February 19, 2004

B – List

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I loved the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, even though that’s not the way you pronounce Caribbean. I loved Johnny Depp’s superb acting as Jack Sparrow, his absolute mastery of flamboyance, his sexy eye-liner, his dreaded hair, everything about him. Did I mention his sexy tattoo? Of course there were other some entertaining parts of the film, like the amazing Geoffrey Rush and his diabolical Captain Barbossa, portrayed with such ruthlessness and cunning that I forgot all the happy characters he’s played in other movies. Wait a minute, he wasn’t very happy in Quills, he was an assassin in Elizabeth, in fact, what does this guy do except for grim melodrama? Okay, so Shine was illuminating, but he’s only gotten darker since then.

Enough of that tangent: what I’m getting to in a roundabout sort of way is the dichotomy that exists in Pirates of the Caribbean, the split between the rollicking pirates ahoy adventure masterfully dominated by Depp and Rush, and the namby-pamby romance that is dragged along rather listlessly by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly. On one hand, it’s adventure on the high seas, ghosts, treasure, and more action than the theme park ride! (Well, I don’t actually know about that last bit, as I’ve never been to Disneyland, but I’ll just say it’s true).. Then, on the other hand, is this insipidly cutesy, loved-you-since-I-first-set-eyes-on-you crap. I guess it’s easy to see that I’m not a romantic.

I can understand why the movie was structured this way: studios think girls need to see a romance to be entertained in a theatre, as plain action and excitement is just too tomboyish for us delicate lasses. To go out on a limb, studios also like to place chesty girls in tight dresses and have them get wet to entertain most males (Note: if you’re one of those guys who is appalled by the objectivism of women in society and cinema, good for you, you don’t fit this mould).

However, this first strategy is pretty silly when you examine it. First, girls do not always like romance, as evidenced by many chick flicks that deal with other sorts of relationships, like friendship. Look at Thelma and Louise: I think we can all agree that the heat between Geena Davis and Brad Pitt comes from pure lusty sex, and not romantic gushiness, and women seem to really like that movie. Second, when a romance seems sort of tacked onto the plot of a film, and not really of central importance to the movie, no one likes it, even those girly-girls who actually do like flowers and sweetness and all of that pink-coloured stuff. Pirates of the Caribbean is exactly that sort of movie, with this fairly predictable central plot of cursed gold that is brought to life by brilliant acting, and dragged down by an unnecessary and ridiculous love story that would fit much easier between the pages of a Harlequin romance than in this film.

As for the love-stricken characters themselves, they hardly contribute anything substantial to the film, other than a long-delayed and hardly gratifying kiss at the very end of the movie. Bloom’s Will Turner is so much the obvious straight man to Depp’s charismatic Sparrow that it’s almost painful to watch Bloom parrot out his boring and uninspired lines with about as much aplomb as a dead man. No one could possibly believe that his woefully under realized character has even the remotest amount of passion burning secretly in his breast. Go back to being an elf, Bloom, cause at least then you had clean, non-greasy hair. Ugh.

Knightley puts in a slightly more enthusiastic performance as Elizabeth Sw

While this childish and rather unreal romance of Turner and Swan does dampen quite a few scenes throughout this movie, Depp and Rush (plus a host of colourful supporting characters whom I have no time to get into now) manage to elevate their second, possibly third-rate script and save this movie from special effects mediocrity. The finished product of their arduous labour is wildly entertaining, hilarious, interesting, and also worth note as one of the most impressive bits of character acting ever captured on film. I guess the real praise for the success of this film has to go to Keith Richards, because without him, there would be no Jack Sparrow. So thanks, Keith, for being such a loopy, unpredictable, and incomprehensible heroin addict: cheers.

Archived article by Sue Karp