But why is the fun gone?
This return from a long absence is brought to you by the end of first year medical exams. Free time rules.
While my exam induced hermitdom has prevented me from seeing any of this month’s new releases thus far, I have had the chance to catch some reviews, and the one that is bringing me the most pain and anguish is the absolute trashing of Pirates 4 all over the internet.
I get it. You’re all upset because it didn’t live up to the original. But seriously, did anyone think it was going to? Pirates is suffering from the same problem that nearly killed Star Wars, The Matrix and countless others: it did too well. Of course when a movie makes several billion dollars worldwide the execs are going to want to make more of them. Lots more. Even when they run out of plot and have got rid of most of the main characters. They’ll bring them back from the dead if they have to. You can never expect the later films to live up to the glorious original because it is exactly that originality that has been lost.
The reason that everyone fell out of their sticky cinema seats when Black Pearl first hit our screens was because nobody was expecting it to work. It was a pirate film, the first to be made in decades. It was based on a theme park ride. People died and there was an army of the undead, but it was aimed at kids. And it starred Johnny Depp, who until that point was definitely not someone you associated with Disney or any kind of children’s film. It shouldn’t have worked, and yet it was a complete knock out.
How do you recreate that magic? Simple. You can’t. It’s like when you have those amazingly spontaneous nights out with friends, and end up having a much better time than you could have imagined. When you try to do the same thing again it just isn’t the same.
And yet the films keep coming. And people jump up and down and wring their hands about how it’s all gone wrong. Mark Kermode got particularly animated on 5 Live, but as far as I’m concerned he completely missed the point because he was too busy congratulating himself for being right. For starters, the point of Jack Sparrow has never been that he’s a rubbish pirate, it’s that everyone thinks he’s rubbish, and he acts like he would be, but in fact he’s a genius. Anyone who doesn’t get that is not allowed to talk about Pirates as far as I’m concerned. (5.35 in the video if you want to hear him harping on. Idiot.)
So, Kermode and Co.: Calm Down. You’re going to give yourself a hernia. Pirates of the Caribbean is not trying to win Oscars. It’s not trying to break new ground in cinema. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be for kids (not self-righteous middle-aged radio critics who love the sound of their own voice). Yes, the first one was brilliant, and the ones that have followed are nowhere near as good. But who cares? Stop comparing them to each other and take them on face value. OK, I haven’t seen 4 yet, but I have seen 2 and 3 and while they can’t live up to the impossible expectations of the original, they are still fun movies. If we’d never seen 1 we’d all probably love them.
If you can’t separate your expectations from reality then don’t go see it. I very much doubt it will be as good as I want it to be, but I also doubt that it really is as bad as a lot of reviewers would have you believe. They’re bitter because the glaze has come off, a bit of a crack has appeared and they can no longer ignore the man behind the curtain. But ask the kids, the people this movie was made for (even if it was for the wrong reasons) and you’ll find that they will happily watch Jack stumbling across the ocean searching for lost treasure for as long as the studios will let him.
And I probably will too.