Review: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (and more!)
I stab you with this 3D sword!!! An exercise in creative futility, this Pirates movie, though slightly more cohesive than the bloated At World’s End (which, along with Avatar and […]
I stab you with this 3D sword!!! An exercise in creative futility, this Pirates movie, though slightly more cohesive than the bloated At World’s End (which, along with Avatar and […]
I stab you with this 3D sword!!!
An exercise in creative futility, this Pirates movie, though slightly more cohesive than the bloated At World’s End (which, along with Avatar and Spider-Man 3, is right up there with the most expensive movies ever made), it isn’t any better, which is what everybody was expecting demanding if they insisted on moving forward with this franchise. Almost everyone involved with this series admitted that At World’s End went a bit off the deep end (literally and figuratively, as it turns out!), but they don’t seem to realize that all we wanted was a stronger, more focused story, as existed in the original movie. We didn’t get that, yet the studio wants people to pay even more money than they did for tickets in 2007 to see this one in 3D. That said, I’d rather watch the 2 hour, 50 minute At World’s End than see this again any day, because though it’s long and completely over the top, it isn’t boring. We often say that most sequels don’t need to be made, but this should be held up as the very definition of that thesis.
If it’s possible to mail in a $200 million summer megablockbuster, they’ve managed it here. And by the way, am I the only one who finds it hilarious that they consider $200 million “scaled down”? For almost everyone involved (the studio, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the writers, Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally (who plays Gibbs) and even composer Hans Zimmer and other key crew members carrying over from the first 3 movies), there appears to be no real reason this got made other than to stuff bank accounts. There sure as hell wasn’t a great story waiting to be told. They simply did it under the bullshit guise of “Well, the audience wants more, so we’re just giving them what they want.” Even after just seeing part 4, I can barely recall what it was about, and that doesn’t really bother me. We’re never given any logical reason why ANYONE involved actually wants to find the Fountain of Youth, and the payoff once they do make use of it is completely unsatisfying, despite the fact that every main character (and an army of Spanish dudes) is hunting for it. There is nothing remarkable about this movie at all, yet I will now attempt to make several pertinent remarks about it.
“Which way to the bank?”
WHAT I LIKED
-I liked the really quick Judi Dench cameo. But pay attention. Read these three sentences and that’s how fast it is.
-Though Hans Zimmer mostly used cues from the first 3 movies, one of the cool new things he did do was bring Rodrigo y Gabriela in to do some acoustic work with the new themes and for reprisals of some of the old motifs. Though I got the soundtrack, and they did a lot more work on the soundtrack album than what actually appears in the film. Or I just didn’t notice them as much in the film, because NOTHING really stood out. I’m trying to get into more Spanish guitar/acoustic acts and love when they’re used in movies. I also have a couple Rodrigo y Gabriela albums, so it was cool to see them involved here. Despite using a lot of the same old themes, as always Zimmer does manage to bring something new and unique to the table. In general though, I don’t see why Zimmer felt the need to come back and do this. That will be the running theme of this review: Why did you participate in this?
For today’s Recommended Listening, here’s a sample from the soundtrack that features Rodrigo y Gabriela. The track is called “South of Heaven’s Chanting Mermaids”:
–Penelope Cruz was better than I thought she’d be. I didn’t know if she had the charisma required to play opposite Johnny Depp in a big summer movie, but those doubts were quickly alleviated. I thought she was pretty good, but even though we’re told she and Depp had a romance that ended poorly, we’re never given any of the specific details of where or when that fling took place, or precisely why it ended poorly. Or maybe we did get that information and I’ve already forgotten it because it didn’t make any sense. That’s entirely possible.
O, HAI Penelope.
U iz lookin’ good!
