July 7th, 2006


Pirates 2 -- The New Empire Strikes Back

Okay, it turns out everyone and their brother has had the same thought. We got home from the movies and found that the local Grand Rapids Press review of the movie made the same connection. But come on, a lot of the people who might read this blog are likely to be well versed enough in SF/F to understand the ref a lot better. (grin)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest [PG-13]

Captain Jack Sparrow is back. The unlikely blockbuster delight from 2003 returns for a second helping. Orlando Bloom is described in the press as being happy to play straight man to Johnny Depp's manic pirate. And Keira Knightley is just man enough to stand up to him. (double-entendre-grin)

How the hell did a silly Disneyworld ride from like the early 1960s end up turning into a rollicking fun movie? Where did they get a plot from that? Answer: They didn't. Tortuga is as close to Disneyland as we get.

Now lots of people aren't as geeky as we are, so they aren't likely to stay all the way through the credits to the bitter end. Even the audiences in Finland don't watch credits. So they didn't see the extra little throwaway bit after the credits, a little something I always refer to as a Dr. Phil Special.

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No Spoilers in this review though. Nothing you can't have seen in the trailers anyway.

A Plot! Or At Least Lots of Confusion!

It gets pretty convoluted this time out. For one thing, we're dealing with a bunch of bloody pirates -- and they're all liars. Except when they're telling the truth. And no one believes them anyway. Anyway, the pirates aren't the real villains here... mostly. It's the bloody East India Trading Company. Things are NOT going well for Elisabeth Swan and Will Turner -- or the Governor, her father. And Jack Sparrow? Excuse me, CaptainJack Sparrow. Well, he keeps on getting into trouble in the way only he can -- and getting out of trouble, sort of/kind of.

There is SO much detail in this movie. The multiple Johnny Depp eyes on Captain Jack when he's with the natives, the fishy/briny crew of Davy Jones, Davy Jones himself... Mrs. Dr. Phil realized that Davy Jones was played by Bill Nighy under all that makeup -- I didn't make the connection -- all from one little mannerism she remembered from Love, Actually. The man is showing up everywhere, well done!

I was particularly impressed by the Kraken -- the big tentacled sea monster that Davy Jones can summon from the deep. There are some microdetails which are used in the computer "photography" which make the tentacles reaching high above the deck look realistically big -- these are things which too many movie makers don't bother with, which is why a lot of computer special effects don't impress me.

The perfect cliffhanger, whether in the middle of an episode or between episodes, is one where we leave one of our protags in an impossible situation from which there is no possible hope of escape. The escape, which may be simple or simply improbable (grin), is going to be a lot of fun or a good laugh. These crafty Pirates deliver on all these scores as well. And, well, the dead just don't do a good job of staying dead in these movies...

That Empire Strikes Back Thing

We've got lost fathers (Bootstrap Bill Turner), we have a promised expedition to the Ends of the World (not a secret, that's the subtitle of Movie 3) and lots of characters reprising roles, popping up in unusual places. Plus a hope for redemption for a father lost "to the dark side". And doubt. Gotta have some doubt between characters. Love the ending, but there's no doubt that Movies 2 and 3 were considered as one project, even if Movie 1 is capable as a single free-standing movie, just like the original Star Wars movie.

Amongst us old Star Wars hands, there is a debate as to which of the first three movies is the best. Star Wars, as the first one out, has the taste of innocence which the others just can never have. And that innocence is diluted with the prequel trilogy, at least for those kids who'll grow up seeing them 1-6, and therefore out of order. (grin) The Empire Strikes Back, though, really delivers as a rock-solid sequel, so it's a fave to some, especially as it has such terrific plot and structure and substance to it. Maybe Dead Man's Chest isn't as good as all that, but sequels are generally such a sorry lot, I'll take Pirates 2 anytime.

Will You Stay To The End This Time?

Because I don't want to have to explain about the Dr. Phil Special at the end of Movie 2, so you can understand what the hell is going on in Pirates of the Caribbean: End of the World come 25 May 2007.

And I can't wait...

Dr. Phil
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