Written by Phillryu
As we near the end of the month, the endings to three of Hollywood’s biggest modern megafranchises have come to pass. First was Spiderman 3, and let’s be honest, it kinda sucked. (Sorry Toby, but you ain’t Johnny Depp. You’re a good actor, but that doesn’t mean you can pull off “cool”. Don’t you EVER try pulling off goofy stuff like those venom suit scenes again.) Then came Shrek the Third, which sucked slightly less, or at least, had fewer scenes that had me crying in tears of pain, fear, and disappointment. (In all seriousness, the “venom suit” scenes in Spiderman may’ve seriously damaged my psyche. Am I the only one who imagined all the extras cracking up as soon as Toby Maguire walked beyond their line of sight?)
Yeah, you know where this is going. Because the Rottentomatoes score is kind of… well, disappointing, to say the least. And there’s only so much Johnny Depp can do to buoy the bloat afloat. And hey, it’s a Bruckheimer/Disney movie. Of course they’re going to whore the franchise out. Or… maybe not. Because I have a surprise.
Pirates doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s actually pretty sick, in a good way.
Yes, Pirates is lumbering, and effects laden, and may be full of hack writing and ridiculously convoluted plot conventions. But don’t forget, that’s what made the first Pirates so balls out entertaining and fresh. The perfect blend of popcorn fun, and the rewardingly brainbusting plottwists that probably initially had studio execs crying tears of frustration. Then again, we’re talking the same execs who greenlighted a movie based on an amusement park ride. Which I would’ve vetoed. What do I know? (By the way Gore, if you’re reading this, how the hell did you get those guys to swallow this up? “Hey look, guys, I wouldn’t worry, the Nasca demographics will have fun too, even if they don’t quite get everything”?)
Pirates 2 had the formula slightly off, though I will say, after watching 3, I’m willing to forgive 2 for a lot of things.
Yeah, so anyway. To sum it up, it’s pitch-perfect popcorn fun. Look, even I still don’t believe it. So to convince myself that I’m not high off of Bruckheimer’s CGI fumes, I worked on a list. Here are ten reasons why Pirates 3 actually kicked ass:
Disclaimer: Spoilers ahoy.
1. Geoffrey Rush: The best part of the trailer to this movie is when Captain Barbosa is cackling as his ship careens off the end of the world. How ridiculously badass is that? Please, give this guy an Oscar. And Geoff, if that Oscar doesn’t work out for you, I give you the Phill Ryu Award for “Most Badass Portrayal of a Pirate Ever” award. Congrats. (By the way, it was totally sweet how you stole Pirates 2 with about two seconds of screen-time. Thanks for popping in at the end and making us all realize how much Pirates 2 kinda blew without you.)
2. Being Jack Sparrow: One of the most hilariously inspired scenes in movie history is in Being John Malkovich, when John enters his own mind. Ok, so imagine that scene, but with Jack Sparrow. Tons of them, babbling at each other, arguing, shooting each other in the face. Ludicrous, hilarious, and pure awesome, bottled down in its natural form. Yes, it’s Johnny Depp metaphorically jacking off, but you can’t blame him, I mean, hey, who doesn’t love Jack Sparrow and his rum problem. Pirates 3, particularly said scene, begs the question, can you really have too much of Jack Sparrow? (The answer, of course, is no.)
3. The Tell-Tale Heart: Davy Jones… where to begin? Let’s forget about the state of the art CGi for a second, and ignore that pretty, tentacled face. We find Davy Jones with his heart held hostage (literally) in Pirates 3 to the evil East Indian Trading Company, having been forced to kill his beloved pet, the Kraken. And it only gets more complicated from there. But by the end, Davy Jones is one of the most sympathetic characters ever displayed on screen in a popcorn flick, with MUCH more depth than a blockbuster movie villain deserves. I’m talking Darth Vader depth. (Speaking of which, watch out for that slimy India Trading Company dude, Lord Beckett, just when you think he couldn’t get slimy enough…. he redeems himself. And it’s awesome.) By the way, Davy Jones also gets possibly the single most badass scene in the movie. You won’t be believing it as it happens, second by second. You’ll be shitting yourself. I won’t ruin it for you. (However, I will say, if you’re all icky about squids, prepare to be traumatized.) And as sick as it may sound, man am I craving some calamari right now.
4. Backstabbing and plot twists by the barrel. You savvy?: There’s so much backstabbing here, and so many unexpected twists and turns, that it honestly, at times, gets overwhelming. And this is probably the most common claim leveraged against the movie by its critics. But don’t get your panties in a bunch like them (who, by the way, I generally agree with, at least about Shrek and Spiderman). However, that having been said, believe it or not, the twists and turns do work out. (Mostly.) I’ve seen the movie twice, and it does make sense, a lot more sense, the second time around. And, you know what? I enjoy movies that require a second viewing, books that I pick up again right after finishing the last page. I wish I could watch the movie again with my memory erased, fresh experience, because the twists and turns had me at the edge of my seat for nearly three hours. Remember the climactic back and forth plot hilarity in the first movie involving the title curse? Remember how those sort of hijinks SHOULD’VE happened but didn’t in Pirates 2, with Davy Jones’ curse and the Kraken? It happens in spades here, and boy is it fun.
