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Surely the screenwriters of PIRATES OF THE CARIBEAN II – DEAD MEN’S CHEST were on speed or at least high doses of caffeine when they wrote the screenplay to this – and I hesitate to use this word but I MUST – SWASHBUCLKING pirate adventure. It DOES assume you have seen the first one (which, I have, a couple of years ago, at least, which does not help my memory) and does assume you want to see non stop adventure scenes, crazy fights and a few gags, in a bit more than a couple of hours, which is fine by me, and I suppose is fine by anyone.
Now, those guys, Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot, are very smart guys. They wrote SHREK, which got to be one of the most successful films of all time. They wrote THE MASK OF ZORRO and they even wrote GODZILLA (was that any good?) but mainly, what makes them smart, is that they had great success with SHREK and the first PIRATES film, which, for something based on an a Disney attraction, well, no one really expected much out of it.
And it was fun.
More than that, it was great fun.
Johnny Depp was great, was gay, and was Keith Richards on drugs. He even got an Oscar nomination for it! And Keira Knightely had her youthful beauty revealed to the world, and god we had plot twists and underwater ghosts and hilariously funny jokes and it was jolly good fun, as much fun and adventure as you can have with a Pirate film. It was better than most of the new STAR WARS films, I’ll tell you that.
And more than all that.
It was a huge hit.
The ending was open, since the producers did not know if they were making a sequel or not. It was something that could be left alone… or it could continue.
And so, the producers decided, it should continue and as all franchises, be AT LEAST a trilogy, which now it is.
Well, getting to where we are now, the writers, the director and the producers take some things for granted. Honestly, as much as it is funny and fun to see Johnny Depp run from a bunch of Cannibals that then turn out to try and eat a dog instead, the plot is something the first film never was, because it KNEW that if it was a flop, there would be no sequel, and no chance for further explanations.
The plot is confusing.
There are too many battle sequences, too many interests at stake (Elizabeth Swan divided between her love for the wild and interesting Captain Jack Sparrow, Sparrow owing Davy Jones some dark dues and secrets, Will Turner, or nice boy Orland Bloom, divided between the love for his father who is at the hands of Davy Jones, his love for Elizabeth, and his jealousy and friendship with Sparrow).
And that’s not even half of the movie. Or characters.
I won’t get into plot details since there are too much to mention. It all goes around a chest,
and the main villains are a bunch of fish water life creatures from the very depths of the sea, led by the before mentioned Davy Jones, a creature that is AS COOL as it gets: a huge pirate with a huge squid like head and tentacles hanging from his mouth. Does it ring a bell? No? Well, the writers stole that directly from the famous and very dead (therefore not available to be angry) American writer H.P. Lovecraft, whom created a creature which is exactly like that for his story THE CALL OF CTHULHU. Developing from that concept, Davy Jones’s crew is completely made of crab men, hammerhead shark men, dark fishmen, spiky octopus men, tuna fish men….. you name it. The art designer did spend time looking at several pictures of weird fish, and the make up and computer generated effects departments spent a LOT of time designing those guys. It looks clever, it looks smart, they are as mean as it comes and the art direction is great. All those creatures are a circus of sea beats on their own, and they even control a giant Cthulhu ITSELF! Since a gigantic sea, octopus like beast, the size of a building, does appear and destroys ships with it’s huger than huge CGI tentacles (Cthulhu, according to Lovecraft, is a giant, not the size of a normal man, as Jones is).
Spoiler: Highlight to view
that contains a human beating heart (nice horrific concept)
Well, in the end, what do we have?
We have a cliffhanger and to wait for another year to find out what is going to happen, that’s what we have. And since this is no LORD OF THE RINGS or HARRY POTTER, there’s no way to just go to the nearest bookshop and find out. And since this is not STAR WARS (which has faults of it’s own, let’s not get into that here) there is no epical, mythical, a-hero-of-a-thousand-faces, Joseph Campbell like quality to this, it’s just a TV serial cliffhanger. That will last one year. WITHIN a confusing plot with so many characters, subplots, twists and turns enough to make your neck spin more than Linda Blair’s in the EXORCIST (unless you are 12 years old or younger, it seems, to me, that they understood everything. Even though they kept leaving the film every 20 minutes to buy more popcorn or perform even more evil deeds, I dare not image which they were).
In any case, let’s get to the good stuff: Keira Knightley looks lovely as Elizabeth Swan (the film starts with a shot of her BRESTS, “Oh, her brests” a poet would whisper) in the rain, and every time she’s on screen, you wish she was your girlfriend. She gets a lot of action, a lot of screen time, and delivers a great performance. Johnny Depp is NOT quite as good as Jack Sparrow was in the first film, even though the jokes and looks are there, he changed the character a little, made it less “gay”, and less interesting. His mannerisms and charm are different. He is more of a though “funny” guy, a comedic Errol Flynn perhaps? Who knows, he himself might ask. Orlando Bloom as Will Turner makes a very, very good boy. Brownie points to you Orlando, but in the end, we all know we like Jack more, because he is twisted and funny and crazy, and Will…. Well, will is just too nice, isn’t he?
And then there is the army of weird crabmen, fishmen and Lovecraftian creatures from hell led by a pirate which has the face of a gigantic squid. And I ask you: how cool is that? And the answer is: VERY COOL INDEED! A pity the plot is muddy and an intelligent adult cannot follow it completely without being lost in what is being fought for at a given time and why, the only clear reason is WHO is fighting. But since action and fighting are enough NOT to keep anyone bored in life, in any situation (you might be terrorized, delighted, annoyed, shocked or traumatized by it, but I would rarely think that you would be BORED by looking at people fighting, real or not, in life) we follow this over 120 minutes film ‘till the end without major problems And we do it, my brothers, because we know two things that refresh our souls and keep our minds at peace:
- There will be a DVD release. One that we can pause, rewind, watch the making of, the featuretes, the director’s comments, in short, a version we can try to understand.
2. One year from now, PIRATES OF THE CARIBEAN III will be released, and perhaps, just perhaps, the muddy plot threads, holes, black galaxy jumps and questions marks raised MIGHT BE EXPLAINED. Hope remains!
A nice film. It’s just too confusing, and relies too much in the fact that it had a predecessor, and more than that, that THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL, than showing us a decent, straightforward, satisfying, beginning, middle and end story.
Nice sea creatures though. I never saw Cthulhu so well represented. And he can even play a strange kind of keyboard/organ with his tentacles! That’s smart screenwriting!
Copyright 2006. Joaquim Ghirotti