Pirates of the Caribbean
I just came back from 'Pirates of the Caribbean 2' and I must admit that I have mixed feelings about the film. Before I start I have to confess that I love a great high sea adventure especially a pirate adventure. The year that the original 'Pirates of the Caribbean' came out was a great year as it also saw the release of 'Master and Commander', the terrific Peter Weir film. If 'Master and Commander' was the entree, certainly 'Pirates of the Caribbean' was the dessert. The elegant but brutal 'Master and Commander' was contrasted nicely by the humourous and imaginative 'Pirates'.
Fast forward to this year and the Pirates are back - bigger and... well bigger. After a clumsy start trying to find it's tone again, Captain Sparrow and crew were off on their next adventure. There is a lot to like about the film with it's terrific visual effects, imaginative characters and playful script. Despite this I would have to say that the biggest flaw of the film was it's length. It was too long. I'm not sure if it's the director or writers at fault here although I'm sure it's a bit of both. Having said that, the director has final say and it felt to me that Verbinski spent too much time working on 'set pieces' as opposed to good and simple storytelling. I enjoy the choreography of these amazing action sequences but they do end up being technical exercises when they start to become the focus of the film. This is where the film strays; these action sequences are just that, sequences. At some point the director has to stand back and look at the flow of the story and begin to pare it down to make sure that the focus is on story and characters.
Pirate movies are fun and it feels like everyone involved are like kids in the candy store, they indulge every fantasy and try to pack in every drop of fun into the film. It just requires an editor. First the director as editor and then the editor as editor. I wonder what pressure there was on Verbinski when the production has spent unimaginable amounts of money on these 'set pieces'? I imagine it's very hard to drop millions of dollars onto the cutting room floor. Having said all this, I did like the film but I didn't love it. For my pirate loving tastes, it was a bit too much of a monster movie but I can't hold that against it - that's my taste. It is also shaping up as the second film in a trilogy. The only problem with this is that the first act (the first film) provides us with the characters but not with the story. It's all a bit of patchwork trying to tie in a film that existed on it's own. It's not terrible patchwork but it is a bit of patchwork nonetheless.
As a note: The films writers are Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot. This writing team is responsible for such films as 'Aladdin', 'Shrek' (1 & 2) as well as the original 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. They host a terrific site, Wordplay where they give advice to screenwriters and share their experiences. They even published their version of the 'Godzilla' script that wasn't fully used by the production.