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
-I love Ian McShane, and I love the idea of him playing Blackbeard, “the pirate all other pirates fear.” It’s a great setup for a proper villain. Unfortunately, there’s no such payoff in this movie. Here, Blackbeard is all talk and no real villainy. He’s not intimidating, and unless I’m mistaken, he never kills anyone by his own hand. The only time he does anything that’s supposed to be truly terrifying, it ends up being truly stupid. He sets this guy out on a small boat in front of his big ship, then uses the ship’s two massive flamethrowers (obviously) and lights the smaller ship ablaze. And this is supposed to be scary and prove how evil he is. Meanwhile, all I could think of was the fact that all the guy on the smaller boat had to do was JUMP INTO THE WATER to survive, but hey, let’s not nitpick! So yeah, Ian McShane is utterly wasted here, and it’s a damn shame. I’m actually offended, now that I think about it. Does Disney have a viewer complaint line?
-They excluded Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, which is good (and probably saved the production $30 million), but the problem is they replaced them with another young couple, except this time the girl is a mermaid. She’s cute and all, but for the dude, it seems like they purposefully tried to cast someone who looks a bit too much like Bloom. And the carbon copy Sam Claflin is the result of this casting search. Well, bravo Pirates casting directors, you found an Orlando Bloom clone. Unfortunately, you still don’t have a script that allows him to do anything worth a damn. I’m not blaming the actors for being boring. I have no idea from watching this if either of these two are good actors, but the exposure will surely get them other chances to prove their worth, and that’s fine with me.
This is about as interesting as this love subplot gets.
He whispers sweet nothings whilst she’s stuck in a puddle.
-If you were excited about the prospect of zombies in the Pirates franchise, get rid of those expectations. These are the most pointless zombies (there are really only 2 of them) in movie history. Seriously. In fact, almost all of the supernatural and fantasy elements of this movie are handled poorly. The mermaids are okay, but I definitely feel they could’ve been handled better. The big scene where they’re introduced is really goofy. Also, the visual effects shots of the mermaids underwater aren’t that impressive. I did like when the first one (played by a model of course) appears. A group of guys is put into a raft as bait, and they sing songs to try and attract the mermaids, and with one cut, all of a sudden one of them is just THERE, leaning on the back of the boat, innocently staring at them. That was cool. Everything else the mermaids do? Ne jabba no badda.
-The stunts and effects sequences are far below what we’ve seen in the previous movies. Gore Verbinski is a much more capable director than Rob Marshall in this regard. The action set pieces in the first 3 movies are clever, visually interesting and exciting. That is rarely the case here. In fact, it’s never the case. And the producers and writers need realize that these bloodless sword fights are incredibly tedious. There are 2 or 3 sword fight scenes here, and I just wanted a remote so I could fast forward through them. If you’re not gonna be lobbing off limbs or impaling people with swords, the fight choreography better be spectacular. That’s pretty obvious to me, but apparently not to the writers, producers, director and stunt guys on these movies. But what do I know? These guys seem to believe that even though the audience knows nobody’s going to get killed in a sword fight in these movies, we should still be invested in these scenes. That’s fucking ignorant. At least in Dead Man’s Chest, the big swordfight took place on the roof of a house and then on a giant spinning wheel, so it was at least cool to look at.
Of course, Disney (and the now completely creatively bankrupt Jerry Bruckheimer) has said they want more Pirates movies, but hopefully the critical reaction and mediocre fan reaction will dissuade that from happening anytime soon. Even Johnny Depp came out and said that while he still loves playing the character, he wants them to “hold off for a bit” before trying to make a fifth one. Hopefully, by “hold off for a bit” he means about 50 years. Funnily enough, if reports are accurate, a script for a fifth movie has already been turned in. Just file that on the shelf for a few decades, mmkay?
On Stranger Tides is not good enough to recommend, and not bad enough to scream, “Stay away!!!” I am not surprised by this (based on the trailers), and thankfully, I don’t really care, either. You can make up your own mind on seeing it in theaters. As always, all I ask is that you not see it in 3D.
To finish, here’s a recent quote from Mr. Depp:
“Really, ultimately and truly, these films are made for the people that go in and pay their hard-earned money to see these things,” Depp said. “And if the people get tired or something, that’s when it stops.”
