Monday, July 10, 2006

"Superman Returns": Still Disappointing. "Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest": Bloated and Farcical, But Better Than the First.

I saw Superman Returns again Saturday night at the drive-in, and though I still think Routh is perfect as Superman, the casting of Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane seems even more boneheaded, and the script's flaws were even more obvious to me. I agree with most of the criticisms in the comments on the other Superman post.

We were at the movie as part of a social event for Peggy's business school class, and we had a pretty good turnout. After the movie was finished (2 and a half long hours later), Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest was showing on the screen directly opposite our screen and that screening had also just ended. So half of the group went home and the other half decided to drive over and re-set-up and watch Pirates. Even though I was not particularly enthused to see the movie (I hated the original), there is something kind of fun about seeing a movie the rest of the country is obviously ga-ga for ($55 million in one day) on opening weekend. So here's the verdict: though Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest is not a great movie, probably not even a good movie, it is not awful, and it is a marked improvement over the first.

Here's what's good about it, in a SPOILER-FREE manner: 1) Depp. He made me laugh out loud a couple times, mostly because of that makeup they did on his eyelids. Maybe I was punchy because it was so late, but I thought it was frickin' hilarious.

2) Bill Nighy as Davy Jones. It's a brilliant performance (facial motion capture, I'm guessing). I think it's as nuanced and compelling in its way as Andy Serkis's work as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies. Throughout Pirates 2, the CGI work here (as far as I could tell on the fairly distant drive-in screen) was flawless.

3) Davy Jones's crew. These freaks and monsters are genuinely, legitimately disturbing creations. For younger viewers (and probably not a few older viewers, too) these things are the stuff of honest-to-God nightmares. The hammerhead pirate-monster in particular stands out.

Here's the stuff that sucked, also in a spoiler-free manner: 1) Orlando Bloom. Holy Christ, he sucks. He brings absolutely nothing to the table. He is bereft of charisma, his acting ability ranges from angry and defiant to ... maybe that's it. He was very good at scanning the horizon in Lord of the Rings. Maybe we should find him more roles doing that.

2) The script. Terry Rossio (among others) throws a lot of stuff in here for the characters to chase after (a key, a chest, the content of the chest), and he has "fun" with the characters finding and then losing all of these things for 2 and a half hours, all the while, everyone else's minds have turned to mush watching this thing. When Orlando Bloom and some other guy have a swordfight on a giant, rolling water wheel, I realized that any hope I might have harbored for a comprehensible story (faint to begin with) were finally crushed. (Also: these Pirates movies, for all of their pretensions of being throwbacks to more swashbuckling fare, have the most reliably terrible swordfights I've ever seen. Why is that? Couldn't someone set up a screening of The Princess Bride for the writers prior to the writing?)

3) The length. Neither Black Pearl nor Dead Man's Chest need to be 2 and a half hours. Just not necessary. After an hour, you start to feel every minute of this thing.

On the plus side, the laughs are there, (though sparse and largely absent from the last hour and a half), and the CG effects and the hammy pirate acting are often interesting enough to power skeptical (not to mention sleepy) viewers through to the end of this bloated spectacle. On the other hand, if you liked the first one, you'll probably love this thing.


harwell said...

Skippy skip skip skip....

There we are.

Moorhead and I have been discussing Pirates 2 over at his little bloggy. I would just copy and paste what I wrote over there, but that seems a little lame, doesn't it? Also, more of you should check out his blog as well. So go on and do that now. Right Craig?

I think you're review is pretty on the mark. I didn't like the first one either, but I didn't strongly dislike this sequel. I disagree that the monsters were the least bit creepy (I'm assuming then that Stephen King's thriller "Stationary Bike" is going to scare the bejesus out of you if that's the case...) or that Dinghy gives some sort of good "performance." He's a bad guy with tentacles. Nothing more, nothing less. Admit it, Crane. We both agree that Depp did not deserve an Oscar nom for acting like Keith Richards in drag. Can't you say the same about squid face???

Anyway, I don't know that I blame Bloom for his character in this flick. I think he bore the burden of being the serious one in a movie that has no business being serious, and the blame for that lies with the filmmakers. I really wish they would've made his character an over-the-top Bruce Campbell kind of hero, or at least given him some sort of charm - the Princess Bride is a great example of how his character could've been improved as well. And yeah, the swordplay was pretty underwhelming minus the water wheel.

Actually, forget what I said about Bloom. It doesn't matter who they have or how little charm that character actually has - the bigger question is: why isn't Johnny Depp on screen for 98% of this movie???? Can they not see the difference when the movie goes elsewhere???

blankfist said...

I just don't know what you have against these movies. The Black Pearl was fantastic, and if Dead Man's Chest is just as good as the first, thenI'm not sure I can wait to see it. Rossio and Elliot do some fine work.

