At Cinema’s End


Ryland’s got his review of Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End up at The House Next Door (Warning: There Be Spoilers!), so I’d thought I’d kick in the two cents I wrote last week about the film, in response to complaints that the two sequels are such much messier than the tidy first film (an aspect Ryland touches on as well).

The messiness of it, the sheer crazy incomprehensible insanity of the whole enterprise is exactly what I love about Pirates 2 & 3. I thought the first one was alright, but aside from Depp, it was pretty standard. These last two though, are just all over the map.

So many action/adventure blockbuster movies are straightforward and earnest and linear, full of exposition and tearful Tobeys. The last two Pirates, though, are wholly unique. Avant-garde summer blockbusters that are in every way Anti-Ratners.

I thought of two films while watching At World’s End, and the first is Miami Vice, a beautiful, expositionless tone poem of a film in an action movie’s clothing. Pirates 3 is a beautiful film, with some fascinating imagery and only tops the intricately complex and deep compositions of the second one, especially in the action sequences. The baroque Looney Tunes stunts within frames of overwhelming detail are always stunning, the only action sequence I’ve seen equal it is in the opening shots of Revenge Of The Sith.

Which is a nice segue to the second movie I was reminded of . . . Star Wars (oh yeah, I said it). We ran Star Wars at the theatre Tuesday night for the staff (for the anniversary: the original, non-Special Edition one, naturally). I was struck again by just how relentless the last half of the film is, and how little information there is to orient the viewer. It’s just one action sequence after another, with the bare minimum of information conveyed as efficiently as possible in a few lines of dialogue to connect the action. Now, the Pirates films aren’t as good as Star Wars (I’m not that crazy). But they’re clearly following the same model and I think they work for the same reason.

I just find the anti-Pirates camp to be inexplicable. Too me, it’s like saying there weren’t enough explosions in Citizen Kane. I don’t understand what it is they expect . . . a straightforward narrative? Bleh. Give me chaos instead any day.

And all of this is not to mention the fascinating web of ideological explorations in the Pirates films. Many a master’s thesis can (and will) be written on the transformations in the sexualities of Depp and Knightly in these movies.

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4 thoughts on “At Cinema’s End

  1. Yet another thing that perturbs me is this business of always saying “Oh! The Brits are the bad guys!” as if that’s a knock against the film. First off, it’s not the Brits: it’s the East India Trading Company, and they wear BLUE not RED. Second, they’re meant to represent business, not some country, since all Beckett seems to say, and be concerned with, is “It’s just good business.” Mofo dies saying it. It’s almost like Verbinski’s making fun of the whole endeavor — and that’s Beckett’s ship’s name! Third, if we’re going to read this film allegorically, and map out EITC onto the Brits, then what’s the matter with that, anyways, besides simply reading allegorically instead of metaphorically? If we follow that lead: Americans were perfectly right in refusing to be ruled by indifferent, greedy jerks. They resorted to a rogue, guerilla warfare to get what they wanted and claimed by some rights they made up on their own, some might say, by some myth they made up on their own. My essay was mostly about how the people who deride the film simply refuse to actually pay attention. And what do the haters do? Not pay attention…

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  2. I’ve been getting a lot of the same flak you have over Pirates on another website. The thing that’s really starting to bother me is the “the plot doesn’t make any sense” criticism. It’s perfectly easy to follow, as long as you pay attention. It’s at the subtextual and visual levels that the film is chaotic, but in a good way. As narrative it makes as much sense as any adventure film.

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  3. Also true. My favorite of that line of thought is that there’s no payoff for Calypso. I’d say she exists as payoff. And if you go back to the end of <>Dead Man’s Chest<>, her facial reaction when she asks if they’ll go “to the ends of the earth” is perfectly in line, story-wise, with the pact she made with Barbossa, that we see in <>At World’s End<>. There’s A LOT going on in this trilogy.There’s just some unspoken code against this franchise. As if liking these movies means you only like stupid summer blockbusters and as if summer blockbusters are only ever stupid. …I really owe Allison an apology on this one. She was right to get mad at me for not simply enjoying myself last summer when we watched <>Dead Man’s Chest<> at The Ziegfield. I wrote this in an earlier draft of the review for The House:<>I have a confession. Walking out of _Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest_, I was worn out and ragged, nonplussed and bemused by companion’s giddy delight. I willed myself away from the fun of the film’s thrills. I owe this companion an apology. I did not base my reaction on watching the film (that is, reading what the images were performing) — I based my reaction on my experience of the film (that is, how I felt pummeled in the theatre). It took me a second viewing, nearly a year later, for me to realize just what was really going on in that second installment: When I realized that it was, well, okay to have fun watching these things and still think about them — and that they afforded more thought — I got excited. I began to realize, ignoble monetary aims be damned, what it is that makes a good sequel work.<>

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  4. I really don’t understand the anti-Pirates attitude, especially from people who give the Spiderman or X-Men movies all kinds of credit. It’s like they’ve discovered that teenage girls like the movies, and therefore must hate them, or something.If you want to ignore all blockbusters, that’s fine. I think you’d be missing a lot of great cinema, but that’s OK. It’s the selective enforcement of the anti-blockbuster mentality that cracks me up.

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