the screenplay for you in two weeks.

STUDIO EXEC:  There might be even more sequels involved.

ME:  It doesn't matter.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 4 – Opens May 20th.  Great Paaaaar-ty, Annie. Jack Sparrow would send many lily-livered scum down to Davy Jones Locker just for a bite of your cupcakes.


yahweh said...

Exactly. And if the movie based on your screenplay sucks you can always say the director ruined your screenplay ;)

Anonymous said...

Ken: The one thing they got right about real pirates of the Golden Age in POTC was that Keira Knightly was not raped. One of the few surviving pirate articles (laws of the ship) states that a man who "meddles with a prudent woman" will be marooned or shot. Marooning was a horrible fate. They left you on a sandbar with a loaded pistol and a bottle of water. Once the water ran out, you probably shot yourself. Articles were real. Ship's crews did punish violators. The rest of that movie is pretty good. Two and Three are awful. They chose a good book for this one. So it has promise. Then again, they chose to shoot a movie set in Florida in Hawaii. That may be the dumbest thing I've ever seen Hollywood do. Hawaii!!! WTF?

Jason said...

And now I have that iPhone 4 Flash animation (the one with the talking animals that almost got a guy fired or something). I just hear that studio exec using that same robotic, wrongly-paced voice: "itdoesn't, matter." "Itdoesn't, matter."

RCP said...

I'd probably take the "It doesn't matter" money too. But only because it would allow me the time to write something Really, Really, Meaningful for People.

crackblind said...

I remember a friend of a friend was asked to write one of the Death Wish sequels (don't remember which one or if he finally did it). When he asked the exec what he wanted him to do the exec responded "Did you see DW1 & DW2?"
"Write DWx"

sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Pirates 2 and 3 weren't as simple or as swashbuckling as the first film, but I still enjoyed them. I own all 3 on Blu-Ray (and plan on buying the fourth as well).

One of the problems is they were being written while being filmed. And they tried too hard to top the first film. By introducing too many extraneous elements on the second film, the third film ended up having the task of resolving the whole thing coherently. Not an easy task.

I needed to watch part 2 at least three times to get the story and all of the threads. It's a matter of getting the character motivations. It also makes the third film somewhat easier to digest. It isn't that hard if you take time for the whole plot to sink in, despite some gaping holes.

I'm guessing some Disney exec mandated Bruckheimer and Verbinski to make the second film an Empire Strikes Back-esque 2nd act, without a true ending, instead of going for something simpler. Jack makes a deal with the devil, and ends up paying for it by being swallowed by the Kraken, leaving that thread to be resolved later.

Having said that, I still enjoyed all three. I'm hoping 4 lives up to the first one.

Mild Thing said...

The entire-and-endless POTC series makes me thankful for the gift of narcolepsy.

Now that you're safely back in CA, the M's have reverted to their natural state of impotent offense. Can't you get to Baltimore before tomorrow's game?????????

Jason said...

I have high hopes for this one, as it's based on the Tim Powers novel "On Stranger Tides". Nobody does historical/supernatural mashups better. You want to know the "real" story behind Kim Philby, Thomas Edison, Harry Houdini, Albert Einstein, Bugsy Siegel, John Keats, Lord Byron, Charlie Chaplin, the siege of Vienna? Read your Powers. He's very good at creating magical worlds that intersect with our own in interesting - and often disturbingly plausible - ways. And this is his Blackbeard story. I can't wait.

Anonymous said...

If I could get Comic Book Guy on you for a second (and I realize you were just making a joke), but the reason why Keira wasn't raped was directly addressed -

She was being held by undead pirates. They were under the Aztec curse at the time and couldn't eat, drink, feel or screw.

That's why they were collecting the gold coins - to get rid of them and break the curse. That was their whole goal during the film.

And, yeah, the sequels were an unbelievable drag.


gottacook said...

There have been other very good ones, but that is possibly the best of all the mock conversations to have appeared on this site. If it matters.

Mac said...

When it comes to "It doesn't matter" sequels, The Trail Of The Pink Panther must be King. It was made after Sellers died and his scenes were just outtakes and fluffs from other Pink Panther movies. Seller's widow actually won a lawsuit that the film "insulted the memory of her dead husband." A quote which did not appear on the movie poster.

Anonymous said...

What Jason said; although the whole reason they optioned Powers' novel is that they plundered quite a bit from it anyway for the POTC movies... might as well actually buy the book and use it for a sequel.

D. McEwan said...

Roger Ebert made a very perceptive remark about the first POTC film, that it was a very good 90-minute hidden inside an overlong 2 and a half hour movie. He was very right. I haven't bothered to see any of the sequels as I got the whole joke the first time, and it was more than enough, an hour more.

Jon88 said...

"Suspension of belief" -- lovely. I'm stealing that one.

AlaskaRay said...

I was happy to see that Capt'n Barbossa found a life after pirating as a royal therapist.


the same chris said...

I think the Pirates trilogy has a lot in common with the Matrix trilogy. Both first ones were great films, big hits and offered a lot of potential for sequels. But the 2nd and 3rd installments in both series tried to do too much in too little time.
I hope they have a streamlined plot and more of the fun ghost/zombie-pirate stuff in the new POTC movie. Everybody who loves Monkey Island should know what I mean. Jack Sparrow is a great character and i want more of the rum. If the movie is bad, I will just play Monkey Island again.

benson said...