5. More pirates: And that’s totally a good thing. Because, remember the golden rule of yarr (which, admittedly, I just made up): More pirates equals more badassery. Chow Yun Fat is incredibly badass as an Asian pirate lord, but honestly, the number of badass pirates in this movie approaches a point that I can only describe as ludicrous. And believe it or not, no, Chow Yun Fat is NOT the most badass of the new pirates, even though Chow Yun Fat IS the most badass Asian currently in existence. Chew on that for a bit. The crown for the most badass new pirate goes to…
6. Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow’s dad: ‘nuf said.
7. The Pirates universe: What other movie could possibly dare to feature monkeys in rice farmer hats setting off fireworks in a pirate den in Singapore, pirate warlords from the corners of the earth banding together under the pirate’s code, the visual spectacle of the giant, rotting corpse of the Kraken, and Barbosa cackling as the Black Pearl plunges over the end of the world, meanwhile making gazillions of dollars at the box office and jumpstarting the careers of dozens of Johnny Depp impersonators? What a perfect mix of ridiculousness, fantasy, badasses, and humor. See, one reason why this all works, is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Which brings me to point.
8. Humor: It’s still there. Blink, and jokes will fly by, visual or verbal. The humor is often hilarious, and pretty much almost always on mark. I can’t think of a really painfully bad joke in there.
9. CGI set pieces: I mean, obviously they’ve gotta be there. Here’s how Jerry Bruckheimer might’ve proposed one of the movie’s big fights.
“I want a fight with hundreds of badass pirate ships firing on and boarding each other. I want Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow dueling it out in the middle of this fight, with Davy’s CGI tentacles playing a pivotal role, and lightning striking left and right. And I want all of this going on in a giant whirlpool, that’s sucking these ships up.”
Glad I wasn’t the effects guy in charge of that.
The set pieces are sweet, and even considering my expectations on that front (very, very high), they more than deliver. Forget about Pirates 2, this is the real deal. If y.
10. An ending that doesn’t suck, or drag far longer than it has any right to, just like this bullet item: Yes, it has a long ending. And yes, long endings in general suck. Hey, I loved Return of the King, but the extended ending just became painful. Only reason I was able to keep my cool while sitting through it was because Peter Jackson poured his life into it, and hey, I’ll give the man 20 minutes to putz around before really finishing it off. (If it isn’t clear, I thought ROTK was a pretty classy finale to an awesome trilogy.)
The good news is, Pirates ends well. Honestly, it ends gracefully. I kept alternating between “I hope this doesn’t end”, and “Oh sweet, I hope it ends on this sweet note” about ten times. That’s a great thing, and ultimately why I left the theater glowing, sat down, and wrote this. There is rarely a better feeling than seeing such an epic quantity and range of loose ends neatly, masterfully tied.
By the way, THIS is how you end a mega franchise. Hats off Gore Verbinski, and for not dropping the ball like, um, everyone else this month. You may be a hack, but you’re the best of class. The hack to end all hacks. Bravo.
PS, how hilarious is it that while this movie definitely cements Keira Knightley as our generation’s “it” girl (wait until you see her in the film’s last few minutes, yowza), Orlanda Bloom’s potential chance for sex symbol status gets shafted by a Keith Richards impersonating Depp? Then again, I also consider Orlando Bloom to be the luckiest man in Hollywood, and possibly the luckiest man alive. Two mega franchises without acting chops? (I kid, I kid… not. Still a fan of LOTR/Pirates tho.) You and Gore should team up on another movie. And I’m not even kidding either. I’d watch it. And since I love giving out fake awards, Orlando Bloom, take honor in receiving the Phill Ryu Award for being “The Luckiest Sonofabitch Alive”.
PPS, yeah I realize I already screwed up. Say hello to reason #11 why this movie kicks ass: the soundtrack. Mad props to Hans Zimmer, definitely his best since Gladiator. Though a ton of credit goes to Klaus Badelt for the original movie soundtrack. (Who is this guy, Klaus?)
PPPS, the more I think of it, the more I realize Gore Verbinski is, in his own, hack way, a genius. Why? I came out of Pirates 2 last summer absolutely disappointed, and thinking it was sort of shit. And a lot of people agreed with me, but whatever, the movie still made bank. But now, despite what I still recognize as huge, huge flaws, I’m starting to feel an affinity for Dead Man’s Chest because of this movie. Maybe it wasn’t actually that bad. I’m gonna have to watch it again. Crazy. And I suppose, here I am, harping about Pirates