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Pirates review - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Pirates review
Well, I went to see PotC today. I was going to Thursday after work, but it was already a late show, then they got the print late, and, well, I said, "I don't think so." So AMC, which is good at customer service, gave me my money back with an apology, and gave me a re-admit ticket. So I saw it free. Yay.

I didn't hate it or love it, honestly. It was fun, lots of action, and it did carry through the theme of disappearing world of freedom and magic (I talked about that in my review of PotC2)--my favorite line is, "The world is the same, there are just fewer things in it." What they seem to be fighting is the bane of reductionism--the "It's just good business" model of the world that Cutler Beckett ascribes to, the belief that everything can be carefully measured and quantified.

Stuff I liked:
Elizabeth the pirate king--not just because she actually got the title, but because she used it and filled the role well. I kind of dig the idea that the guy ends up with the eternal nurturing job, while the woman becomes the hands-on ruler, too.

The mid-battle wedding. That was the perfect Will/Elizabeth wedding. It was great.

Bootstrap voluntarily staying to crew the Dutchman under Will, because he has a hell of a debt to repay... and it's not for being rescued from dying, but for hurting Will particularly.

Norrington coming through in the end.

Davy Jones killing Butler's assassin. That was satisfying.

The whirlpool and the waterfall. Awesome FX. (I noticed while watching the credits that someone was stationed in Buffalo--did they take water footage at Niagara Falls? It could have been the falls, the rapids, or the whirlpool.)

Jack's gambit of being the only person not to vote for himself. Good thinking.

Will freeing everyone on board the Dutchman from any debts.

The destruction of Becket's ship was brilliantly done. And they edged right up to almost feeling something for Becket.

The first ending. Jack going off in search of the fountain of youth, right back in a dinghy like he started the series in. It can be assumed that he finds it, because it's the notion that what he represents is immortal.

Pitching that stupid love triangle in a total of one scene. "Oh, that wasn't what it was about?" Followed by the actual issue in the relationship being one of keeping secrets, not of being untrue.

Meh things
Calypso... eh. I don't have any philosophical objections to it, but it also wasn't particularly well set up, and didn't pay off in proportion to its importance in the script in this movie (and with the general thematic issues of releasing a bound god). There needed to be more exposition about the mythos there.

Governor Swann. I liked the scene where Elizabeth tried to save him in the locker, and of course there's a certain amount of logic to killing off the father figure, but the fact that he didn't really get a last moment, and its significance to the plot was murky leaves it in the meh column.

The second ending. This would have been in the good category, except that apparently the editors cut out the writers' thought that if Elizabeth and Will were true to each other, it would only be ten years, so he was actually coming home for good. Although people have pointed out that it doesn't entirely make sense, most of the Davy Jones mythos kind of didn't, so it wouldn't have been too hard to swallow. Hell, they could have had Bootstrap work out a way to trade hearts. Though as it does end, Will, as Jack probably is, becomes an immortal symbol, while Elizabeth holds a monarch's title, and monarchs are symbolically immortal (the queen is dead, long live the queen).

Barbossa in general. He was enjoyable enough on his own terms, but basically, he lost his function as the real and vicious pirate, as opposed to Jack's image-of-a-pirate. By making all the pirates into good (if rowdy) guys, I think they missed the mark a bit.

And in the What-the-hell-was-that category...
This script seemed to be a lot of different thoughts glommed together without much effort at sense. Oh, there was an occasional stab at it, and going from point A to point B went along well enough, but by the time you get to, say, Point M, the connection back to Point A is getting kind of Byzantine.

I wonder what happened to Charon when Calypso gave Davy Jones his job...

Even after seeing it from beginning to end, I'm not entirely clear on Will's or Jack's motivations in working with Becket. Was it a ruse all along? Had they sincerely betrayed the pirates? (If the latter, why was Elizabeth so quick to forgive?) I suspect it was a ruse--the whole thing about fools and plans suggested it--but something like that should be a bit clearer once it's over. And it really only should have been done with Jack. Will's not a trickster.

The whole Davy Jones mythos seems to be made up and cobbled together from totally clashing bits and pieces that often contradict what we already saw. Bad form, guys.

Jack ended his life on a heroic note, killed by Elizabeth or not. Why was he right back into snot mode in the locker? I mean, obviously, he had to get there, but wouldn't you think he'd be basking in his own largesse for a while?

