Pirate movies have been missing at sea for years, though with good reason as the last few that did set sail were considered real duds including one of the biggest sinkers in history – “Cutthroat Island”. So a little over ten years later it comes time to reinvent them with the help of uber-action producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
The good news is he’s succeeded, ‘Pirates’ is a great Summer adventure movie but not for the reasons you may think. Like all of Bruckheimer’s movies its quite fast paced, full of massive action sequences, contains a solid (if slightly juvenile) sense of humour, and has some picturesque locales. Its also a film which relies more on telling a story and then incorporating the action into that rather than the other way around like all too many films these days. The result is something that, to use an analogy here, is like the more outgoing but less thoughtful younger brother of 1998’s swashbuckler “The Mask of Zorro”.
As its based on a Disney ride one wouldn’t expect much story and whilst there’s is a surprisingly elaborate background to this tale, it utilises all the old cliched elements so when it moves along it all feels too familiar. The script may not be the greatest in the world but its perfectly serviceable for the film, same goes with most of the performances.
Orlando Bloom & Keira Knightley aren’t great actors but they’re well picked for the material and display ample chest which the audience is drooling to see. Jack Davenport & Jonathan Pryce are also well selected but their roles are insubstantial at best. Geoffrey Rush brings a fun and yet somewhat vicious tone to the character of Barbossa and makes him a more elaborate villain than expected, however even with all this talent it still pales for without one man this film would be considered a very average Summer movie.
That man is Johnny Depp. Depp just camps it up to a volume of 11 as Jack Sparrow, our somewhat insane scoundrel hero who dons more mascara than Tammy Faye Baker, sashays in his walk more than a drag queen, and is as unscrupulous as the characters you’ll find in the likes of TV’s “Black Adder”. This is one of those performances which just OWNS a movie, and it’ll be a welcome reinvigoration of the career of this still ultra-talented young man.
As with pretty much all Bruckheimer films, the production values are exquisite – from the glorious use of locales, to the digital effects and elaborate sets its all done with a no expense spared look but also in a way that honours all the old classics. Klaus Bedelt’s score is also surprisingly strong and rich, the pulse-pounding orchestral pieces never losing pace with what’s happening on screen.
Verbinski’s skilled hand with “The Ring” last year continues here, the director keeping the pace of the film flowing smoothly throughout and even though it feels a little slow towards the end, there’s never really a quiet moment where things dull down.
The themes and action vary greatly too with sword fights, massive ship battles, brawls and duels. Its a film which straddles the difficult line of being able to make fun of itself, without going overboard into silly ‘wink at the camera’ style stupidity. Towards the end like any movie the effects do takeover somewhat but the fighting skeletons trick looks cooler than expected.
Gags are laugh-inducing throughout and whilst some running ones do fall flat (the eyeball one for instance), the majority comes from Depp’s delivery and attitude, Rush’s witty dialogue or Knightley’s physical comedy – none of which gets old. This is just a really good solid Summer movie, and a hell of an entertaining ride.