PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END

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Overall Impression — I don’t know what they were smoking, but I want some.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS 

Who’s the main character? — Jack Sparrow, but only by default.   At various times Will drives the story, Elizabeth drives the story, Barbossa drives the story, there’s probably some sub-plot I missed where the third pirate from the left was driving the story.  It comes down to Jack as the main character because of my oft-stated principle that the climactic battle of any (good) story is always the good guy versus the bad guy over the stakes.  At the end of PIRATES 3 Jack was fighting Davy Jones over Will (kinda) so there you have it. 

What’s he trying to accomplish? —  Damned if I know.  Something about wanting to be a pirate indefinitely. 

Who’s trying to stop him? — The main villain is Lord Beckett. 

What happens if he fails? — Damned it I know.  I guess he dies, or doesn’t get to be a pirate anymore.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan — Jack is alone in Davy Jones locker and needs rescuing.  That being said, he’s not really alone because there are all these alternate Jacks with him.  And if this makes no sense to you then take a number, me hearty! 

Wanderer — Jack is rescued from Davy Jones locker by Will, Elizabeth and company.  They then have to figure out how to get back to the world of the living and make it to Shipwreck Island for a gathering of the pirate brethren.

Warrior —  Damned if I know.  The pirates decide to fight?  Jack decides to do something.  Sure, I watched this while suffering from a nasty head cold, but I couldn’t have been that foggy…could I? 

Martyr —  Jack gives up his goal of living forever at sea by enabling Will to stab Davy Jones’s heart.  

AND, IN THE END

This movie was too clever by half.  After an amazing debut in PIRATES 1, the franchise started substituting incongruous imagination for compelling story, bringing us PIRATES 2 and now PIRATES 3.  This not an uncommon problem with the Hollywood blockbuster sequel;  the need to outdo the original.  Sadly, this outdoing often makes the story come undone.  Ah, but that’s the real curse of the Black Pearl, isn’t it?

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No Responses to “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END”

  1. Bryan December 14, 2007 at 1:07 pm #

    YES YES YES!

    You finally encapsulated what I’ve felt about this sucker all along. The Totally Write method agrees with a fundamental response in this movie goer! I walked out of the theater horrified, feeling bamboozled. First came the pain of the film, then the indignity of watching it wrack up untold bazillions at the box office — validating this crapola as something we supposedly enjoyed! A true marketing success.

    But it goes to show that if the elements are wrong, the payoff won’t be there. Totally Write is not a formula in the paint-by-numbers sense. It just assures that the satisfying elements of any script will be there, providing the audience a worthwhile experience. Writing is still hard… it’s just hard with a purpose and for a reason.

    Thank you for undressing the Pirates franchise. Shiver me timbers — but we were sure robbed of a potentially fantastic trilogy! I guess those rapscallions stayed thematic, and I know what it’s like now to be shorn of my treasures at sea.

  2. David Goulet December 15, 2007 at 4:45 pm #

    This is a good example of sequelitis: a cinematic disease generating threadbare foollow-ups to an original film that was inherently self contained and didn’t have anywhere else to go, but that was so boffo at the boxoffo that the studio had to go back to the well and drain it dry. Perhaps the greatest recent victim of this disease was the Matrix, with Pirates being a close second and Shrek a nice third. In each of these, a classic original film is essentially regurgitated and disappoints us — no matter how clever and eye-catching the sequel might be.

    I believe that this is another reason studios are now enamoured with adapting book franchises. Authors get story, and provide sequels that maintain the necessary structure. It takes the guesswork out of it when you go to the big screen.

    And the franchise most crippled by sequelitis? I’d have to call it a draw of the great R’s: Rambo and Rocky. First Blood remains one of my all time favourites. Every sequel since has been sickening. Rocky’s 1-3 were all decent enough, but from Russia onward they stank up the joint. You could also put the Die Hard franchise in the sequelitis Hall of Fame. Not only did Die Hard spawn its own brutal sequels, it created a whole genre of Die Hard clones (almost all of them bad). Die Hard 4 was the worst film I’ve seen in the last year. A total waste of what seemed like 10 hours.

    But lets end on a positive note and tip our hats to the writers of Toy Story 2 — who proved hard work and attention to structure are the best way to innoculate your story from sequelitis.

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