By now you've seen Pirates of the Caribbean. Probably twice. You loved it. Come on, admit it. It's really hard and churlish not to like it. It has scares, thrills, laughs and chills. And it's beautifully photographed. And then, of course, there's that Depp character. You loved him. Come on, admit it. In the great tradition of the original Rat Pack (not the Brat Pack) we were privy to one huge mega gonzo star hamming it up, smirking all the way to the bank, and we cheered every step of the way. It's like Casino Royale's entire cast rolled into one. Insta-bedlam. To quibble with the movie (too long, too confusing, too unresolved, too many effects) would be missing the point.
Now that I've got that out of the way, I'll quibble. Not with the picture -- borrowing from Apocalypse Now and Indiana Jones and many of my nightmares -- but with the picture business.Go see Pirates a third time. Get the DVD, just consider this for a moment -- where are the grown up swashbuckler, thriller epics? How great would it be to do a summer picture of this magnitude that reveled in grown up, or slightly more grown up drama? To take the production and direction and turn it lose on material like The Guns of Navarone or The Dirty Dozen or The Great Escape? Or, to move away from the war picture genre -- Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy? Thrill rides, to be sure, some even with a healthy dose of cynicism, but with slightly higher stakes.
They've tried. They tried with Gladiator. In fact, most of Russell Crowe's movies try to be this. But where they fall down is they're far too serious. How to balance thrills and spills - hey, it's just a movie - and daring, cutting edge cinema (dark nightmare visions with scope -- Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, Bridge on the River Kwai).
We've lost it. We can lavish the GDP of a mid-sized country on Pirates, (which is great) but that's about all. Where's the point where the art of cinema meets the yucks of the movies? Pirates shows what's within reach. (Go see it a fifth time.) But raise the stakes, Hollywood, raise the stakes.
'Til next time. - Ken Krimstein
Mr. Krimstein is a writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who lives in New York City. So there.