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PotC 2 review - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
PotC 2 review
Oops, saw it on Saturday and waited three whole days to review on LJ. Whatever is the world coming to? It's almost time to see it again.

Anyway, before I get to the specific stuff, my verdict is:
Excellent flick. Not as good as the first one, but still miles ahead of a lot of movies out there. Johnny Depp isn't as fresh as Sparrow, but he's still fun. I have no idea what in the world people were talking about when they complained about Bloom and Knightley being unengaging--Orlando Bloom, in particular, was excellent here, to a point where I actually looked forward to his scenes more than I looked forward to Jack's. (Then again, I always preferred Luke scenes to Han scenes in SW, so I may just be miswired for Hollywood movies.)

I'll get the negative stuff out of the way first. The plot... yeah, contrived more than the last one, and a little bit muddy here and there. A little too clearly a lead in to another movie. The part-fish crew of the Flying Dutchman left me a little nonplussed, though Davey Jones playing the organ with his tentacles was pretty good. And I'm not at all crazy about them actually playing with jealousy themes in the Jack/Elizabeth/Will triangle, instead of just having Jack joke around and Elizabeth roll her eyes at him. It was, however, used for actual thematic effect, so despite my visceral dislike of all cheating plots, I wasn't too overly fussed about it.

The good.
Great use of the curse from the last movie to bring back Will's father, Bootstrap--sjepstein mentioned in a talk a while ago that Bootstrap was a huge loose end after the last movie, and it definitely proved to be the case. Only instead of getting himself out of things on his own, he's managed to trap himself into another curse--this makes the character very... hmm, I don't want to say "sympathetic," because that has connotations that I don't necessarily mean. But it's a very real feeling way for the man to be--he was a good enough guy, but one who just couldn't commit to his family and went off to be a pirate, then he got cursed. Then he had the wherewithal to stand up for Jack, but not until after he'd gone along with things and gotten cursed. He seems to be a guy with enough of a conscience to know he's making crappy decisions, but too much weakness to stop making them. The producers were very smart to not make him just like Will. Will makes choices in order to be loyal to other people; Bootstrap makes spur-of-the-moment choices on his own behalf. It may end them up in similar places, but it produces very different characters. Bootstrap does manage to be be both flawed and virtuous--for me, his two strongest moments are offering to take a lashing for Will (though that backfires on him) and not allowing himself to tell Will an easy lie about why he left. That Will doesn't become terribly fond of him immediately, and hasn't lost his distaste for piracy--and that the movie ties it implicitly to his sense of having been abandoned--works pretty damned well as characterization in a summer popcorn movie that involves floating bone cages and undead monkeys.

The action is a lot of fun, often over the top funny, like the first one. And I cheered when Will did the classic pirate movie move--descending the sail with a dagger punched through it. Jack's over-wrought escape from the cannibal island is horribly politically incorrect, but funny as hell. Elizabeth's sword-fighting scene is short, but well done, though I liked her better when she was bitching to thin air while Jack, Norrington, and Will had a three-way sword-fight on the beach. (Note, slashers: By sword fight, I mean with actual steel weapons. ;))

Will taking charge very easily when facing the Kraken is a nice touch--he's growing into a leadership role. His active caretaking throughout the movie, first of Elizabeth, then of Bootstrap, and finally of Jack, definitely shows him having made the transition from boy to man. Elizabeth's character through most of the movie remains static from her earlier incarnation, but when she makes the decision to step off the moral high ground--just what Jack told her she wanted to do--she starts heading toward her own growth plot, which will presumably be in the next movie.

Jack? What can I say? The movie was smart enough not to try and make him learn anything--we love Jack just as he is--but managed to still walk the line with his characterization.

No major issues with minor characters and new characters one way or the other. They function. I like the voodoo witch (Tia Something-or-Other), and especially that she took the monkey... and brought back Barbossa.

The really good.
The best thing for me about this movie was that it really had a theme, and it worked it. It opens with the frustrated desire for a wedding, moves on to Jack at loose ends, not knowing what he wants or where he's going, and plays the theme expertly through Jack and Elizabeth challenging each other to be more like one another, because it's who they really are. Will's discovery of his father and his own sense of duty toward him is also related to theme of identity and discovery. Davey Jones's heart is another symbol of identity having been separated, and Norrington has lost his bearings completely. Even Governor Swann loses his wig, and thereby his identity.

It's a nice leitmotif that gives some depth, which is what generally separates a popcorn flick that manages to hold on from a popcorn flick that everyone forgets a week later.

And those are my thoughts on yaoi PotC 2.

EDIT: My favorite line, and I forgot to mention it... when Pintel and Ragetti are first reintroduced and Ragetti is reading the Bible upside down:

Pintel: You know you can't read, don't you?
Ragetti: It's the Bible. You get credit for trying!

And yes, even their comic subplot was tied into the theme of trying to figure out who they are and where they want to be.