Stop hatin'. But, your assessment of Supes is dead right. Major let down. Still, it's not a horrible movie, just not... super.

Speck said...

I'm agreeing with Heath on this one.

Black Pearl was a great FUN movie. Big, over the top, Depp performs and DID deserve the nomination.

Its only flaw was it was a little long.

Dead Man's Chest, I don't feel was AS good as the is a middle movie and feels like one.

But again it is a good solid FUN movie. great action, flows...did not feel that long.

Sometimes you "intellectuals" take everything a little too seriously. These movies were not about making big striking serious movies that put you in your chair and make you contemplate the world over.

These movies about taking a ride. Sitting back and escapting reality, you know, the whole point of a movie to begin with.

Craig Moorhead said...

Bloom is definitely to blame for his lameness and if you've seen Elizabethtown, you know I'm right. I'm not sure there's much to be said for Knightly, either. Even with a CGI squid on his head, Nighy blows them both our of the water, har har.


That is a solid review, there, Crane. I enjoyed the convoluted plot, though. They just throw everything in there that they could...

harwell said...

Dude, I was all about taking the ride - believe you me I had low low low expectations going in to Pirates 2 and just wanted to have fun. Left my brain at the door and my balls in the bathroom.

But the fun stopped as soon as Bloom went and had his daddy moment with starfish face. It wasn't me taking the movie serious, it's the movie taking itself serious when it shouldn't. Starfish face??? That's COMEDY. Please, give us a joke! Throw us a bone! But nada. They cast Stellan freakin' Skarsgaard and ask us to care about him and his plight and the fate of his son. And he's got barnacles on his lips...

Cracka please. Nobody gives a crap about that! Nor should you! It's ludicrous! It's an after-school special! That's not fun!

Just get back to Depp and the fruit kebobs and the cannibals and all the stuff that actually IS fun in that movie. When it works, it works so well. But none of the subplots work. None. And to me the subplots seemed to consume the plot like the Kracken consumed ships.

For #3, Bloom and Knightly should walk the plank. Seriously. Can you imagine how great a surprise it would be if they got killed off in the first ten minutes in movie number 3? It would be like Samuel Jackson getting eaten by a shark, but better. Because then the BEST part of the entire Pirates franchise might actually get the screentime he deserves.

That's all I'm sayin'. I don't want a smart pirate movie, I want a fun pirate movie and the way to achieve that is so glaringly obvious that it's frustrating to me that they missed the boat (pun intended). Jack's the captain. Give him the damn movie. Everything else is minor.

JudgeHolden said...

But dude, Stationary Bike was terrifying!

Actually, I haven't read it, but I do doubt it'll be scary. But those monsters on Davy Jones's ship were seriously f**ked up. There's something so creepy to me about human/animal hybrids -- a fear I share with the President. And Peggy, unlike the rest of you, was actually pretty grossed out by Stellan's starfish face. I say it was rather unnerving. And, as for "squid face", I thought it was a great performance because Bill Nighy's Nighy-ness shone through the CG very well, and because there were subtleties in that squid face's expression that were unexpected. I also liked the character because he, too, was unpredictable. One minute he's diabolical, the next he's an honorable Squid Face making deals with Sparrow. And that stupid heart thing gave him some needed humanity. Good bad guys are great! When will Hollywood realize that the best movies have villains as memorable (if not moreso) than the protagonists? Good Night, Good Luck was content to have their villain exist solely as a disembodied head on a TV screen. Weak. Singer and Co. were content to let their hero/villain conflict fizzle completely, with Lex and Kitty stranded on an island. [Soap box moment over.]

Also, I'm with Craig on Orlando Bloom. (That can't be his real name, can it?) He was tolerable in Kingdom of Heaven because a) it was a somber historical action-drama, and b) the only note the script called on him to play was the only one Bloom is capable of (defiant and determined). I haven't seen Elizabethtown, so maybe he'll surprise me in that one, but in the Pirates movies he sucks and I think it has to do with him as an actor rather than Bill Turner as a character. The best actors and movie stars are able to do amazing things with not much material. Bloom is not able.

Also, David, I like your new photo. It looks like you're showing off a galaxy you made.

And it's true -- Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom's undying loyalty to Capt. Jack seems completely unmotivated. I doubt for one second the writers ever cared much for justifying their characters' motivations, just so long as they started doing something, and doing something passionately. And, I have to say this:

[SPOILER IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH] What the frick is going on with the Jack Sparrow Keira Knightley thing? I know Sparrow's kind of a Han Solo sort of guy and that's attractive to damsel characters in movies, but their kiss comes out of nowhere, seems entirely unmotivated, and undermines the whole Keira/Orlando love story (weak as it is). It's just lazy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink screenwriting and it sucks. Smart and fun are not mutually exclusive. The Indiana Jones movies and the Princess Bride are good examples of smart and fun done right.

