July 14, 2006

Of pirates and terrorists

Kathy Shaidle:

"Now, just to show what a dork I am: I really don't like pirate stuff and cringe when I see kids dressed as pirates, because in real life, pirates were evil rapists and thieves. I mean, are kids gonna dress up in "terrorist" outfits for Halloween in a hundred years?"

Yes, they will, starting the day that terrorists are seen as as much of a real threat to the average citizen as cutlass-era piracy is today. And I, for one, am looking forward to that day.

While I'm on Pirates (the movie), Johanne Schneller has a whiny column in the Globe today about how critics don't mind that their panning of the film had no visible effect whatsoever on the movie's box office. It goes without saying that no one wants to feel like their job is effectively a waste of time. What I find surprising is that Schneller doesn't once even consider the possibility that in this case, the critical consensus might simply have been out of touch and, well, wrong. I'm not saying it's true, but certainly it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Take for instance Dana Stevens of Slate and her spoiler special podcast on the topic today, where she argues in effect that the movie is a collection of set pieces and forgettable subplots "strung together like pearls," tied together solely to justify the special effects. She cites the Star Wars movies as more coherent and unified in that regard.

I don't know: I've seen both Star Wars trilogies, and the Lord of the Rings, and the Matrix, and I didn't see them as any more coherent or unforgettable than the first two parts of this Pirates saga. Indeed, if LoTR hadn't had a book behind it, it would have been if anything even more incoherent than the Pirates movies.

Criticizing the final scene of the movie as merely a trailer for part three, as Stevens does, also seems really sort of completely missing the point, if you ask me. At that point, the Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom characters' romance is deeply imperilled by several layers of deceit and self-deceit surrounding their relations with Jack Sparrow, and Knightley, for her part, actually pulls that complexity off, acting-wise. It's a far better triangle, at least to that point in the trilogy, than Leia-Han-Luke ever was. I really think to some degree the critics wrote this off as a Disney park-ride confection a year ago and have so much emotional investment in that preconception that they have completely overlooked some of the honestly good work that's gone into it, and that audiences are responding to it despite them now.

I don't think it's a matter of the public ignoring critics wholesale... it's just they've concluded, on the basis of the obvious discrepancy between reviews of the first movie and its obvious positive crowd-pleasing qualities, that critics need not be trusted any great deal when it comes to its sequels, either. If they'd been right about the first one (or in Stevens' case, even seen it) we'd have listened to what they had to say now. Next big franchise that comes along, they'll get another chance.

By the way, I'm pleased to see that one reliable critical instrument that's truly worth the time invested in it, the Monday Morning Quarterback feature at Box Office Prophets, is finally back on the front page again. They really should keep it in a more prominent page location: it's always worth reading.

Posted by BruceR at 11:03 AM


Alan Colmes is "agnostic" about who was behind the Sept. 11 attacks?

The reason American Republicans do so well, in politics as in the commentariat, seems less and less to do with their brilliance and more to do with the idiocy of their opposition. Hard as it might be to believe, some days, Sean Hannity really is the lesser of two evils, it seems.

Posted by BruceR at 10:33 AM