Vulcan’s Peak

Pirates of the Caribbean 3

July 17, 2007 1:36 pm

Poke took a small mallet to my stubborn skull last night and managed to convince me that this perhaps isn’t a Really Great Movie. It might not even count as a good movie. But golly gee, it was a lot of fun!

My low expectations helped PotC 3 a great deal. The first movie is so good and the second so bad that it was hard not to imagine a downward spiral. On the contrary, #3 manages to take the tangled plots it inherits from #2 and, if not untie the knots, at least it pulls them into a more intriguing sort of disarray.

Of course, nothing can be resolved until it gets a little more tangled, but where #2 helps #3 is in conditioning the audience to expect everyone to betray everyone else at regular intervals. Everyone makes deals with the devil — usually represented by the capitalistic face of the East India Trading Company. Even the sea-demon himself, Davy Jones, is in their control.

Thankfully, the two biggest monsters from #2, the kraken and the possibility of a Jack-Elizabeth-Will love triangle are both shown to be dead. The latter is barely mentioned, though Elizabeth strongly implies that she kissed Jack only as a diversion while she cuffed him to the sinking Black Pearl. The big tension between Will and Elizabeth turns out to be the strain of keeping secrets (about their various betrayals, naturally) and general mistrust (natural consequence of said betrayals) rather than romantic infidelity — which puts the emphasis on whether they can continue to love each other, not on whether she might like Jack better. I found this considerably more interesting.

As for Cap’n Jack Sparrow, any damage done in #2 in making him too normal is undone by his first appearance in #3. While it isn’t soon enough for some, it comes well before the half-way point and that first scene has enough Jack in it to compensate. The theory seems to be that if one Jack is good, more will be better! I agree. Here, Jack is absolutely mad, and it is brilliant. This also makes it fairly clear that Barbossa really is a better (by which I mean more consistent) captain than the harebrained but ingenious Jack Sparrow, which makes the ending of #3 make a fair amount of sense — anyway, Jack’s got what he needs and we’ve got the possibility of a movie #4.

I was much less satisfied with where we left Elizabeth. For such a strong female character to be left on a desert island waiting for her lover to come back in ten years is insulting. She was King of the bloody Pirates! I can only assume she had a boat somewhere that we didn’t see and will go have her own pirate-y adventures in the intervening ten years. Otherwise, she gets crowned June Cleaver of the High Seas, and Elizabeth deserves better than that.

Not surprisingly, there were a handful of sub-sub-plots and extra twists that really could have stayed on the cutting room floor. Elizabeth’s father contributed only a minor touch of pathos and an unexplored parallel to Will’s father; he could have stayed happily off-screen. And what was the business about dressing up Elizabeth to represent Calypso? Was that supposed to be a fake-out as if we didn’t know perfectly well who Calypso’s human form must be? Calypso and Davy Jones set up a nice parallel to Elizabeth and Will — even a warning of what they could become. However, all the business about why there has to be a heart in the box and whether it has anything to do with one’s capacity for emotion — could we make that a little more unclear, please?

You may notice that I spent most of the HP 5 review blathering about actors and here I haven’t bothered to credit a single one. I think it’s largely because I always spend HP movies worrying about the portrayal of beloved characters (Dumbledore rant goes here) — perhaps with a dash of over-analysis because I know the plot ahead of time (so no need to speculate during the movie). However that works out, PotC 3 gave me the luxury of seeing the characters only as characters. And yeah, I suppose the wigs and prosthetics didn’t hurt either.

No Responses to “Pirates of the Caribbean 3”

Care to comment?