Consider me exhausted. Can it stop now?
Check out some other like-minded reviews:
–A.O. Scott is more critical, but also more concise. [NY TIMES]
–Quint over at Aint It Cool feels pretty much exactly the way I do. [AICN]
–Eric D. Snider sums it up nicely and amusingly. [EricDSnider.com]
Basically, this movie isn’t worth 100% of my effort to do an in-depth review, but I simply had to share the following with you, because it doesn’t make sense unless I describe it within the context of seeing this movie.
-I didn’t like 5-10 people in the packed audience I saw it with. To my right was a group of 6 or so 18-22 year olds who had to verbally describe everything we were seeing during the trailers. Hey douchebags, there isn’t a prize for the person who can identify which movie is being advertised first. This ain’t Family Feud. Second, if you’re gonna scream the title out, scream out the right fucking title. It’s not called Cowboys VS. Aliens, dumbass, it’s Cowboys & Aliens. And thank you so much for pointing out for your stupidass friend which one was “the guy from James Bond” and which one was Harrison Ford. And thank you for pointing out that that’s Hugh Jackman in the Real Steel trailer. DER YA THINK SO!!??!! And no, jackass, it does NOT look “good.”
Also, though this theater is usually pretty good about this stuff, there was a projection issue for the second straight time I’ve been there (when I saw Bridesmaids last weekend, I could swear there was no surround sound the whole time). So, thanks to the theater staff for not noticing the two medium-sized blotches on the screen that were constantly out of focus, something that could only have been caused by a smudge or fingerprint on the glass in front of the projector. Projection issues drive me INSANE, but as the trailers progressed, for some dumb reason I hoped once the movie started they’d go away. They didn’t. Unfortunately, the only thing I hate more than projection issues is getting up and leaving the theater during a movie that I’m seeing for the first time. I was able to sit through all 2:17 of Stranger Tides and tolerate it, but I wanted to murder someone on the way out. Maybe I could’ve killed one or both of those two twats who sat in the row in front of me texting without remorse for the first 20 minutes of the movie. By the way, the sheer arrogance of that in today’s day and age is beyond my comprehension. I think we’re getting to the point now where almost everyone understands that you shouldn’t be texting during a movie. I rarely see it happen anymore, and we’re the better for it. That just makes it all the worse when someone does do it. Fuckin twats (I should use the c-word, but I’ll refrain). If it’s so goddamn important and the movie isn’t worthy of your attention, GO THE FUCK INTO THE LOBBY AND TEXT WHAT’S LEFT OF YOUR TINY FUCKING BRAINS OUT! And when you’re done, before you come back into the theater, go into the restroom and FUCK YOURSELF!!!
I’m also appalled that I was apparently the only one in the audience who noticed the focus problems, or cared enough to even consider telling someone.
Before we go, there were a couple of other recent thingamajigs that grabbed my attention. And I need to react to the end of The Event.
-Sony and Marvel just released the first poster and new text logo for 2012’s Spidey reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. I like the font from the other movies better, but this’ll do just fine. I’m liking what I’ve heard about what they’re doing with this new incarnation of Spider-Man. They’ve scaled it down a bit (which is easy when your last movie cost $275 million BEFORE marketing costs were factored in), and from the set photos and descriptions, it sounds like they’re trying to do a lot more of the action this time around without relying on CGI the way Sam Raimi‘s films often did. They’re even doing some of the webslinging stuff for real, which will be really cool to see. I’m not passionate about it, but among all the comic book stories we’ve seen brought to the big screen in the past decade or so, Peter Parker is definitely one of the best characters of the bunch.
But wait! There’s more!
Oh, NOW it’s gonna be rated R? Like it should have been in the first fucking place? And what’s in that extra 18 minutes? More absurd, meaningless, illogical, inconsequential bloodless video game action? Did the writing get any better? No thanks, Zack Snyder.
RAAR! Standard serious-face cast photo.
