...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, June 01, 2007

Day 2338: Rum Do


Yo ho ho and disguised as a PIRATE HAT, I sneaked into the cinema on top of Daddy Alex's head in order to see PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN AT WORLD'S END!

Some people have said that this movie is TOO LONG and TOO BORING, but my fluffy bottom has PLENTY of PADDING so I do not mind sitting on Daddy's head for three hours. And a jolly good thing too! People with less fluff in their heads (or bottoms!) than me might be a bit bored, but I thought this was ENORMOUS FUN!

If you remember, last year PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST had finished with Captain Jack (and his boat) being eating by big squiddly monster "The Sarlacc" (no relation to the Kraken that appear in Star Wars!)

Fortunately, this movie starts with Captain Jack (and his boat) stuck in a kind of LIMBO, called Davy Jones's Locker, and with a bit of help from his friends… well, from some people he knows anyway… he will be able to get away.

Actually, this is not the VERY start of the movie, before that there is a bit of a fight in Singapore as Captain Jack's friends… er… acquaintances try to get hold of a boat and a map to take them to the World's End. This is the only disappointing bit of the movie, as the opening fight does not seem very well choreographed, just lots of people running around and shouting – I know that in REAL LIFE fights are really like that, but this is NOT real life; it is a Pirate Movie and we want to see hero characters battling it out!

For our battling heroes this time, all our old friends (even if they're not Captain Jack's old friends) are back from the earlier movies.

Although he was the bright young thing star in the first movie, Mr Orlando Bloom – named after the place in Florida where the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride is to be found, no doubt! – seems to be auditioning to play the BOAT. i.e. WET and WOODEN. Bless his heart, he TRIES to show his character Will going to a bit of a DARK PLACE, but he just looks a bit sulky. You can tell that he REALLY just wants to be swinging his sword with the wind in his long flowing hair, and maybe a song on his pouty lips.

Often he finds himself a bit eclipsed by on-screen girlfriend Ms Keira Knightley. It must be scary to find yourself in the shadow of someone so THIN! She, on the other fluffy foot, shows much more surprising depths and shadows and unexpected strength, gripping the movie with both hands to wring herself some quality screen time out of it.

And that isn't a bad trick since, for what is quite a LONG movie, the surprise was how little time there really was for some of the characters. Mr Chow Yun-Fat as Captain Sao Feng is very underused, getting no more than a couple of scenes really, even if he is on one of the movie's posters!

Favourite supporting characters from the earlier films, Mr Jonathan Price's Governor Wetherby Swann and Mr Jack Davenport as once-Commodore and now-Admiral James Norrington are both reduced to little more than cameos. The poor old governor doesn't even get a decent death scene; we only discover that Miss Elizabeth's dad has bought the farm when he comes bobbing along in the afterlife!

Nor does Admiral Jim get much of a chance to regret picking the wrong side – especially disappointing after how well he kept up with the big boys in the final three-way sword fight of the second movie.

Even the Sarlacc only gets one brief scene!

But never mind that, because the rest of the movie is filled up with the REAL battling heroes: a "who can chew the most scenery" contest between Mr Johnny Depp doing that thing that he does, and Mr Geoffrey Rush dialled up to eleven as Captain back-from-the-dead Barbossa. And remember, Mr Rush ALMOST managed to steel the second movie with only ten seconds of screen time! It is not QUITE Gielgud versus Olivier… a bit more Laurel versus Hardy, really… but they both manage to light up the screen, going BONKERS in DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS! Actually, they do not get that many scenes TOGETHER – and that is probably quite a clever and careful move on the director's part, since it avoids too much of the film turning into a total HAM and CHEESE buffet. When they ARE together, too, it seems to be for quieter scenes as though they bring each other to earth – or realise that there isn't room for both of them to GO LARGE even in CINEMASCOPE™!

So, after getting over the exposition-heavy Singapore scenes, the FIRST HALF of the movie has an excellent and really WEIRD sequence that starts when Captain Barbossa's borrowed boat goes over the big waterfall at the end of the world. (Note for creationists: there isn't REALLY a big waterfall there; this is probably MAGIC!) And then we see Captain Jack sailing the Black Pearl over a desert! With a whole crew of Captain Jacks! Also there are some very strange rocks that might be crabs.

"OOOh, it's gone all Time Bandits!" says Daddy from down below, and he is RIGHT! After borrowing so HEAVILY from the Star Wars OEUVRE last year, this film has – appropriately – gone a bit further off the beaten track, a bit further into LEFT FIELD. It gets even more so when a flotilla of the dead sail past them and finally goes the WHOLE GILLIAM when Captain Jack works out how to get back to the ordinary world!

It is possible that this COLLISION of DALI-IST surrealism with a dozen Depps is what has thrown certain of the reviewers off their stride. It is not quite what you expect for your popcorn treat, but it is visually extraordinary.

