Monday, 16 May 2011

Cannes Day 4: Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides


I wish I had better news, Pirates fans.

I'd be one of the first people to defend the quality of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. It was fun and super loud. It was humourous and definitely didn't take itself very seriously. It was also a reboot of the pirate movie genre, which was basically box-office poison since the days of Errol Flynn and the like.

That being said, I was pretty excited to see the fourth installment of the franchise, which was shaping up to be a booming distraction (and break) from the usual level of difficulty inherent to Cannes fare. To be completely honest, I don't remember the intricate details of the second or third films, though I know I certainly didn't hate them. They didn't make much sense (especially At World's End, which Depp himself has admitted it was a confusing mess), but hey, as long as it was enjoyable, right?

The problem with Pirates 4 is that it literally has nothing going for it. It's also in 3D, too, which I need to discuss at great length in terms of this movie.

For some reason, Jerry Bruckheimer and co. decided it would be wise to take one of Hollywood's biggest series, ask its writer to have 70% of the movie set at night or in dark, dimly lit quarters, and then demand audiences to slap on a pair of glorified sunglasses to watch Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow point his sword at them in three dimensions.

I don't want this review to turn into a damning of 3D films, because there have been genuine occasions where I actually do appreciate the added pleasure of depth perception. Avatar, for all its faults, gave me an experience that I'm not likely to soon forget - its 3D made sense, it was justified, and James Cameron had every intention of making sure people saw Pandora in all its splendor.

The 3D in On Stranger Tides is devoid of any value whatsoever. Most (see: 99%) of the movie's scenes are not 3D, as the film generally never strays from a middle shot of Captain Jack and his ex-lover, Angelica (Penelope Cruz). You will see one or two swords poke you in the eyes, and perhaps the water they're sailing on seems a little more crystalline. Unfortunately, the film's (overly long) sequences are often at night, in a dark room or tavern. This means that with the increased obscurity of the dimming 3D-glasses, you can't actually see anything as it should look. It's just too dark.

Not surprisingly, it got to the point in Pirates 4 where I simply had to take them off. This was at the 15 minute mark. This means I watched the rest of the film glasses-free, and I watched it with French subtitles. The subtitles, ironically, were the most 3D element throughout the movie's (overly long) 2 hr. 17 min. run time.

It's no secret studios slap on 3D in post-production to increase the box-office boom, but this is likely the most blatant (and frankly, offensive) attempt at pilfering hard-earned booty out of your pocket. It's a scam, and a boring one at that.

The laughs are gone, the story is weaker than 10% rum. Huge name stars are squandered. The action isn't exciting, and the backstory for every plot arc is not explained. It's an absolute mess of a movie.

Maybe it's all a mean joke, and the pirates aren't the ones on the high seas - it's the movie producers that are marauding moviegoers for all they're worth. Does Bruckheimer have an island in the Caribbean?

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