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24 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
riah_chan From: riah_chan Date: July 12th, 2006 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I haven't seen the movie yet (but I still read you spoilers) and now I'm even more excited for it! I do like to know a bit about what I am in for when I plunk down my $10~ to sit in a theater.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: July 12th, 2006 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)
while Jack, Norrington, and Will had a three-way sword-fight on the beach. (Note, slashers: By sword fight, I mean with actual steel weapons. ;))

*cackle* That really gave me laugh!

I enjoyed the film myself (took the kids last w/e). Not as much as the first one, but well enough. Didn't have as many witty lines this time round.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 12th, 2006 02:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Then again, I always preferred Luke scenes to Han scenes in SW, so I may just be miswired for Hollywood movies.

Not just you (and I bet it applies to a good majority of the audience - he was the fun guy - Luke was the too serious hero.)

You know I've read both you and Gun's reviews and therefore have resolved to go see it sometime this week (if grad school doesn't kill me first). I was a bit excited to see it, but a little 'wait for rental' about it too. Now that I've gotten a glimpse - so want to go now.
From: octobersnow Date: July 12th, 2006 02:37 am (UTC) (Link)
*points up* That was me. I'm brilliant and forgot I was on a different computer.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: July 12th, 2006 03:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I went to see this with several friends, and some of them were whining afterwards that it "wasn't engaging," that it was "confusing" (the dice game didn't confuse me, though I suppose I can see how it might confuse someone), that it had no "depth."

Pfft.

It was a lovely romp, and it did too have depth. Thank you for pointing out all the ways in which it did: my two favorite scenes (excluding as obvious pretty much everything Jack did/said) were the ones you cite above, when Jack and Elizabeth challenge each other, and when Will (which is a splendid name for the character as he's changing) and his father have that wrenching little talk about abandonment.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I especially loved Elizabeth's dead-on read on Jack. Jack's is easy--most people want to be bad from time to time. But Elizabeth's call on Jack is the opposite--"You know you want to be good." It was interesting.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: July 12th, 2006 04:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes. And they played it so well.

Also, how wonderfully iconic was Jack's heroic pose at the end, as he raises his sword in the face of the Kraken's mouth? Perfect dashing pirate.
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frenchbraider From: frenchbraider Date: July 12th, 2006 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)
One thing: You really had to see the first movie to catch all of the little inside-jokes they had going on, FI: "Hide the rum!" and the "Eunuch" joke.
tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: July 12th, 2006 07:57 am (UTC) (Link)
when Pintel and Ragetti are first reintroduced

Is that what their names are? I'd been thinking of them as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Interesting review, anyway. I didn't have the issues you do with the blatant lead-in to another movie; my daughter, after seeing it, said something about it being the way books end. I'd much rather that than the Harry Potter movie wimpout tacked-on fake happy endings.

And it's interesting to me that what's fundamentally a fun summer amusement park ride movie can support some deep character analysis. I wonder whether that has something to do with its popularity?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2006 12:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is that what their names are?

I totally didn't have to look that up in Wikipedia and double-check twice to make sure I knew which was which. ;)

I wonder whether that has something to do with its popularity?

Despite the anti-blockbuster crowd, I tend to think that's exactly what separates a successful blockbuster from a movie that has all the elements it thinks it's supposed to have that still manages to be a flop-heard-round-the-world.
threnody From: threnody Date: July 12th, 2006 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're several up on me, I was thinking more along the lines of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. :P
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: July 12th, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have concluded that an alternative way to think about the ending is that there was, in fact, an ending. With closure and everything, though still some unresolved issues. It simply occurred some minutes before the movie actually stopped.

Everything after the Black Pearl was pulled down was basically like in those books where you get several pages of teaser for the next in a series at the end of the one you just read. Well, except that I rather doubt they're going to repeat them when #3 comes out....
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: July 12th, 2006 11:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting to read your take on it. I came away from the movie feeling vaguely dissatisfied, which grew into full-on disappointment by the next morning. I'm not sure if I can make my thoughts coherent enough to make sense, but I'll try.

My main problem was that Captain Jack, as I knew him in the first film, is no more. He was such a great example of a Coyote Trickster/Bugs Bunny archetype; someone who will make it through situations unscathed, with a trail of chaos in his wake, mostly on his wits. He's out for himself, but he's ultimately a good man. In the first film, he could have just turned Will over to the pirates in exchange for his freedom, but he had a plan for everyone to make it out alive and it worked.

But in this movie, he became a self-obsessed jerk. He sent Will over to the Dutchman to a fate that was rightfully his (Jack's). When that didn't work, he bargained with Davy Jones that if he brought him 100 lives, he could get away. Wasn't that the point of crewing up at Tortuga, to get 100 dupes he could sacrifice? I was, personally, surprised at the end of the film that anyone had any interest in going after him, but I guess if they didn't, there wouldn't be a third movie. ;-)

I was actually impressed, though, by Elizabeth. I'm spinning it like crazy though to avoid a full-on love triangle, because MAN is that an easy (read: boring) way out. I think she's attracted to Jack but loves Will. Yeah, that was quite a kiss, but how much could she have been concentrating on it if she was shackling him to the ship? I thought it was most telling when she didn't drink at the toast to Jack at the end. She called him "a good man" but didn't believe it? I think she was upset that Jack died, but I think what tore her up most was the knowledge that she was responsible.