On the whole, this felt like episodes four and five in a quintology, and somewhere along the line, I missed episode three, which showed why Calypso was still tied to things, defined what was going on with Governor Swann and Norrington, got the crew of the Pearl to Singapore, got Barbossa acting like Jack instead of like Barbossa, killed the Kraken, showed some of what Will was doing to rescue his father--a toss-off line about "Everything I do to save my father..." suggests that there was quite a lot--and clarified the whole issue of losing the heart and so forth. Then it would pick up in Singapore for four, take it to the return from the locker, then have the final showdown in five. I just felt like I'd missed something, even though there was nothing there.


23 comments or Leave a comment
From: lexie_b Date: May 28th, 2007 02:27 am (UTC) (Link)
You've pretty much hit it on the nose, with what I liked and disliked. I felt that Tia Dalma really got the ass end of everything. It should have been made cleared that Barbossa was releasing Calypso as repayment for bringing him back.

And the Kraken irritated me a little. It was this huge problem in the previous movie, and all of a sudden it's rotting on a beach, and has only a single throw-away comment to explain it. I think they should have done more with that.

I'm hoping a director's cut will be released, because I think some of the plot issues will be cleared up.
beceh From: beceh Date: May 28th, 2007 07:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I was a bit slow...I didn't even realise it was the Kraken until i watched it the second time...I remember the pet line, and thinking "what's his pet?"...then later seeing the kraken and wondering what the hell it was....yeah I was having a slow day hehe.

Second time I was just..oooooooh. I get it now.... *feels stupid for missing it first time*
marikenobi From: marikenobi Date: May 28th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I pretty much agree with ya. I'm gonna need a "Shadows of the Empire" for this one... And I'm sure they could have made two movies out of this one too!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2007 03:12 am (UTC) (Link)
As long as it doesn't involve Elizabeth being seduced by a pheromone-emitting lizard guy who thinks he's a much better pirate than Jack...
marikenobi From: marikenobi Date: May 28th, 2007 05:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Not that it would matter, since everyone she kisses dies! (even if it's only a little...)
marissa_214 From: marissa_214 Date: May 28th, 2007 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with all the things you liked! In general, I was mostly confused by all the deals being struck and didn't really understand the direction they were going. Oh well, the action was fun.
From: tunxeh Date: May 28th, 2007 04:33 am (UTC) (Link)
The second ending. This would have been in the good category, except that apparently the editors cut out the writers' thought that if Elizabeth and Will were true to each other, it would only be ten years, so he was actually coming home for good. Although people have pointed out that it doesn't entirely make sense,

It makes a lot more sense if you view Calypso's name as a reference to a certain epic. That's the reason I'm sticking to that theory — I don't care what some writer says about stuff that didn't make it into the movie, but mythic resonances are important...

I wonder what happened to Charon when Calypso gave Davy Jones his job.

...which also implies that Davy wasn't Charon's first replacement.

Re everyone's motivations: I'm a bit confused, too, but that's what rewatches are for.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2007 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, the ten years makes sense in terms of the Odysseus legend (and come to think of it, Odysseus is a good progenitor of these movies!)... but it doesn't make sense in terms of what we were told about DJ in the last movie, or the notion that the captain needs to be killed and replaced, which seemed the trend of the script for this one. It was more internal than external inconsistency.
From: lianna_blanca Date: May 28th, 2007 10:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Er... Fern? Maybe I'm wrong, but where did you get the following "the writers' thought that if Elizabeth and Will were true to each other, it would only be ten years, so he was actually coming home for good." ?

Maybe I missed something, but I'm under the impression (and, if FFN's booming Pirates section is any indication, so are a lot of other people) that it's one day every ten years - my memory isn't precise but I'm pretty sure that's what Bootstrap said.

Not that it makes any sense anyway - as far as I could tell, the carving-out-one's-heart thing is something Davy Jones chose to do at least ten years after starting this job; I do not at ALL understand how that was transferred to 'whomever captains the Dutchman'. Can anybody explain that to me?

And while we're on the topic of confusing plot, I'm trying to understand what happens to a soul when they're on that ship; Jack's first physical body is probably still rotting along with the Kraken, so he - and the Pearl, and his 'piece of eight', for that matter - must have been duplicated when they returned from the locker, which would've had to be an entirely mental plane of existance...

