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Friday, May 20, 2011

In 2003, few film critics or fans were bullish about the prospects of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Hard to blame them—it was based on a theme park ride after all. But the film surprised just about everyone. It was a blast, Johnny Depp was hilarious, the action scenes were inspired, and man, was it funny. Right?

Wrong. For me, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is overrated, unfunny, uninspired, and totally past its sell-by date. The series' fourth film, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, hits this weekend, and I couldn't care less. Now, I realize next to no one shares my opinion—friends in high school all but abandoned me when I told them I wasn't into the Jack Sparrow shtick—but let me explain why I don't enjoy this franchise. Here are 5 clips that perfectly demonstrate my issues with the Pirates movies:

Just Talk It Out, Guys



In this scene, Jack Sparrow (Depp) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are battling over control of the Black Pearl. Only problem? They're both zombies. I have no problem with these two characters fighting. I mean, we have the film's protagonist and antagonist pitted against each other in a very well-choreographed sword fight. But after they establish that each man is in fact a zombie, why do they waste their time fighting? Neither character can die. And an even more important question: Why doesn't Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) grab one of the magic coins to become immortal? He's the only human left in the fight. The answer to both is obvious: It's just all for show. But it frustrates the hell out of me.

What's up with These Two?



Pintel and Ragetti are the comic relief of Pirates. And generally speaking, the two characters are actually funny, and actors Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook play really well off each other. But they're mere existence after the first film drives me crazy. In league with Barbossa in "Black Pearl," Pintel and Ragetti were zombies that became mortal after Jack, Will, Elizabeth and company saved the day in the first film. They weren't killed, but they became prisoners. In "Dead Man's Chest," however, they're in a rowboat ... with a dog ... quoting the Bible. The writers' half-hearted explanation is played for laughs in this scene, but there shouldn't be any reason why Jack would want their company. Yet, they become major players as the series goes on.

Giant Bone Ball Prisons? Really?



About 10 minutes after the frustrating reintroduction of Pintel and Ragetti comes perhaps the most pointless extended sequence in "Pirates" history—and that's really saying something. Jack, Will and the gang find themselves on an island populated by cannibals who think Jack is their god in human form. The rest of the crew is captured and put in this ridiculous prisons—giant balls made out of bone that are dangling between two enormous cliffs. Twenty minutes later, they all escape, but not after some stupid humor and ludicrous action scenes. My biggest complaint about this scene is the way it adds to "Dead Man's Chest's" running time. There's just no reason the middle chapter of a series—especially one that's as open-ended as Pirates—should be two and a half hours long. This scene just serves no purpose.

The Exploding Girl



Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) is a really interesting character that had a ton of potential before she's uncerimoniously killed off — essentially for no reason. Tia is a fortune teller/gypsy who joins Will, Barbossa and crew in their search for Jack in "At World's End," and at one point, it's discovered that she's actually Calypso, goddess of the sea, in human form. Barbossa intends to release her in order to defeat Davy Jones and the rest of the bad guys, but when he attempts to do this ritual, something goes wrong, and Tia/Calypso turns into a giant and suddendly explodes into a thousand or so crabs. It's a total waste of a character, another waste of time (in a three-hour movie, no less), and a pretty blatant swing for the Best Visual Effects Oscar. I mean, why make her big? And why make her turn into all these crabs?

The Baddest Man on the High Seas



Every great action film needs a villain: The Joker, Darth Vader, Hans Gruber, Voldemort—these are iconic characters because of they're bad but also quite charming. Who is the "Pirates" big baddie? Some dude named Lord Cutler Beckett. That's right—a series populated with zombies, pirates, magic, and all sorts of other bizarre, mystical goings-on chooses some shrimpy guy named Cutler to represent all that is evil. But it's not just that Beckett is scrawny. It's that he's not funny, not witty, not charming in the least. He doesn't do anything—I think the scene here is perhaps one of a half-dozen in the whole series in which he leaves his office. Worst of all, though, is the lame dialogue he's strapped with. "It's nothing personal, Jack. It's just good business." Never heard that one before, Cutler.

There you have it. Have I conviced you yet that this series needs to go away? No? Maybe "On Stranger Tides" will do that for you. Early word is brutal. If you decide to brave it, I wish you godspeed. I'm just not strong enough to sit through another one.

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