THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
This year has so far been a bit bleak when it comes to good blockbusters. Still, with Pirates 3 leading a near-weekly charge of big screen releases, there’s still time. So how does Jack Sparrow’s threequel compare to its predecessors? Well, to put it straight…good, but really could have done better. Much better.
The main objection I have is that it just seems that the franchise has run out of steam. Not that it’s a bad film mind you, but in many ways it mirrors what happened in Spider-man 3 with a lot getting squeezed in to its bloated run time. And at times the whole thing seems to have a lot of the cast doing things by the numbers. This is very apparent with Jack Sparrow himself, who over the past two films has been one of the most fresh and fascinating ‘heroes’ in recent film memory. However with Pirates 3 there is so much going on that the character is sort of shuffled off into the background, and even with a surreal David Lynch style rescue from ‘World’s End’, the fella most have come to see gets watered down to a glamorous bit part.
And that really is the problem with the entire film, there is just so much going on that nobody really gets fleshed out enough for people to care. And major characters from the first two films that are unnecessary to the convoluted narrative of this movie get very treated very badly indeed. There is a cull of characters both figuratively and literally. First of the entire main antagonist from the second film, Davey Jones, is de-fanged, quite literally. While he was a malevolent menace in that film, he plays second string to the bland Lord Beckett and is watered down even further with the offing of the Kraken which unfortunately is done off screen. A pity: I’d have loved to have seen how a pirate ship would have killed a 100ft sea monster.
By comparison to other characters however Mr Jones gets off lightly as Jack Davenport’s Norrington and Jonathan Pryce’s Governor Swann are really the main two victims of this board-clearing act, and both get nothing more than cameos before disappearing into the watery depths of the script edit. This really is just a cheap and bad way to treat the characters and even more so for the actors who just seem to get dumped with absolutely no resolution at all of their respective stories.
With all these losses however we do get a little bit in return, for instance, the gorgeous Naomie Harris for one returns as the morbid voodoo ‘mistress’ Tia Dalma. But again there is a problem as her own story and ‘day-saving history/ powers’ come out of nowhere and seem to have been tacked on for the sake of convenience. They’re a crude way to even the odds against the vastly superior East Indian Trading Company fleet of ships.
We also get to see the introduction of Captain Sao Feng played coolly by Chow Yun-Fat. While his character isn’t as fleshed out as much as it could have been, what screen time he does have isn’t wasted and the little insight we get into his dark world is great, with the highlight being the infiltration into his great ‘den of scum and villainy’. It rivals Princess Leia’s inside job at Jabbas Place, as both are filled full to the brim with oddities, crooks and ner-do-wells hiding away in the background. The same can be said about Keith Richards who, while only being on screen for a few minutes, is a pleasure to behold.
The film also sees the welcome return of Captain Barbossa and it seems that Geoffrey Rush fully embraces the good Captain and loves the role. Being over the top without being hammy this character (and his monkey Jack) are a great addition to the crew. If the House Of Mouse did indeed want to carry on with the franchise without Sparrow and co, then the continued adventures of Barbossa would be a great avenue to explore.
You might have noticed I have forgotten to mention the two main ‘stars’ of the film, the shapely forms of Mr Bloom and Ms Knightley. Well really this film doesn’t really need them at all, as there is so much else going on. Both are made a little redundant. Standing around and looking cool doesn’t make a good character and to be honest they are really just there as eye-candy and to provide a bit of glamour, suntanned flesh and a set of pearly whites amongst the abundance of tentacles, blackened dentures, grime and salty sea men.
The effects on the film are flawless and really ‘act’ a lot better than the aforementioned Bloom and Knightley. With the 250 million plus dollars all on screen there for everyone to see, the money spent at ILM is used wisely with GC galleons aplenty blasting each other to pieces. However the real effect that stands out is once again Davey Jones, who steals the show as one of the best computer generated creations to date. And to give ILM its due, it (nearly) makes up for the pixel abomination that was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns.
While Pirates 1 was fresh, cool and very unique, and Pirates 2 expanded the mythos and had a cracker of an ending, Pirates 3 sort of falls a little short. Not that it’s a bad film, but with such high expectations I suppose no matter what they put on screen to round off this trilogy people would be disappointed. Make no mistake this is no Matrix sequel and has things amount going for it, but it just seems to not have the ‘wow’ factor of the other two.
The weakest of the three, but still head and shoulders over the other franchises that have hit out screens in recent years.