Friday, June 10, 2011

Best of / Worst of 7 part 1

Best of / Worst of  7 part 1


Kevin Scott Bolinger
Poster for film 1

     Greetings and salutations. Welcome to another special edition of Best of/ Worst of. This time, break out the eye patches, peg legs, swords, and most importantly, the rum, as I dive right into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

     Those expecting me to bash the second and third installments of the series, which happens to be the popular thing to do, it will not happen. This will be a fair look at each film individually. I am a fan, and unlike many, I was able to pull all the plot threads together in the second and third films, and it all made sense to me. I will get into all that as I get to those films, but for now I will give an overview of the series as a whole, and then a write up on the first film.

     As most people know, Pirates of the Caribbean was first a very popular ride at Disneyland in California, copied over to Disney World in Orlando Florida when that park opened. Using animatronic characters and a catchy song, it drew visitors from all over the world. When I fist heard there would be a Pirates film loosely based on the ride, I was a bit skeptical. That all changed when I saw the first trailer, and saw the pirate skeletons walking under water in the moonlight. It captured my imagination, and when it came out, I was there, in the theater enjoying every rollicking  moment.

    Then, a sequel was announced. I was not sure how a sequel would be received. However, yet again, the trailer blew me away. The sight of the Kraken pulling ships down, and of course, Davy Jones himself, one of the best CGI characters ever brought to film. Knowing ahead of time that this movie was one of two, I did not expect to have all the answers. I kept an open mind, and just enjoyed it for what it was. I waited a bit impatiently for the first looks at the third film.

    The third film came out much further from part two then was expected. Hurricanes in the Caribbean postponed some of the filming. When trailers began to hit, I did not care about the plot lines, I just wanted to see Captain Jack and Davy Jones sword fighting in the rigging of the Flying Dutchman, all while a raging whirlpool was beneath them. I love that scene, and will discuss it in detail in the next installment.

    It took time until the fourth installment was announced. The title took me back a bit, but the subject matter was hinted at in the closing moments of the third film.  When the trailers hit, I was not as blown away as I was with the others, but I knew I would be seeing it on it’s opening weekend. I will say, it was a smaller, more contained story, and I did enjoy it, though I missed some of the supporting cast from the other three films.  Rumors now have it that there will be two more sequels,  to be filmed mostly back to back. The story, unknown at the moment of this writing,  is apparently going to be spread across both films, as the second and third parts were. I hope they come up with something amazing, but only time will tell. 

    As a whole, the series is not bad. The Pirate genre was popular back in the 40’s and 50’s but in modern film, a pirate story was pretty much doomed to failure. Many predicted that the first of these new pirate films would suffer the same fate. History now tells us that many nay-sayers  were very wrong in their predictions. The first film went on to be a huge success, breaking a few records along the way.  The sequels, they two turned the franchise into a gold mine. Critics panned the films, but the movie going audience, many of whom no longer take film critics seriously, came out in droves.  Captain Jack Sparrow became a household name!  So, with that being said, let us delve into a more detailed look at the first film.
Cursed Incan Gold

Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl ( 2003 ).  The film opens with a foggy crossing for a British flagged ship. We hear a small girl singing “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me,”  as she looks into the water below her.  She is distracted by Mr. Gibbs, one of the crew. As he tells her tales of pirates, he is interrupted by Lieutenant Norrington.  He tells them how pirates are dealt with, a sudden drop with a short stop, a funny way to describe a hanging.  As the young girl, now known as Elisabeth, gazes back in the water,  she sees wreckage, followed by a young boy on a plank. The boy is brought aboard, she notices he has a pirate coin medallion , she quickly takes and hides it, as the ship comes upon the burning wreckage of the boys own ship. He is the only survivor. As the others watch the one ship burn, Elisabeth see another, a dark black ship, slip into the fog.