On the other fluffy foot, it may be the DARK and TWISTED complicated politics bit that comes in the SECOND HALF of the movie! Back in the real world (or at least the "real" pirate world) it turns out that everyone has betrayed someone else. Except Captain Jack who has probably betrayed EVERYONE else. Including himself.

Still, I am only seven [R: six] and I could keep track of all the double and triple and quadruple crossing.

Elizabeth has betrayed Captain Jack to save the rest of them from the Sarlacc and lied about it to Will; Will has betrayed them all to the East India Company to try and save his father from Davy Jones and the Monkees and lied to Elizabeth about it; Davy Jones has betrayed his beloved Calypso into the hands to the Pirates' Brethren Court; Captain Sao Feng has betrayed them all to nasty Lord Cutlerfish Becket; Lando Calrissian has betrayed Han and Leia to the Bounty Hunter; and Captain Barbossa has… actually for a scurvy double-dealing pirate he seems to be playing a fairly straight up game. Perhaps it is the being brought back from the dead. He does get to say "ah harr!" a lot though.

And it would hardly be a PIRATE movie WITHOUT all that backstabbing and bamboozling of each other, now would it?

Anyway, they all end up at the secret pirates'-headquarters of Shipwreck Cove where Mr Keith Richards has his cameo. Oh and the nine Pirate Lords discuss how they are going to try and survive the East India Company.

This is where the movie keeps its HEART – although like Davy Jones, it is inside a bit of a PUZZLE BOX. Who exactly are we supposed to be cheering for? The pirates are all – pretty much by definition – black-hearted SCOUNDRELS. They steal and murder and generally betray each other three times before breakfast (see above!).

But the East India Company seems to do all of these things TOO – except it does it on an INDUSTRIAL scale. It is the biggest, baddest pirate of the lot. If you are brave and bold and put your back into it, you might outrun or outfight or outwit one of the pirates – but the company can always get you in the end. And even though Mr Tom Hollander is really, really good at playing a really, really hissable slimy villain, his Lord Beckett is very obviously just a BUREAUCRAT, no more than the replaceable face of the machine.

The pirates have their code, a rather flimsy set of guidelines it has to be admitted but ones that they stick to with the intention of seeing each other right in their own loop-the-loop treacherous sort of way. The company makes and breaks the rules at a whim.

In some ways it is a clash between individualism and conformity, between the magical and the mundane. The pirates might be in the wrong, but they kind of have the right to be wrong – at least to be bad in their own way. No one should be wiped out simply because it is good for business.

It is all underlined by an earlier scene on a beach with a dead squid. Yes, the Sarlacc has been unsportingly killed off between movies. The largest serving of uncooked calamari since "The Power of Kroll" and it actually manages to be a little bit moving, as Jack comes eye to eye with his one time nemesis and regrets that the World has just a little bit LESS in it.

The problem with being the last of anything, Captain Barbossa reminds him, is that pretty soon there ain't anything left at all.

Finally, the THIRD HALF of this super-size me club sandwich of a movie is then the big exciting battle between… well everyone. Or rather, everyone in the main credits – the rest of the pirates and the rest of the East India Company's armada all seem to hang bank and wait for the outcome of the scrap between our heroes on the Black Pearl and the baddies on Flying Dutchman. (Actually, I rather think that they should have come out of their battle and discovered carnage on the high seas all around them! As it is, it is all a bit too, well, GENTLEMANLY for pirates!)

But never mind that, this is the really excitingly exciting bit! All swinging on ropes and fighting in the rigging. And fortunately they all get their sense of HUMOUR back as there are lots of funny bits which you realise have been a bit missing for the middle of the movie.

The frenetic finale features fantastic effects, fantastic because you often forget they are there, merely serving to serve up an IMPOSSIBLE-TO-FILM Errol Flynn of a fight. (And I seem to be being attacked by "F"s!)

At last all of the betrayals manage to tug free of each other – yes, Will manages to have a lightsabre duel with his father before redeeming him; yes, he makes up with Elizabeth; and yes, we finally get to see that Captain Jack is a good un – in his inimitable mad, bad sort of a way.


And there's a nice little coda – setting up a possible "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Fountain of Youth" – in which Captain B finally gets to betray somebody (GUESS WHO!) and we all end up back where we started at the beginning of the first movie.

Double hooray!

1 comment:

Gilliam said...


I is a raf (giraffe), an me an my fellow rafs is ooways very appy to find other fluffy animoos on the internet! I only just saw yous blog, an I likes the politics but I likes the reviews even more! I is a bit of a philosophoo, so please come by our blog an say neyo sometime. (

I got exciteed all over again readin yous review an rememberin how excitin the movie were. But my very favoureete phrase were "goes the WHOLE GILLIAM", even though I knows you were talkin about Terry Me an not ME Me.