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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog

(OR EL DUDERINO IF YOU'RE NOT INTO THE WHOLE BREVITY THING)

-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pirates 2: Dead Man's Chest Review

Some tech problems this morning so I took the post down and am now attempting to repost.

*** VERY Minor spoilers ***

I saw Pirates 2 on Saturday night. I had heard mixed things from people about it. Some said it had a few problems, and others said they absolutely hated it. No one I spoke with before I saw it said they loved it, or that is was amazing.

My feelings? Not nearly as good as the first, but definitely fun and relatively good, just flawed. I enjoyed it overall, and honestly, I'm not really sure where the vitriol of those who truly hated this film came from. Were they just expecting a lot more from it?

These were the main problems, as far as I could tell. Firstly, the main plot throughline is somewhat muddled. Whereas in the first film, it was clear from the outset what the goal was, in this film it kept shifting. While this adds to the mystery, it detracts from the audience's investment. And in a big action film of this sort, we don't want to have to work too hard to figure out what is happening; we want to know what the characters want so that we can focus on the fun.

Second, much too long. I mean this both in terms of the sequences that were included, and in terms of the lengths of individual scenes/sequences. The sequence near the beginning of the film with Jack et al on the cannibal island, while humorous and entertaining, is entirely extraneous. I wouldn't cut it out entirely, but I'd have started much later in the sequence and shortened it. Nearly ever fight sequence was about 1/4-1/3 too long. In particular, I'm thinking of the three-way sword fight. Simply boring, largely due to its extended length. And let's discuss the giant wheel thing during that sequence. Wasn't this a bit too similar to the rolling cage in the cannibal sequence? Do we really need both fo these in the same film? Trim a lot of this stuff and you lose a half hour of the film and gain a much more lean script that moves better.

To my eyes, those were the two biggest weaknesses of the film. If the script were distilled into a shorter version, with less rambling and a more focused throughline, this film becomes much stronger.

I also have to say that taking the Back to the Future 2/Matrix 2 route, and making the second and third films in the trilogy into a single story is a bit annoying and even a little insulting. There was little doubt of the success of this film, and despite the middling reviews, it has still remained #1 for three weeks in a row and brought in massive box office. Did the studio really worry about trying to ensure people return for #3? I say this because unless there is a true trilogy of three connected films, conceived as such (e.g. Lord of the Rings), the only logical reason to make parts two and three as a single continuous story as opposed to simply individual stories (e.g. Godfather or Blade) is a lack of faith in your audience. "If we don't finish the story in the second film they'll want to/have to come back to find out what happens in the end!" Sorry, but that insults me. And I believe it hurts both films!

Despite all that, I did enjoy this film. It was good, clean, entertaining fun. Sure there were other minor problems here and there, but I have no need to dwell on them now. I will say, however, that I impressed myself by recognizing the actor playing Davy Jones under all that bizarre octopus facial prosthetics as none other than my favorite current character actor. I guess I recognized his voice, mannerisms, and even his eyes. Glad to see him progressing in his career!

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9 Comments:

Blogger deepstructure said...

i completely agree with your length comments - definitely too long overall and in those sections.

i completely DISagree with your contention that the only reason to make 2/3 as one story is not trusting the audience. did empire/return of the jedi not trust the audience?

i think it's the exact opposite - having a successful francise film gives you the unique opportunity to create a continuation that requires two films to tell.

btw, those weren't facial prosthetics - that was all cg. check it out: davy jones before and after

2:09 AM  
Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

I don't even know how many times I've seen it now with all the siblings, nieces, and kids with friends I've taken. I can tell you though that with each viewing a new lightbulb goes off. It's a complex story, not convoluted or repetitive. It's just too much to absorb in one viewing.

3:48 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Deep -- I hear what you're saying, but I still respectfully disagree. Star Wars is noit a good example, because, like LOTR, it was conceived all at once as a trilogy. What is so great about the story here that it takes advantage of the "unique opportunity" to tell a story over the course of two films instead of one? What really "requires" two films to tell it in this story?

Maryan -- interesting. As I said, many films benefit from such subtlety, I just don't think big action films do. But you may be right there!

9:14 AM  
Blogger Dave Olden said...

I hope you realize, Joel, that there were no facial prosthetics whatsoever.

Ah, but at least you recognized the eyes. Good on ya. (Those were 100% CG, too.)

5:13 PM  
Blogger Dave Olden said...

ah... posted too soon... I see someone's already mentioned the CG...

5:15 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

Agree with you about length, and the ending; I enjoyed the film but I wasn't knocked out by it in the way I was with the first one. It's still worth a couple of viewings though, and as MaryAn says, you get more out of it every time.

And you like Bill Nighy! He's great - I've loved him for years. Have you seen "Still Crazy", a British film about a rock band who get together for one last tour? It's a very funny film and he's great in it.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous propagandery said...

Gotta say, with all due respect to everyone who's posted - I thought this was a terrible film. Just boring, unfunny, overacted and overplotted. At one point I turned to the folks I was with and asked if anyone understood what was going on, and no one did. And we're all well under 70. Still don't understand why Johnny Depp needed the heart in the first place.

5:15 AM  
Blogger daninthemix said...

My g/f dragged me along to this and I was not as repulsed as I thought I would be. Billing itself as a light-hearted action film it delivers just that. But you're right - making it into a two-parter and having it end abruptly is, well, taking the piss frankly.

12:32 PM  
Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

Propagandery - to hold it hostage and make Davy Jones call off his terrible beastie.

4:39 PM  

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