Saturday, May 10, 2008


Have any of you ever heard of this one?

Seriously, what's the point of discussing a film that's become as ingrained into pop culture as Gore Verbinski's 2003 blockbuster? Then again, I hadn't seen the movie myself until last summer, as I tend to prefer outre obscurities from cult directors over mega-hyped Hollywood pap; though it was on my cousin Rob's recommendation that I'd probably like it that prompted me, rather than the repeated, "What? You haven't seen PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN? Oh my God!" that greeted me the week of AT WORLD'S END's release.

For the record, I found it a surprisingly rousing adventure, though I think cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and Klaus Badelt's score owe just as much to the runaway success as Johnny Depp's defining turn as Captain Jack Sparrow. At 145 minutes it's longer than neccesary, with a denouement that takes forever to wrap up, but with a supporting cast than includes Geoffrey Rush and Jonathan Pryce, it can be easily overlooked.

Not that a bloated running time is the film's only flaw (and lot's not even discuss historical accuracy), but our emphasis here is on the living dead, which PIRATES does fairly well. The CGI-rendered pirates are well-detailed and often effective, although the film's PG-13 rating (and targeted mass appeal) keeps them from being more than a funhouse attraction. Verbinski does a good job withholding them for the first half of the picture, making their reveal a genuine set-piece. It's a fun scene, albeit marred by the obligatory visual extravagance required for summer action films; and while the pirates' skeletal appearance made me think of the Knights Templar from the BLIND DEAD series, I'm sure THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD is a more appropriate influence.

The film's climax, as the undead pirates engage in a large-scale battle with the leads, is another great example of elaborate digital effects that enhance the live-action goings on, though once again it concedes to the more-more-more mentality of Hollywood and exhausts the excitement long before the sequence is over. (A problem the film's sequels will greatly exacerbate.)

Like it or not, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is part of our cultural landscape, and will mostly likely remain so for quite some time. I doubt it'll have quite the same lasting impact as the STAR WARS trilogy (need I clarify which one?), though the generation that grows up in this decade will probably have a greater reverence for Verbinski's films than the soul-crushing pablum George Lucas pawned on them. Which, even as someone who'd rather watch the worst Ted V. Mikels pic than the summer juggernaut du jour, I can live with.

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