Which makes me wonder just how 'real' the crew of the Dutchman are - I mean, the only reason I see for Elizabeth not to stay with Will on the Dutchman is if you have to be dead or immortal to stay aboard while it goes about ferrying the dead. So following that logic, none of them are really alive anymore - so how, exactly, did Will father a child? Just how different is being dead? Or is it because he's immortal? And for THAT matter, Elizabeth is going to age well beyond him after a few visits. Probably why there was so much blatent "we want to make a fourth film about the fountain of youth" stuff near the end. But still, how does this ferryman thing work?

Ah, I'm sorry - what have I done? This is going way, WAY off the thread. I'm sorry. Still, I won't delete it; any thoguhts would be appreciated.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2007 10:19 am (UTC) (Link)
There's a link in fandom_lounge about it; apparently, the writers have said this in the forums over there, and I know I'd heard it before I saw the movie, so I was surprised it wasn't actually in there.

Well, Jack was said to have been taken body and soul, so presumably his body was in the locker. Some weird Kraken thing, I guess--I don't want to think how the body gets through the Kraken and out onto the sand, but apparently that's what happened. Of course, I'm not sure why Elizabeth can't get on board the Dutchman--Will got on and off of it without being bound to it in the last movie.
dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: May 28th, 2007 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that's where I'd thought they were going with it. "Okay, Will can only come ashore once every ten years, but Elizabeth's tough so she'll just sail with him." I was surprised when they didn't go that route.

Of course, the whole Calypso thing was ruined for me because my mind kept whispering "she's not a goddess, she's a sea nymph!" every time they talked about her. *g*
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: May 28th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
apparently, the writers have said this in the forums over there, and I know I'd heard it before I saw the movie, so I was surprised it wasn't actually in there.

Oh, but I like it better the way it turned out, with the one day every ten years thing. My husband and I both thought that that was utterly gorgeous, the notion that she keeps his heart, they see each other every ten years, and as the son grows up, he keeps the heart, and on and on. We thought it the Will/Elizabeth story to the level of a tragically beautiful fairy tale and gave it more resonance than if they had just ended up together.
From: lianna_blanca Date: May 28th, 2007 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been looking through fandom_lounge and perhaps I'm blind, but I can't find any such link. Would someone here be able to give it to me?

Thank you!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
The quote--and it took a while to find, those boards are a mess--is
"But the basic requirement is that Will agrees captain the Flying Dutchmen (in return for what the film reveals) and that he can step on land but once every ten years, and that at any time, if he finds a love that is true (this is part of the original Flying Dutchman opera by the way) then his attachment to the ship is broken."

From: lianna_blanca Date: May 29th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! VERY helpful site, if bloody hard to find anything...
knight_ander From: knight_ander Date: May 30th, 2007 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)
It would have been nice of them to have explained that in the movie.

Did they mention that one heart needs to be traded for the other in the second film? Would Will really try to stab Davy Jones' heart if he had a chance in DMC? That's one of the bigger problems (of several) that I had with the third movie.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2007 03:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh--and a nit--wasn't he on land during the parlez? On the sandbar? Or was that the day?

He was standing in a bucket.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 28th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great review, Fern! I pretty much agree with everything you said. I had fun, though, and that's all I expect from PotC movies.

Oh, and they thanked Niagara Falls State Park specifically in the credits. I assumed it was the waterfall when they're heading to the locker, but it was probably actually all of the big water effects...

katiemorris From: katiemorris Date: May 29th, 2007 07:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Saw the film last night. What second ending? WHAT SECOND ENDING? What have I missed? Please tell me.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2007 10:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, PotC, with its tricks to get you to the end of the credits. I'm glad I'd read some posts saying, "Stay through them!"

After you get through all the credits, including music, sound, and everyone's secretary, the screen comes back up... ten years later. With Elizabeth and someone else keeping a weather eye on the horizon...
From: _kneebiter Date: June 1st, 2007 01:27 am (UTC) (Link)
C&P'ed from my posts on SQ:

For the curse to be lifted after one go-round would be incredibly cheesy, and besides, the Dutchman must have a captain. So far as I'm concerned, they didn't say it -- they didn't do it. What a writer says in a message board afterward totally does not count.

Curse or calling, it's all in your point of view really. Unquestionably it's a hard row to hoe, but there's also no questioning the importance of the task. And nothing worth having is free.

