Strange Tides and Dangerous Ground

News that a fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise being developed and, eventually, planned for release in 2011, was – let’s be honest – hardly a surprise.  The three films were massive in every way; in scale both on and off the screen, and financially, both in production and in the box office, despite the fact that films 2 & 3 (Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End) didn’t even begin to measure up to the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl.  With the second film, you even see the beginnings of the three-word-title trend.  Um, can I just ask, what was wrong with five words?

Don’t get me wrong; there are many things I enjoyed about. . . At World’s End.   Okay, and Dead Man’s Chest, but you have to really want to see them, as the negatives really do outweigh the positives.  It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if the first film hadn’t been so damn good.

So, despite the predictability of a fourth film, hopes were not especially high.  Not for me.  I had even hoped that maybe it was just a rumor.

But the official posters and the May 2011 release date were hard to ignore.

When I got word that the trailer had been announced, and posted on the world wide web, I decided to take a gander to see just what they were putting forth, what their gamble was looking like at first glance.

And, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.  Take a look.

While I’m not crazy about the premise, them searching for the Fountain of Youth (excuse me while I yawn), I’m encouraged by this initial presentation of it, and several things jump out at me…in a good way.

The biggest surprise is the change of director.  Rob Marshall brings a credibility that I think the films sorely needed.  My eyes about  popped out of my head when I saw his name and my interest in the film sky-rocketed just at that.  He definitely has good credentials, unexpected hits in genres that usually aren’t critically [and publicly] successful (i.e. Best-Picture Chicago), so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Score a point for Disney.

Further still, I’m very impressed by the casting of Penélope Cruz.  Even from this trailer, it seems to me that she and Johnny Depp have an unusual chemistry.  It’s not overwhelming or obvious, but I think that the two will play nicely off each other and not in an annoying way.  She’s a good pick, too, because she’s not someone for whom you have to necessarily suspend your belief; you see her in the badass-pirate-chick costume, slinging the cutlass around and, well, it works.  It reminds me – a lot – of Zoe Saldana’s [incredibly under appreciated] role in Curse of the Black Pearl, Anamaria.  It was before she was famous, but she was still awesome and memorable, and she had very distinct chemistry with Johnny Depp.

If you don’t remember her, this is the scene in which she was introduced (starting at 6:23):

(Just watching that one scene and is such a staggering reminder of how Curse of the Black Pearl really is in a different league.)

In a perfect world, we would have seen Anamaria/Zoe Saldana return, even way back in Dead Man’s Chest, but I’m pleased with what I see here from Penélope Cruz.  Her cultural background, too, plays perfectly into the film, the geographical territory and naval/pirate history.  (Score another point for Disney.)

And speaking of history, it is about goddamn time they brought in a figure from actual pirate history and lore.  And Blackbeard is a great one to go with.  Who knows how accurate it’ll  be, but God knows we have seen so many invented characters, it makes me dizzy.  Not one real historical figure even mentioned in passing until now.  Seriously, it’s high fucking time.

It’s nice to see Keith Richards again.  His role and performance in At World’s End was one of those few positives I saw in the film.  He was a surprise.  I thought that his character would just be there for laughs, as a joke, and a tribute to Depp’s inspiration for the role, but I was unprepared for the seriousness and depth of the character and in the scene between him and Jack.  So hopefully we’ll get more of that.  I just hope they don’t overplay their hand with him.

And I just have to ask – are those girls Mermaids or Sirens?  They seem dangerous, luring the guys under the water and all, and Mermaids are usually more benign, so wouldn’t that make them Sirens, not Mermaids?

And Zombies?  Really?  They always seem like such a cop-out, at least from a writing standpoint.  But I guess in dealing with something like the Fountain of Youth, it could make for a nice metaphor.  Maybe.  I’d like to hope so because otherwise it just seems pathetic and borderline cheesy, especially depending on how they’re portrayed and executed.

Okay, and so we’ve dropped Will and Elizabeth, but, hmm, curious that we have those two poignant shots of a young man and a young woman, who, thanks to the editing, look very much they’re looking at one another.  Could this be our new romantic couple, stand-ins/replacements for Orlando and Keira?  Inconceivable!  (<—insert sarcasm here)

My more serious concerns, meanwhile, are that, (a) Jack seems to be over-doing his antics like he did in the last two films (different from the first only in the lack of subtlety that was so incredible when we first met him) and, (b)  The spectacle seems to be, well…there’s a lot of it.  The first film was, again, so brilliant in that they didn’t just dry to overwhelm the audience with as many effects, myths and ideas as possible.  It was about taking the one idea, the undead pirates walking about as corpses/skeletons in the moonlight.  The scenes of Barbossa and Jack fighting in the cave, dipping between, through and around those shafts of light is far more epic and gripping than ANYTHING that took place in the jungle (i.e. on the island) in Dead Man’s Chest or the silly, never-ending malestrom in At World’s End.  What I mean by this is that it wasn’t about the effect, not really.  They weren’t trying to necessarily dazzle us with new tricks and effects; they weren’t pointing to it and saying, “hey, look what super-cool trick we learned how to do!”  They made it seamless, fluid so that you weren’t caught up in a “hey, that’s pretty, must have taken hours to render the effects,” thought bubble, but watching, transfixed, wondering who would win the battle, or if the pirates would over-take the naval ship out in the cove.  No huge explosions, no huge cyclone or seastorm, just simple storytelling.

But I digress.

Hopefully we won’t get beaten over the head with these effects.  Again.  But, as I said before, Rob Marshall knows how to handle himself.  Perchance he won’t let it get too out of hand. . . ?

So, in the end, I might actually be seeing this when it comes out.  Not right away, I’ll wait for the reviews to come in first, but it’s nice to see that they have made some good choices and not just a whole slew of rotten ones.  My reaction to this first trailer is much better than the one I had to At World’s End, so hopefully the film will be better too.

We’ll see.

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2 thoughts on “Strange Tides and Dangerous Ground

  1. “Not one real historical figure even mentioned in passing until now. Seriously, it’s high fucking time.”
    Well, in the first movie they mentioned that the “code” was passed down from Morgan and Bartholomew or something, those were historical pirates. But I get what you mean. XD

    I agree with all of dis! 😀

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