     Eight years later, we find the young boy, Will Turner, has become the apprentice to the local blacksmith. He shows up at the Governor’s mansion with a special sword, to be presented to Norrington, as he is to be promoted to Commodore. Elisabeth comes down to see Will, as her father, Governor Swan, takes the case with the sword so he can give it to Norrington later in the ceremony. During the ceremony, Norrington proposes marriage to Elisabeth, who is wearing a too tight corset. As she is overcome by her breathing difficulty,  she falls over the wall and into the water, wearing the medallion. As it hit’s the bottom it emit’s a strange pulse.
Best Character Introduction Ever!

    Just before the ceremony, we are introduced to Captain Jack Sparrow, as he enters the port in a beat up dingy with a mast. He is standing at the top of the mast, as the dingy slowly sinks below him, the top of the mast coming even with the dock as the boat goes under. Jack, in a style that will become well known,  coolly walks from the sinking mast to the dock without missing a beat. He then pays an extra fee for docking without using his name, while at the same time stealing the dock master’s coin purse.  As he makes his way towards the royal warships, so he can attempt to commandeer one, two Marines meet him, and as he is trying to trick them, Elisabeth falls into the water. He quickly gives his effects to the Marines, and dives in, saving Elisabeth by tearing open her corset and bringing her to the surface.

    There he is met by Norrington, who thanks him for saving his love, only to be recognized as a pirate. Norrington declares him the worst pirate he has ever heard of, which Jack point out that at least he has heard of him. Jack makes a daring escape and hide, eventually making his way into the blacksmith’s , where he has a confrontation with Will, who it turns out is the real skilled blacksmith, creating many swords. He also practices with them a lot, so he can kill pirates. As he and Jack swordfight, the drunken blacksmith wakes up, and bops Jack on the head, knocking him out. He is taken away to be jailed, and eventually hung.

    Later that night, the black pirate ship attacks Port Royal, the pirates seeming to be unstoppable, and un-killable. They kidnap Elisabeth, and knock Will out. She is taken to the ships Captain under the hospices of parley. There we are introduced to Captain Hector Barossa. He welcomes her aboard the Black Pearl, his crew only really wanting the medallion. She is determined to get them to leave, and threatens to throw it overboard. They stop their assault, and prepare to leave, but since she did not specify herself being brought back, they leave with her as their prisoner.
Barbossa and the crew of the Black Pearl

   Will wakes up, and realizes he will need help. He breaks jack out of prison, and the two make their way to the fleets flagship, though only to disable it and cause a distraction so they can steal a smaller , faster ship. One of Norrington’s aides declares Jack to be the best pirate he has ever seen.

   Jack needs a crew, so he heads to Tortuga, the pirates den. There he puts a rag tag bunch of misfits together.  Included in this lot, is the older, and drunker, Mr. Gibbs.  They leave Tortuga and make after the Black Pearl, Jack using a compass that Will thinks is broken.
Barbossa revealing the curse

   Elisabeth is being wined and dined on the Pearl, but Barossa is not eating, just talking. She tries to kill him, and realizes he cannot die. As she tries to escape onto the moonlit deck of the ship, she sees that the crew are skeletons. The crew is cursed.  As we learn, they took cursed Incan gold from Isla De Meurta , at first they did not show signs of being cursed, but as they spent their fortune, nothing could slake their thirsts or lusts. They learned they had to return every piece of gold to the island, along with a blood sacrifice. Because Elisabeth told them her last name was Turner and not Swan, they think that she is the last piece they need to break the curse. They find out the hard way that they were wrong.

   Eventually the realize they need the real Turner, and track down Jack and his crew. The Pearl is the fastest ship afloat, and they cannot escape her. They capture the crew and destroy Jack’s ship. Will escapes the destruction, but is also captured, once Barossa and his crew realize who he really is. Jack and Elisabeth are made to walk the plank, and left on a small island with only a single gunshot in a pistol.
Attack of the Pearl!

