Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was the unexpected hit of the summer of 2003. Who could believe that one could find so much in the old Disneyland animatronic ride? And yet they managed to pick up a stellar cast who hung on gallantly to the impossible coat tails of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. Our first of glimpse of Captain Jack, heroically standing watch atop a mast... and stepping off from mast to dock just as the boat sinks, told us this was not going to be an ordinary movie.
And then we went to Finland. One of our "things to do" was see a movie in Helsinki, which we did. Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines was all the better with Swedish and Finnish subtitles. But that Friday, POTC was going to open and we had to see Mustan helmen kirous, opening night, in the big theatre at the Tennispalatsi (former Olympic venue).
Much like the original Star Wars trilogy, POTC 2 & 3 were a double-feature, complete with a pretty decent sudden death cliffhanger. Unlike Return of the Jedi, POTC 3 was the weakest of the trilogy -- they were trying to do too much. Still, watching the unpredictable Captain Jack Sparrow is always fun. So when WOTF workshop co-leader Tim Powers said that one of his novels had been optioned for writing the next POTC script, well, we knew we'd be there.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in IMAX 3D [PG-13]
Celebration Cinema North, IMAX Theatre, 12:25pm, 2×$16.50
All of which leads us to Saturday afternoon, Celebration North IMAX 3D of POTC 4, "suggested" by Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides, which I confess I don't have a copy of... yet. The lobby of the multiplex was crawling with pirates, handing out Mardi Gras type throws as booty. One fellow was dressed and made up as a very credible Captain Jack. We thought maybe they'd be going to our showing, but in fact I guess they were there to provide some color during the afternoon, as they were still there when we came out.
The IMAX theatre wasn't empty, but I'm not sure there were more than a couple of dozen when we got in. Our "perfect" on-center seats in rows 2, 3 and 4 were occupied, so we took a chance at row 1, which at least has great legroom. In fact, we had the whole row to ourselves. (grin) Turned out OK -- lean your head back against the headrest and I got the whole screen in my 3D glasses' field of view, and we weren't so close as to distort reality. Hot dogs and nachos for lunch. But it could've easily been the biggest tub of popcorn they had...
But what about the damned movie? I hear you scream. I know some early reviews had some complaints, but I have to say it was a lovely Captain Jack Sparrow movie. Sure, I managed to guess a few twists ahead of time... but not all. (double-grin) While Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) aren't in this tale, Penelope Cruz ably fills in as the lady pirate, who may or may not have affections still for Jack, who may or may not have affections for her. And thankfully, Geoffrey Rush's Captain Hector Barbarosa is back for another bite of the apple -- is that a thin slice of apple at the end of his fork while dining on the deck of his ship -- or at least a nip of the spirits. He has long alternated between friend and foe, but now he has a very personal reason to go after, not Captain Jack, but the legendary and modified from real life Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. Yes, the real Edward Teach is famous for twisting lit fuses in his beard for battle. (fiery-grin) And look for cameos by Dame Judi Dench and Keith Richards. And a huge round of applause for Captain Jack's longtime first mate Gibbs. And a long tense scene with a pastry. One of King George's pastries.
Of course this romp is about the Fountain of Youth. So we have too many ships, too many captains and too many sides. And mermaids. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that there are plot elements reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but surprisingly the Spanish turn out not to be in the role of the Nazis.
Ah, but what of Jack Sparrow's precious Black Pearl? The ship makes an appearance of sorts, certainly establishing a plot line for POTC 5 (and 6). Some other things are givens at this point in the series -- we know Jack's compass isn't an ordinary compass for finding North and there's that damned monkey again. Also we get voodoo, magic swords, zombies, vampires, to say nothing of damnation and redemption. A pirate's life ain't easy. That's movie pirates, by the way. Wikipedia has a disambiguation term Piracy in the Caribbean for real (sniff) pirates.
As for the 3D IMAX, they did a far better job of 3D than the unwatchable action scenes previewed in the next Micheal Bay Transformers movie. And there were two good 3D gotchas -- one with a sword is most effective and unexpected. And a third with elements of poignancy and horror near the end. Then there are the 3D effects with water, some of which were quite beautiful.
And DO stay through ALL the credits for a Dr. Phil Special, the most delicious one in all four movies. Huge potential plot for the fifth movie... As the opening salvo of the Summer Movies of 2011, we got our money's worth on this one. Mrs. Dr. Phil suggested this may be the best one of the series so far. I think it's a coin toss between POTC 4 and the more innocent POTC 1, as is typical of sequels.
Trailers: Super 8, the J.J. Abrams/Spielberg movie, Harry Potter 7.2, Cars 2 and the Transformers On The Moon movie. We'll see the first two. Oh, and Celebration North is going to show all three Lord of the Rings movies in the Extended Editions in June.