SNL did a cute bit tied to POTC with Michael Bolton and three guys from the cast. don't know if it's still up on Hulu or EW's site.

Randy 92109 said...

Just read on the internets that Johnny Depp and Rob Marshall are also going to do a remake of "The Thin Man". I just cringed a little. It would take one hell of a writer to achieve the level of dialog of the originals.

lucifervandross said...

If annie sends the invitation, I would totally go to a pirate party she threw.

cadavra said...

I'm with Jen. People do learn from their mistakes and tend to work harder on the next one to re-earn the audience's good will (see: OCEAN'S 13). A new director can also bring some fresh perspective.

But most importantly: Depp, Rush, Cruz, McShane, Dench and Griffiths. A movie with that cast can't possibly be worthless.

Eric Weinstein said...

No "Pirate Party" is complete without the hamentashen I see...

Kelly Sedinger said...

Am I the only one who had no problem understanding the plot of POTC 2 and 3? Seriously, I've never understood the idea that the movies are hard to follow.

Jonathan Ernst said...

Love your blog Ken. Here's a fan's tribute to your scene from the post.

Not since the Mannequin sequel will you have seen your words played with such feeling.

Mac Harwood said...

Anonymous mentioned "The one thing they got right about real pirates of the Golden Age in POTC was that Keira Knightly was not raped. One of the few surviving pirate articles (laws of the ship) states that a man who "meddles with a prudent woman" will be marooned or shot."

However that rule might be more honored in the breach rather than the observance.

To quote one contemporary account (Defoe) :

".. so that when any fell into their Hands, as it chanced in the Onslow , they put a Centinel immediately over her to prevent ill Consequences from so dangerous an Instrument of Division and Quarrel; but then here lies the Roguery; they contend who shall be Centinel, which happens generally to one of the greatest Bullies, who, to secure the Lady's Virtue, will let none lye with her but himself."

Khufi Khan, a historian of the time, described the action of pirates towards women who were on the ship 'Gang-i-Sawai' which was attacked by pirates: "...[the pirates] busied themselves stripping the men and killing them and dishonouring the women, both young and old. They then left the ship to go free but took with them most of the women. Several of the ladies threw themselves into the sea.."

This seems to be a true account as one of the pirates (John Sparkes) freely admitted at his trial his "horrid barbarities .. though only on the bodies of the heathen"


Pirates of the Caribbean said...

O man!! Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz together on screen. That means neither the boys would wish to skip this nor the girls. I am dying to watch Pirates of the Caribbean since I saw some of the most amazing photos on this website called

Dave Mackey said...

What always intrigued me about the Pirates movies was the initial involvement of Jay Wolpert in the writing. Back in '72, Jay was the first showrunner for the current version of "Price is Right" and produced a number of game shows via his own company ("Whew!", "Blackout", "Rodeo Drive"). Even then he was interested in pirates, swashbuckling, all that stuff, incorporating it into showcases on Price, and creating a cast of wacky villians for his highly regarded "Whew!". Jay's shows were always fun, even if they didn't have legs. Beattie and Elliott have pretty much followed his lead, but I think the lion's share of the creation of the flamboyant Jack Sparrow should go to Mr. Wolpert.

WV: unesmsr: my current rack in one of my games of SCRABBLE.

Johnny Walker said...

I suppose you could write it under a pseudonym. If it did well you could pop out and say, "it was me!". If it tanked, nobody would ever know you'd sold your soul for money.

Janet T said...

no I'm with you on this- I was able to follow the POTC 2 and 3, without any problems. it's just entertainment, not brain surgery.

I truly love the POTC movies (oh and I can watch them with my 83 year old mother who will walk out of a movie if someone says a curse word)

and I'm sure I'll see POTC; On stranger tides at some point this summer- and enjoy it too.

Anonymous said...

How can this be a prequel? The end of the third movie is clearly setting up a hunt for the Fountain of Youth.

Anonymous said...

cadavra, you think Oceans 13 is an example of getting things right with the audience?

cadavra said...

Compared to OCEAN'S 12, sure!

Ellen Barkin.
Al Pacino.
Ellen Barkin.
No Julia Roberts.
Ellen Barkin.
More cohesive and well-structured script.
Did I mention Ellen Barkin?

cadavra said...

Also, Clooney explicitly admitted that they'd failed with 12 and wanted to do one more "to make it up to people."

Isabel said...

Can we just say it now: Johnny has sold out. The tourist was already questionable, and then there's the fact that he reportedly asked for and was given a one million dollar trailer for the shoot of the latest Pirates. That's just wrong, imho.

Stefan Bogdanski said...

Oh, hell... I LOVED the first movie. POTC2 and POTC3? Saw them in cinema, and they're were just... ahhhrg...

Alright, fellow shipmates, they hate their funny moments ("I want my bottle of dirt!"), but beside those comedic instances - no good story.

Haven't been to the cinema yet (don't have time to, got a cute little boy at home who demands his daddy to spend time with him instead of watching senseless movies in some dark rooms with a lot of strangers), but my work buddies are assuring me that i've lost nothing while NOT seeing POTC4.

salman said...

i like this movie..

sewa cooling fan said...

pirates, I really like about this movie

sewa kursi tiffany said...

I really love this film about a pirate adventure. how about the continuation of the film is whether there was a new title?