   On the island, Jack tells her how he was the original captain of the Pearl, and Barossa was his first mate. Barossa wanted to be told where they were headed, since only Jack knew the location if Isla De Meurta. He leads a mutiny and maroons Jack on the very same island. We also learn that Will’s father, Bootstrap Bill Turner, was against the mutiny, and after they had the gold, spoke out against it. His punishment was to be tied to a cannon and sent to the depths of the ocean.  Given the immortal status of the crew, this was a fate worse then death, and considering he would be needed to break the curse, the pirates regret their mistake with him, hence settling for Will for the blood sacrifice.
Two Captains.

    Jack shows Elisabeth a stash of smuggled goods on the island he found the last time he was there, and the two drink lots of rum, and get drunk, dancing and singing on the beach. The next morning, Elisabeth has taken the remaining rum, and lit a huge signal fire. As Jack goes to the other side of the island to get away from her, he sees Norrington’s flagship heading their way.

   Rescued from the island, Jack exchanges information on where to find the Black Pearl for his freedom. He leads them to the island, and makes his way into the caves. He confronts Barossa, under parley, and while no one is watching, he palms one of the coins.  Barossa sends his men for a walk underwater, to sneak up on Norrington and his men.  The pirates, being immortal, have the upper hand.

"Gents, take a walk.

   Meanwhile, Jack and Barossa begin to fight, as Elisabeth frees Will. Barossa gets the better of  Jack, and stabs him, only for jack to stumble back into the moonlight, revealing he too is cursed now.  He plays with his pilfered coin, showing Barossa how he tricked him. The two fight some more, Barossa wondering aloud if they would continue forever as two immortal battling.  Will stands by the casket of coins, his fathers medallion in his hand, Jack tosses his coin, with his blood on it to Will, and turns and shoots Barossa with his single shot pistol. At the same time, Will drops Jack’s coin, and his own, now with blood, into the chest, breaking the curse. Barossa falls dead, as do a few of his recently wounded men on Norrington’s ship. Without their immortality, the survivors quickly surrender.

    Jack’s crew had stolen the Black Pearl while Barossa’s pirates were busy. They sail off with it, without Jack. Jack is brought back to Port Royal. He is to be hanged after all, despite his service to Norrington and Governor Swan. Will frees him, and he escapes as the Pearl is seen in the distance. Elisabeth decides she loves will, her father accepts that, as does Norrington. Norrington also decides to not chase jack right away, giving him a few hours head start.  The film ends with Jack looking at his compass as he changes course on the Pearl. After the credits, a monkey from the cursed crew takes a coin from the cursed chest and becomes cursed.

    So, what do I think if this one? It was fantastic, it introduced us to a rich and colorful world. The fight scenes were great, the locations beautiful, and the acting was superb. Obviously Jack was the standout. Johnny Depp created a character he described as a slight tribute to Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. It is funny that Richards himself would later go on to play Jack’s father in the third and fourth films.

    The cursed pirate effects blew me away.  It was cleaver that their true nature would only be revealed in moonlight. It had the feel of an old time horror film. The CGI used was some of the best, only to be outdone by Davy Jones and his crew in part two.

    The story was a great way to introduce this world. However, I do feel that this one, though great, is lacking a little of what the sequels have. I still love it, but I do not watch it as often as I watch the others. 
However, for being the first, it was done very well. I highly recommend it to anyone that likes adventure stories, pirates, or tales of the sea.

   So, what is next for our intrepid Captain Jack and his crew? We will dive into that in the next few weeks.  Next time, we will take a detailed look at Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End. I may or may not point out all the relevant plot points and how they connect. It will depend on how long the descriptions get. I may save that for a separate blog, time will tell. Till then, thank you for reading, and please feel free to comment here, or on my Facebook page. I welcome all criticism, as long as it is done respectfully.  As always, we are the universe, trying to find it’s voice, we are one!

"Drink up, me hearties, YO HO!"

No comments:

Post a Comment