Sunday night I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. I had read a fair number of reviews of the film prior to seeing it, so I went in with low expectations. I was surprised to discover that the film sucked less than I was expecting.
But it still sucked.
There was no discernible plot, no character development, and a nonsensical story based in a world operating according to ever-changing laws. Death is treated in typical Hollywood fashion: as a joke, as serious, as reversible, as permanent. Which treatment it received depended only on the emotional impacted needed for the particular scene. Geoffrey Rush's character dies and is resurrected because he's needed again. The same goes for Depp. But Jonathan Pryce's character must stay dead. Why? There's no logic behind it; this death seems intended only to lend some forced emotion to a particular scene, and to give Knightley a chance to put on her angry/sad face. When the hundreds of extras die, no one sheds a tear.
Laws are to be broken on a whim, or followed religiously on pain of death; again, depending on needs of the scene. A case in point: When the pirates convene a war council and one dares to say “to hell with the pirate code,” he is summarily executed for his blasphemy; and again, nary a tear is shed. Honor among thieves? Hardly. The very idea of conformity to regulations is anathema to pirating, and whether one follows the rules — or which set of rules one follows — seems to matter little. Worse still, this murder of a bit-player is played as a punchline, serving only to punctuate the scene and move the ridiculous story forward.
Loyalty and betrayal, trust and mistrust; like the leading players, these concepts are abbruptly brought to life in order to lend emotion to a scene, and then burried again when they get in the way of the runaway action. The leading characters bicker for a bit, breaking up with pointless melodrama what would otherwise have been 2 ¾ hours of pointless action. There's no coherence or reason behind the disputes. Loyalties shift as quickly as do the laws of physics. Flung into a cartoon reality, the viewer quickly abandons hope of finding sense or meaning in the characters' protestations, or of making sense of their world.
The visual effects are top-notch, as one would expect from such a big production film. The animation of Davy Jones's face is particularly good, conveying pitch-perfect the subtle emotions Nighy brings to the character. The technicians and artists are less convincing when it comes to animating other sequences. In particular, a swashbuckling match in the riggings shows its artificial roots. And unfortunately for the film, the impressive effects do not make up for what the film lacks.
Johnny Depp's performance is just about the only saving grace of the film. His antics as protagonist Captain Jack Sparrow are worthy of a better venue. Maybe he should do a one-man show — in character. I'd much rather see that than another installment in this film franchise. Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy gave very good prformances too, making the best of the parts they were given. I'd just prefer to see their talents put to better use.
Each PotC film has represented a further departure from reality. Neither the physical world nor the emotional motivations of the characters makes any sense at all. Perhaps this sort of departure from reality is what the world needs right now. This might explain the movie's blockbuster box-office performance over the weekend.
PotC3:aWE is an entertaining film, but don't expect more from it than you would from a Saturday morning cartoon.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.