Peggy said...

The starfish thing is gross!

Here's the thing, you die, but you are undead, and you spend your life working for a squid thing, or the devil or whatever, right? Half your days are spent underwater and as time passes, the sealife starts to grow on you and you are covered in algae and covered in moss and then a starfish decides to live of your freaking face and slowly you morph into a sea creature, then eventually become are part of the ship and all its mossiness. Also, how SAD is it, that these ex-humans are so depressed by the state of their life that they don't care, or don't clean, or don't do whatever it would take to keep looking like a human.

It's gross, OK? The end. I'm the biggest spongebob fan over age 18, and I was still grossed out by that starfish living on his face. YUCK!

I didn't find that funny at all.

What WAS funny is when Mr. Bloom was having his daddy moment, and his dad was tasked to whip him, the other sea-creature-pirates ripped off his shirt, and I raised my arms in the air in a joyous manner and went "whoo-hoo", because frankly if Orlando is going to have his shirt on the whole time, then I don't care if he's there or not.

Speck - I don't like your new picture, your head blends in with the logo too much, I can't see YOU.

And I won't even start on kiera knightly . . . ugh . . .

harwell said...

"But dude, Stationary Bike was terrifying!

Actually, I haven't read it, but I do doubt it'll be scary."

Crane...if you read this and find it scary let me know so I can get started writing my thriller about our elliptical machine. It's possessed by the soul of the railroad killer and when the digital display shows seven little arrows...YOU DIE.

Seriously, what's up with King? First the Cell and now Stationary Bike? I thought it was an honest to God joke when I saw it. I mean, really...Stationary Bike??? Holy jeez. Apparently his son is in the business now too. Let's hope he doesn't start writing about mechanical objects when he gets old.

Starfish on the face is definitely gross, but it could've been gross-funny instead of just gross- awkward and gross-doesn't look the least bit like any of the other monsters. Here, let's pretend Peggy's having a conversation with Stellan Skarsgaard and hasn't seen the movie to illustrate what I'm talking about.

S.S.: Hello there. I'm Stellan Skarsgaard. I'm a good actor.
P.C.: Hi, Stellan. Yes, I've seen you in loads of things. Good Will Hunting, Insomnia, Dancer in the Dark, Amistad, etc. You ARE good!
S.S.: Why thank you, Peggy. I'm also Swedish.
P.C.: Oooh! I like Sweden.
S.S.: Thanks. It's all right...
P.C.: So what are you working on these days?
S.S.: Well, I'm in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel that's just come out.
P.C.: Really? Wow, that's great! Can you tell me about your character???
S.S.: Sure, I'd be delighted to. In this movie I play Orlando Bloom's father.
P.C.: Oooh! He's dreamy without his shirt on!
S.S.: I couldn't agree more. Oh, and also, I have a starfish growing on my face.
P.C.: Oh...That's umm...
S.S.: Yes, I know.
P.C.: Get the hell away from me, ass.

And, I think if you'll admit it, that's exactly how it would go down.

Speck said...

Admittedly, Orlando and Knightly are the weak links.

But they get drowned out by the rest of the great cast that its easy to forget about them...most of the time.

After Brian and Peggys back to back posts...can we rename this blog to "He said, She said"

blankfist said...

This blog has become Pirates of the Cari-BORING!

Nathan said...

really....i don't understand how anyone could think the second one was better than the first, no matter what they thought of the first movie. Dead Man's Chest was just a worse movie. All around. And it basically just stopped in the middle o fthe story to make way for the 3rd. Unlike Back to the Future 2 and 3, where, though 2 lead into 3, it was still it's own movie. This was like the first half of a mini series, where the next episode is in a year.

Also, did anyone else notice, multiple times, the feeling of the movie screaming out "hey...remember this cool funny scene from the first movie?? here it is again...but better!!!" The best example of this is the sword fight scene. Another would be Orlando Bloom's character getting slapped b/c of Capn' Jack. Yuk yuk yuk. It would have been better without these moments.

Also....why, exactly, did capn' Jack not want to stab the shit out of Davy Jones' heart? Wouldn't that stop the curse?

Curse of the Black Pearl wasn't a masterpiece but it was fun and I liked it. This one kinda sucked, no matter how good the cgi was

harwell said...

"Also....why, exactly, did capn' Jack not want to stab the shit out of Davy Jones' heart? Wouldn't that stop the curse?"

I'm glad you asked that! I remember that scene exactly and I think Bloom or somebody asks Jack why he doesn't stab the heart and he says something, but does so in his pirate mumble and I had no idea what the crap he said. Then my wife turned to me and asked "What did he say?"

Anybody know what he said?

Speck said...

Whoever has control of the heart has control of Davy Jones.

And since Sparrow is a pirate, why wouldn't he want control of those vicious monsters to do his, he no longer owes his debt to Jones.

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