Tuesday, July 11, 2006


The Empire Strikes Jack

Suffering Doctor Who withdrawal symptoms on Sunday, Richard claimed spin-off series Torchwood (starring Captain Jack) was available in movie form, and dragged me out of the flat to see it. Imagine my disappointment when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest featured the wrong Captain Jack*! All right, that’s a fib – I enjoyed it enormously. And in deference to the rest of Keira Knightley’s ouvre, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that every boy in possession of a rip-roaring aquatic adventure, must be in want of a giant squid. This one had tentacles to spare for the main villain. Hurrah!

It’s a great Kraken, and worth the price of entry (if not the inflated price of popcorn and pop), but I loved the gently stirring facial fronds of Bill Nighy’s Davey Jones still more. A splendid performance, matched by a splendid look. I didn’t quite think the same of his ship and monstrous crew; rather less mobile, rather more barnacle-encrusted, and when everything in sight is covered in the same slimy growths they’re rather less visually distinguishable and interesting than the hard-working make up and computer effects crew might have hoped. If anything, I’d have lost much of the CGI and made it more of a straightforward swashbuckler; much as I love Star Wars, it was Richard who spotted most of the similarities to that, while I wanted more The Adventures of Robin Hood / Treasure Island. It’ll be no surprise, then, that my favourite scenes are towards the end, as a brilliantly choreographed three-way swordfight provides the most exhilarating swashbuckling I’ve seen in many a long year. That much of it takes place inside a turning wheel whirling across the scenery suggests that one of the best uses of CGI is not in creating improbable monsters but in making stunts go just that bit further than anyone but some of the giant-leaping loonies who’ve worked on Bond films can ever go.

A lot of the plot is a bit much, too. There’s so much effort in throwing thrills at you – cannibals! Sea monsters! Voodoo Lady (black magic child)! – that it wanders for a while and consequently goes on a bit. I’d have been tempted to lose the whole cannibal section, though I can see why they didn’t; it provides several of the funniest moments, including the gag after the end credits and the best giant kebab joke you’ll ever see, but I can’t help thinking it needed a sterner editor to keep to the plot.

But it’s churlish to complain when it was simply so enjoyable. The movie is, of course, stolen completely by Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, whose lurches across the screen make it impossible to watch anyone else. This is a shame for Orlando Bloom, who gets the nominal leading role but is much too strait-laced to be very watchable. He is, of course, very pretty, accounting I suspect for the remarkably high level of heterosexual coupledom in the cinema, but that just doesn’t do a thing for me. A friend of ours who looks rather like him beats Mr Bloom hands down in the sexiness stakes, because our friend is much more enormously… disreputable. A normally strait-laced actor who benefits from growing more disreputable here is Jack Davenport, who plays one of the wicked British (hey ho) but has fallen off the wagon and done himself a power of good. As pretty much everyone else in the cast comes with ‘disreputable’ fitted as standard, this makes for a lot of fun for a film. I think it may even be one of those sequels better than the original.

Add to that a MacGuffin taken from one of the oldest and most potent myths of how evil sorcerers protect their lives, and a very splendidly rousing theme that we’re still humming a couple of days later, and I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s very undemanding except of your time, and for that I fear you should part with a few pennies – and many pounds – to get some fizzy pop to go in with, or you’ll be hallucinating from dehydration in this heat by the time you’re released.

And, yes, there was one Star Wars reference so blatant even I got it – that the second movie ends on a cliffhanger (I won’t spoil it and say quite what), though it’s slightly less shocking about the fathers that appear. There’s even a striking last-minute cameo, though it mildly surprised me by not being Keith Richards (if his absence isn’t a spoiler!).

*I wonder if there’s any Captain Jack / Captain Jack slash fiction out on the internet? Er, I only ask in order that I can condemn it if it’s there, because it would of course be very, very bad. I hope that’s clear.

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I'm afraid I'm well past the point of staying in the cinema until the end of the credits just in case, so whatever that was I missed it. What were the other Star Wars references then? Nothing jumped out at me. I suppose the Kraken is a bit like the Sarlac...


Just the dog, enthroned in preparation...

As to the Star Wars - well, whether they're references or merely similarities (I'd agree on the Sarlac, either way), Richard spotted them, so I'd better leave Millennium to catch up ;-)
Give that elephant a beating - it's been 12 days :)
Young Will, I'm appalled!

What a violent young man you are. You've been watching too many piratical floggings (or saucier equivalent).

Millennium has been following clues around the flat for a fortnight with a treasure map; he's just tunnelled into a chocolate cake with a X-shaped set of chocolate strands on top, in search of his hidden postings. He's not found his missing posts, but he has prevented me eating any more chocolate cake.

He may be having trouble with reading the map because, of course, while he can type with his long fluffy nose, he can't actually read. It's a paradox, a paradox, a most mysterious paradox (etc).
You've probably already noticed, but the treasure map has finally yielded results and Millennium has dug up some more entries, including on this very movie...
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