Wednesday, 20 January 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 126 part 2 - Film Piracy

371 - Pirates of the Caribbean - 4 stars
It should never have worked. A summer blockbuster based on a Disneyland ride, in a genre that was shipwrecked by the dismal flop Cutthroat Island.
Instead we got a well made film with lots of action and a great central premise of cursed pirates searching for the stolen treasure (which led to some great special effects work).
However ultimately the success of this film can be summed up in three words... Captain. Jack. Sparrow.
From his glorious entrance to him sailing of into the horizon, Johnny Depp manages to create one of the greatest film characters of the decade.
Hollywood also finally realised what all us true Depp fans had known since Edward Scissorhands, that the man is a star and one of the finest actors alive... and also now a hugely popular one as well.

475 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - 3 stars
Not as bad as I remember and still quite fun, but difficult to fully appreciate when you know you are only seeing part of the whole story (the third part of the trilogy did not make the list).
Suffers from the same flaws as Transformers 2, and if Michael Bay had watched this then he could have avoided some of them, in that it is too long, the storyline is too complicated (not helped by the fact that they were writing the script as they went), and they felt the need to bring back almost all the minor characters when the could have focused more on developing new ones.
One example of a great new character is Davy Jones. The squid-like villainous captain of the Flying Dutchmen who will stop at nothing to find Captain Jack and settle their debt. He is brilliantly played by Bill Nighy and I will go on record as to say that Davy Jones is THE greatest CGI character even commited to film. The CG work is outstanding to the point that it looks like it is make-up and prostethics. Any scene where there is water splashing on his face is a marvel to behold.
It draws comparisons to The Empire Strikes Back (see below) for its dark cliffhanger ending. A bold and sad turn of events, #spoilers# where Jack is eaten by the Kraaken, that led me to decide that I could never marry Keira Knightley due to her betrayal of Captain Jack. The editing and music in this sequence made it as moving as the carbonite scene in Empire, although "'Ello beastie" isn't as good as "I know". Just a shame that the third movie completely undid all the good work.
Oh, and Geoffrey Rush's tiny appearance at the end just served to point out how much he was missed and what a pivotal part he played in the success of the first film.

To digress from the review I want to look at just some of the similarities between this franchise and that of a famous space set trilogy (as noticed on several other websites as well).

Good Guys:

  • Will Turner is the Luke Skywalker character, who is a bit wet and whiny and having a lot of unresolved daddy issues.

  • Elizabeth Swann is fulfilling the role of the Princess who is captured, rescued, tempted by romance with a pirate and stuck in a love triangle between Will and Jack, luckily she doesn't turn out to be anyone's sister.

  • Captain Jack Sparrow is the character that everyone wants to be, therefore Han Solo. A bit of a rogue who will look out for himself first but ultimately a good guy. His ship The Black Pearl is his Millennium Falcon, which would make Gibbs Jack's Chewbacca.
    Also Jack's fate at the end of Dead Man's Chest is similar to Han's fate at the end of Empire.

Bad Guys:

  • Davy Jones is akin to Jabba the Hutt who has made a deal with Jack Sparrow and puts a price on his head. Jabba wants to put Solo into the Sarlaac while Jones has the water-based Sarlaac lookalike Kraaken.

  • Tom Hollander's Lord Beckett would be The Emperor in control of the Empire (East India Trading Company) and through manipulation has a Vader-like hold over Jones and Norrington.

There are lots more examples of how similar the two franchises are but that is just a brief overview. Next time you watch them, look out for the references/similarities.

Days remaining - 239 Films remaining - 314

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