“Why is the rum always gone?”
Pirates of the Caribbean
SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL.
So it’s getting towards the end of the summer term here at University, which means it’s Ill-Advised Movie Marathon season. Having, with the timely help of the Circumlocutor, narrowly escaped a viewing of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (which, at three hours seven minutes, is a marathon all by itself), I was inveigled by the University Gang into watching the marginally less mindless Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy back-to-back (we didn’t actually manage the third one, but that’s another story). I’ve posted about Curse of the Black Pearl elsewhere, so here I will be sharing with you the kettle of delights which is Dead Man’s Chest.
It turns out that I have not seen Dead Man’s Chest nearly as often as I’ve seen the other two, because I spent at least half of the two-and-a-half-hour fandango going “What? I don’t remember this bit…What? Isn’t this Star Wars?…What? Why is this happening?”
And so on.
I mention this because the film begins with an interrupted wedding which I remember not at all. Will and Elizabeth, you see, are arrested by the dastardly new Commodore for piracy (you know, all the stuff they don’t get punished for at the end of Pearl). The Commodore offers Will a bargain: a royal pardon in exchange for Jack Sparrow’s famous compass that doesn’t point north (’cause it’s magic, obviously). Will goes swashbuckling off across the seas so that Elizabeth doesn’t have to be in prison any more, Elizabeth somehow magically escapes from said prison and goes round pointing pistols at people and stowing away on ships, and Jack, in a completely unrelated plot thread, is busy trying to escape the notice of Davy Jones and His Famous Kraken, having once accepted an unspecified but almost certainly unwise bargain from Jones involving the Black Pearl.
And this continues for two and a half hours. There is backstabbing and swordfighting and gun-wielding; there are unlikely misses, questionable tactics, musical instruments in strange places, and curiously ineffectual monsters. There are so many backroom (backcabin?) deals and underhanded agreements that it becomes hard to remember who’s betrayed whom and what exactly it is everyone is so cross about. In fact, the primary objective of most of the main characters seems to be dragging the whole affair out as long as possible.
I’m not saying it wasn’t fun. It was. It was fun to watch it with my friends, saying things like “Why isn’t he dead yet?” and “That’s a terrible bowline, I could tie a better one in my sleep” and throwing metaphorical popcorn at the screen. It was fun because it was rubbish and everyone had seen it and we could all laugh at its terribleness, which is mostly the point of Ill-Advised Movie Marathon season.
But it is, objectively, quite bad: unfocused, illogical, over-complicated and suffering from a bad case of Middle Story Syndrome. There’s no resolution, only a cliffhanger. There’s no explanation, only a promise of more to come. There’s no story, only a plot, and a bad one at that.