Not a review, here, just a slightly edited discussion board post that I felt sharing beyond the few contributors to that board.
I spent a decent part of the last day or so meditating on what made this film so wretchedly bad. I even contemplated (and believe I could) setting up a Slactivist-type project whereby I would write an essay a week on some micro portion of the film, dissecting how it is “instructively bad” at each individual point.
The plot is bloated and migraine inducing, while the photography and editing is shockingly bad. A stellar example is a scene between Knightley and Chow Yun Fat that can’t decide whether to use dolly shots or jump cuts and so intersperses both with little rhyme or reason—managing to confuse spatial relations and break rhythm at the same time. Look, I’m not asking for mise en scene here—this is an adventure movie, not Citizen Kane--but I think if this were a film school project it would get thrashed.
I think what ultimately grinds my gears about the latter two installments is the pointlessness of the whole thing and the way it tends to use reversals and new information as deux ex machinas rather than mythological layering. Oh it was fun to see the shifting allegiances in the first film, but by the second (and certainly the third) you would think the characters would know what they stood for and wanted even if others were mistaken about them. The pirate code seems binding at times, at others, it is merely, you know, “suggestions.” The problem with that is that the film wants to have it both ways…chastising government and institutions for being capricious and hypocritical yet championing the pirate life not as some embodiment of a Thoreau-like adherence to a personal integrity but only as a rebellion against that which it isn’t all that different from.
Look, I hate the RNC as much as the next namby-pamby liberal who laments the erosion of our civil rights under the Bush regime—but must EVERY adventure film portray ANY form of institutional power as totalitarian? I wrote an op-ed piece a couple of years ago about how Hollywood films were doing the cultural work of paving the way for war with film after film that lionized a small group of noble brethren who withstood robotic and totalitarian armies (historical and fantastic) by holding fast to principles in the face of great odds. No more…
Here we get Elizabeth Swann doing her best impersonation of Winona Ryder doing a postmodern interpretation of Henry V…”we few, we happy few, we band of loosely affiliated mercenaries with momentarily aligned mutual interests…for whoever fights with me is my brother, from now until the end of the scene!”
These characters are so devoid of deep commitments (or even passions) that it just feels like nothing is at stake…a feeling that is only exacerbated by the decision to treat death as one more plot hurdle to be written around rather than a consequential possible result of a wrong (or, God forbid, a right) decision.
But hey…I’m a red blooded, American male, so who wouldn’t want to watch Keira Knightley prancing around in a tighty-nighty that can barely cover her (as Forrest Gump would say) “butt-tocks”? At least her attributes are more consistently present than Sparrow’s “now you see them—now we are too busy to think of how to get rid of them so they’ll disappear for no reason” surrealistic hallucinations. Maybe the film wouldn't have been nearly three hours if someone hadn't accidentally inserted Un Chien Andalu in the second reel.
Somewhere out there, I’m willing to bet there is some fundamentalist who is protesting The Simpsons and Harry Potter but who wouldn’t blink at Jack’s (or Barbosa’s) assertion that “there is more than one way to gain eternal life” or find its phrasing anything other than coincidental.
(1 rum bottle out of 5)