Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest

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Matt Barton's picture

Dead Man's Chest: Great film, mateys--go see it!Dead Man's Chest: Great film, mateys--go see it!Yesterday my wife and I hiked to the local multiplex to catch the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Man's Chest. Although I've always been a big fan of pirate movies, I didn't see the first one in the theater. It seemed like such an obvious bit of cheesy franchise exploitation (a movie based on a RIDE?) that I waited for it on DVD. As soon as I saw the film, I realized my mistake--Gore Verbinski came out with a highly entertaining and memorable film along the lines of The Princess Bride. Part two, Dead Man's Chest, follows the successful formula, and thus results in another great summer movie. I want to talk about a bit about the film here, and then relate it to videogames.

What is so great about PotC? It really boils down to one person--Johnny Depp. Depp has taken this role and made it his own. It's hard to imagine how dull and plodding these movies would be with someone less talented as Captain Jack Sparrow (btw, "Captain Jack" is also slang for heroin). Depp's zany, unpredictable and often outrageous mannerisms rivets the viewer's attention. I had the consistent impression that Depp wasn't so much playing a role as playing with it; he's fully aware of all the ironies involved and rides them like a wave. Again, about the closest parallel I can think of is The Princess Bride, which also depended on the quirkiness of its lead character, played by Cary Elwes, to rise from mediocre Sunday-evening fare to a cult classic. PotC is chocked full of wit, fantastic stunts, and ghoulish villainry.

But anyway, why the heck am I writing about a movie on a site dedicated to gaming? I'll get to that now. This movie does, in fact, have a connection to gaming, albeit a somewhat indirect one (and no, I'm not talking about the videogames based on the franchise). Rather, I'm more interested in the themepark attraction that started it all: The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. I had the luck of actually getting to experience this attraction when I was a small child (perhaps about 5 or 6), and it left such a deep impression that I can remember much of it even today. For those unfamiliar with it, the ride is basically an "indoor boat ride" through a world of animitronic pirates engaged in various scenes of debauchery. The creators of the ride did an excellent job of putting the riders in the center of the action. As a small child, I was in genuine fear of getting shot by a musketball!

At any rate, the vivid sights and sounds of the attraction made for a great experience. The artificial world created by the ride seemed real enough to me--a sort of alternate reality that offered plenty of adventure and bizarre experiences. If you think about it, rides like this have lots in common with videogames--you're sitting in your chair, while all the action happens around you. This compares to sitting in front of a movie or a videogame--all the excitement is on the screen, but it feels like you're part of it. The only difference is that videogames tend to offer us more "rails" to follow, like a roller coaster with multiple junctions that you could choose from as you rode it.

I once read this book that compared themepark rides like this to videogames and movies. It's a very rich source of inquiry into these kinds of issues. While most people these days seem resistant to this sort of comparison/analysis, I still think it's viable and has much insight to offer. The same sort of compulsions that drive us to the multiplex or themepark seem at work when we're buying new games. We want that self-contained experience; to be taken elsewhere while we're just sitting somewhere. It's also nice that, unlike in the real world, where often enough we feel like nobody cares whether we exist or not, during the ride, everything seems to happen just for us.

I think of the very best movies as "places to visit and re-visit" as the mood suits us. Think about classics like Casablanca and The African Queen. We watch those films because we really enjoy the virtual worlds they represent. By "world," of course, I mean more than just the scenery. It also has to do with the characters and their system of interaction; the arrangement of social roles and how they're to relate to each other. To get an idea of what I mean, consider two movies set in Sicily--one about Ancient Romans, the other about modern day gangsters. Or consider the same desert settings used in a Western versus a Mad Max film. Although geographically it's the same region, these are distinct "worlds" that would require massive re-configuring for us to indulge in.

When we can wrap our heads around this idea of an enjoyable (or at least intriguing) virtual world, we start to see how it determines our experience of certain games. Clearly, it plays a big part of the Secret of Monkey Island, which is comparable enough to PotC to warrant closer examination (indeed, Gilbert has even suggested they got the idea from his games!) It's also very interesting to think about the role that themeparks play in Gilbert's games (you might also claim he got the idea from the ride, too). Indeed, in one of the Monkey Island games, you discover that you're just a kid in a themepark!

Clearly, Gilbert's making some fascinating connections between the kind of alternate reality we feel in a theme park compared to a videogame. Perhaps the game developers might think more about this connection, and make sure that their games are at least as coherent as a good themepark attraction!

Comments

Mat Tschirgi (not verified)
While I have only been to

While I have only been to Disney World twice, I do remember Pirates of the Caribbean as being quite the special ride.

Fans of the film will enjoy the "Pirates" segment of Kingdom Hearts 2. While it follows the plot of the first film way too closely, it captures the atmosphere just right (in the midst of all the Kingdom Hearts style blending of camp and darkness, of course).

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Bill Loguidice
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Pirates at the Box Office

Wow!: http://movies.yahoo.com/mv/news/ap/20060717/115315656000.html

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Bill Loguidice
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It was OK

In a rare chance due to some timely babysitting, my wife and I were able to get away to see Pirates 2 last night. We LOVED the first one and have seen it many times both in the movies and on DVD. This sequel left us a bit flat, as the last several movies we've seen have, including Superman and King Kong.

We found several of the key action sequences a bit too over-the-top, like the rolling "ball" scenes and the fight on the wheel scenes. One of the things that was refreshing about the first movie was the limited nature of the physics defying scenes in contrast to other action films of our era. Pirates 2 put the series more in line with the typical. Also, the CGI was more subdued and tasteful in the first one, whereas for this sequel it was much more heavily utilized and often not to great effect (it was too noticeable), particularly in some of the stunt scenes.

Also, the character of "Jack Sparrow" fell a bit flat this time. He simply wasn't as refreshing or appealing. There were a few fleeting moments where the character shone, but overall we just didn't get the same effect.

By the way, did anyone notice that this movie had what amounted to one of the longest end credits in cinematic history? At least that's what it felt like. We waited around for that 10 seconds of bonus footage after the credits rolled, but it was not worth it - nowhere close - especially for waiting what seemed like an eternity (it had to be around 10 minutes!).

Of course we'll try to see the third one with all the above said and we'll certainly try to watch this one again when it comes out on DVD to try to pick up on some more of the possible nuances. Perhaps this will work out better after another viewing...

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
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Matt Barton
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CGI

The CGI that bothered me the most was Davy Jones', the 'squid' mutant thing. The CGI was so over-the-top that it was near-impossible for the character to get across any good emotions. The enemy in the first movie was definitely better.

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Bill Loguidice
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I actually liked Davy Jones.

I actually liked Davy Jones. I thought the Asian crab guy didn't work out too well.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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