I didn't buy the "Will's sudden duty to his father" thing, but I think that's bringing my own personal baggage into the situation. My husband's father abandoned him when he was 2 and has had no role in his life ever since. My husband feels no duty to him whatsoever. I think if he turned up with a major problem, his first thought would be "Hm. Pity. You owe me thousands in back child support, so we'll call it even." So I kind of glossed over that part. :-)

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Hope you don't mind.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2006 12:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm rarely bothered by thoughts.:)

I guess Will works for me, because my father also abandoned me, and while I have fantasies about charging him back child support... well, I was impressed with the fact that Will doesn't suddenly start to like him--I think I'd have many words for my father, none of which, to quote Stephen King, would be "Happy Birthday"--that doesn't change the sense that I'd have some feeling of responsibility toward him. I'd feel like all my ancestors would gang up on me and haunt me until I died if I left the guy to rot. Though, like Will, I'd most likely twist the knife with little things like "I won't abandon you" (subtext: must take after my mother, pal). Which is also bringing my own personal baggage in, but to an extent, everyone does that when a parallel situation is presented.

I think she was upset that Jack died, but I think what tore her up most was the knowledge that she was responsible.

I agree, especially because it was after he'd returned to the ship. Then again, he should have, properly, volunteered. Jack wants to be a good man, but, like Bootstrap, tends to make very bad spur of the moment decisions.
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: July 12th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was impressed with the fact that Will doesn't suddenly start to like him

I agree with you here definitely. I also agree with the "twisting the knife" idea. I guess in the encounters that my husband's had with his biological father, there's never been any kind of...sense of taking responsibility? I think Bootstrap at least acknowledged that he'd been a crappy dad. I first met my "father in law" after I'd been in the family for eight years, at Grandpa Lee's funeral (a man to whom I'd been very close), and he said "Thank you for coming." As though I were a guest, when in fact he was the only family member who didn't know who I was. I barely refrained from punching him at the funeral home.

So yes. Baggage. :-)

My other initial reaction to this film: "I think I read this fanfic. But it was more in character..." :-)
From: underaloggia Date: July 12th, 2006 12:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's been really interesting to see everyone else's takes on it; like the previous commenter, I found myself vaguely disappointed with the whole thing. I have to agree with everything you said about characterization: there WAS some really interesting stuff going on there, and it was nicely interwoven between the main characters. OTOH, I found that the characterization and the plot were overshadowed by too much of what-the-studio-execs-think-audiences-want, and the things that only kinda bothered you REALLY bothered me. Like the cheating subplot, which was just CHEAP in its predictability. And the humorous set-pieces with the cannibals, the mill wheel, etc. And the total lack of an ending. I guess I felt like the first movie was a subtle and hilarious parody of what everyone expects of a pirate movie, and here a lot of both the subtlety and the parody had disappeared, dumped in favor of the hilarity, and as a result the latter didn't work nearly as well.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 12th, 2006 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
YES! I noticed a lot of "jokes" in the movie where it seemed an exec thought "If X was funny in the first film, let's do X ten times bigger and it'll be TEN TIMES FUNNIER!" And it wasn't.
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: July 12th, 2006 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whoops, that anon comment was me.
miss_tilney From: miss_tilney Date: July 12th, 2006 12:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I really enjoyed the film, as did everyone I went with. I thought the plot was too confused and overall there was too much of a set up for the third film but that it was lots of fun, the effects were great and acting of a pretty good standard. (Well, apart from Bill Nighy's accent. Was that meant to be Scottish?)

I didn't stop to consider whether it had any depth(!) and so it was really interesting to read your review. The theme of discovery, the search for identity, I can definitely see now you describe it. It does get a bit lost with Jack though. I did wonder if they were portraying him as a caricature of himself, but I don't think it is possible to caricature Jack Sparrow...

Perhaps it is necessary in order for Jack to go through the discovery journey, for him to be more bad guy and have more questionable morals than he did in the first film. Hopefully it's leading to something in the third film.

If not, then as long as it's as entertaining as the first two, I won't be complaining too much!
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: July 14th, 2006 02:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Excellent review. I hadn't caught the leitmotif, but you're right. Everybody was trying to find a direction and was losing their identity.

Elizabeth screaming at the fighting men was definitely a film highlight: it was such a typical female response, and it was funny.
elerrina_amanya From: elerrina_amanya Date: July 17th, 2006 05:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Loved your review, especially the bit about the identity leitmotif...I managed to see exactly the same things happening in the film, but not put them together. Now that you have, though, I like it a lot. =) Oh, and Elizabeth bitching on the beach—wonderful ;) Glad you reminded me of that!
Can I add this (and your other PotC post) to my memories, please & thank you?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 18th, 2006 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Sure. It wouldn't have been public if I minded people reading it. :)
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