-More frustration on the TV front. The Event finally wrapped up its first season, and was of course promptly cancelled by NBC after a MASSIVE cliffhanger ending. FUCK. YOU. VERY MUCH. This is now two alien invasion series I’ve followed in one year that have ended with a cliffhanger and been cancelled, the first being ABC’s V. ABC’s V? Giggity. Anyway, The Event was better than V in almost every regard, mostly because it was structured like a season of 24 (one of that show’s longtime writers and producers, Evan Katz, was a big creative force on The Event). What they failed to realize was that one of the best things about 24 was that you knew the main plot of each season would be resolved in the 24th episode. There were characters and through lines that carried over to subsequent seasons, but we knew where we stood after each season. I believe that should have been the case here as well, but as it drew closer to its end, I began to realize there was no way they’d wrap up this increasingly large mythology in one season. And now I’m fucked. Again. This time, there was some encouraging news, as I’ve read that the series may be picked up by a cable network for a second season. I guess NBC would rather create the 258th incarnation of Law & Order instead.
Worse yet, despite there being several big “events” during the course of the season, we’re led to believe in the final episode that the actual capital-E Event is yet to come. In case I’ve lost you, this means The Event was cancelled before we find out what the fucking Event actually is. See why I’m so frustrated? There was nothing great about the show per se, but it was definitely solid all around. A solid B+. It was shot beautifully, the effects were very good by TV standards, and the writing was decent (even if most of the ideas for twists and turns were ripped straight from things we’d seen a dozen times on 24), but it was the cast that really did it for me. I absolutely loved Blair Underwood in particular as President Martinez. It’s time for this guy to get some bigger roles and fast. The show featured a couple of my favorite character actors in prominent roles in Bill Smitrovich (playing Vice President Jarvis) and the always great Zeljko Ivanek as Blake Sterling, the DNI (that’s Director of National Intelligence, noob). I also liked Laura Innes as the alien leader Sofia, even if she was basically a Xerox of almost every 24 villain we’ve seen. Also solid was Ian Anthony Dale as Agent Lee, the superhot Taylor Cole as Vicky Roberts, Lisa Vidal as the First Lady. I was most surprised by Jason Ritter, who was much better than I expected him to be as the series’ protagonist, Sean Walker.
The show featured a lot of the things that made 24 suspenseful, with a lot of X-Files sensibilities mixed in, to make it a cool, genre-bending sci-fi action drama. I would very much like to see it continue, if for no other reason than the fans of the show deserve some fucking closure. I thought this was just gonna be a one-season show originally, but that tells you what I know.
I liked this show a lot, but I don’t know if I can recommend it to people who didn’t give it a chance, because until we find out what its fate is going to end up being, you’re going to wind up disappointed and wanting more at the end. I don’t want anyone else to experience what I did when I watched that finale on Monday. Sigh, at least I know Game of Thrones has already been picked up for a second season and Entourage is definitely entering its final season. Thank you, HBO, for having your shit together.
I leave you with this…
I’m wondering, why do women hate socks and shoes? I’m being serious. I know this is stupid, but when I notice trends (fashion trends especially), I can’t help but openly muse about them. My theory: as soon as winter is over, and for as long as they can tolerate the open air, females prefer exposing their feet whenever they leave the house. Women of all sizes, colors and ages. Ladies, I want to know why you despise socks and shoes so much. By my unscientific measurements, I’d say between the months of April and October, 8 in 10 women (that’s 80% for you math noobs) wear some form of flip flops or sandals when out in public. It seems to me the only time women wear anything else during moderate-to-warm weather is when they’re going to work, going to the gym, or going out at night, but even then, most women wear open-toed shoes or other, fancier forms of flip flops and sandals. Just from random daily observation, I’d say the rate of men who follow the same pattern is probably half that. Guys seem to prefer socks and sneakers, even in warm weather. This has to be a psychological thing. Can SOMEONE, male or female (preferably female), explain this to me? Check this out in your own travels. Women hate socks. I’m telling you. And again, I realize it’s stupid, but one doesn’t control the things that preoccupy the mind.
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