That in fact is the exact mistake the pirates make, and will for as long as they are pirates: "Take what you want; give nothing back." Thieves, you have been warned, beware of finding more than treasure there. They see Davy Jones, who didn't give back willingly and found that without giving back he could take all he wanted only to see those wants hollowed and drained before his eyes, and they can't conceive where he went wrong. So they fight against giving back even unwillingly, even the slightest bit, ever the harder, and the same trap clamps shut on all of them. Not so Cap'n Turner. He was willing to undertake the task -- and found, as such things are wont to do, that once you render unto Caesar what is Caesar's willingly the curse isn't all that cursey.

To be a pirate you have to prey on others, who are operating within a system with rules of its own. To be a pirate is to be a parasite and a traitor, cloaked in dashingness. Piracy as a system cannot be put into place and remain stable, and the movie acknowedges this, with the every-which-way betrayals and the Pirate King elections and Jack's "we could hole up here, and in a month half of us would be dead." When there's a bigger hazard like the movie's East India Trading Company, fine, the cancer fights the plague and the patient has Monty Burns' Syndrome; but even when the piracy is responding to a need, once the need is gone, the piracy has to voluntarily disband. Must, must, must. If it doesn't, it will consume everything in its radius, and then it will consume itself. Piracy, like the Mafia for that matter, is essentially a fairy tale: it holds out the promise of wonder, but the magic is built on dreams of over-the-rainbow and the dreams are built on blood. And as in any fairy tale, pierce the heart of the dream and the blood will out and the price will be paid. And then, to keep the promise of wonder alive, you have to let the dream cheat you -- for if you find what you seek, what then will you seek for? -- and you have to not let yourself grow from the losing, lest the world seem smaller (just as Barbossa and Jack were complaining). So you borrow from the future to pay the past, and when the debt comes due with interest borrow again. That way a monster lies. Pirates are the Fair Folk, who look beautiful and seem never to die (but slain ye may be, and slain ye shall be), who hold out vanishing gold and promise a fairyland rented from Hell with the assurance that you can always get someone else to pay the ferryman's fare.

If they do a fourth movie, I really hope the whole system of Pirate Lords collapses into wreck in it. All the really good symbolic impact of this movie will be spoilt if they don't let the cracks show.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 10th, 2007 03:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Real pirates are just about always pretty horrific. I think, as Fern stated in an earlier post on the previous movie, Jack represents more an _idea_ of a pirate, Barbossa (at least in the first film) _is_ a pirate.

I said "just about" by the way because, having read a little about the actual pirates of the Caribbean, they weren't nice guys by any measure, but some of them were working in circumstances where you could have some sympathy. For example, "buccaneer" originally applied to people who made a kind of jerky (which, yes, might make them "jerks" if you want to think of it that way). It was a food preservation technique deserters, runaways, and even shipwreck victims living on the islands learned from the natives.

From what I read, these guys weren't causing much of a problem till the Spaniards decided to wipe them out (they _were_ runaways and deserters. Many were also nonSpanish, which was becoming an issue as Spain tried to deal with rivals in the area).

The turning point came when the first group of buccaneers got bold, got lucky, and got a ship. They'd been a landbound group till then.

There were also the privateers. Technically, they were just pirates who wouldn't be hunted by their home governments and who weren't in danger of cutting those home ties by what they did. Not losing those links probably put at least a few of them in a different state of mind when it came to making tough choices that would have meant giving up "civilized" behavior, but there were many privateers who tossed civilization outside the window all the same.

But, the fact that the Spaniards pretty much started the trouble and forced the buccaneers into a life or death struggle when they'd pretty much been a bunch of peaceful beach bums has probably helped their image considerably.

Granted, even there, it accounts for the image more than the reality. But still.

My big "Meh" in the movie is Jack's father. HELLO! I'd read that JACK'S FATHER was going to be in this. I was looking foreward to JACK'S FATHER. What do we get? A walk on bit by a guy whose only reason to be Jack's father is so that he can give one sentence of advice to Jack.

I also wanted to see more from Calypso. The one pirate who said the words that set her free seemed like he should have tied into her story. Although I see why Will wound up the new Dutchman, I was rooting for that guy to get the job.

Oh, well.

At least the dog keeps going up in the world.

23 comments or Leave a comment