Let me start with some choice quotes about PotC: AWE from Nathan Lee's Village Voice review:
"Long before the third, fourth, or fifth climax in this endless, obligatory summer diversion, I slunk into my seat in a passive, inattentive stupor, fully submitting to the fact that I hadn’t the slightest idea what the hell was going on."
"When Depp freaked his funk in The Curse of the Black Pearl, it seemed a sneak attack—the deployment of frisky, flamboyant, softly subversive shenanigans across the cold, impersonal grain of corporate entertainment. Dead Man’s Chest put him in the spotlight and he withered; blooms of such mincing, mascara’d rarity depend on nooks and shadows to flourish. At World’s End is even more aggressive in flaunting and defanging his spectacle, resorting more than once to the multiplication conceit. Give ‘em what they want has never been so literal, to such diminishing returns."
"Of all movies, this is the last you’d expect to talk and talk and talk and talk, but on it goes, everybody yapping about what they just did, what they’re about to do, what they should be doing, what it will mean if they do X instead of Y. Dude, just fucking do it."
In his Onion AV Club review Scott Tobias wrote: "Should the franchise warrant still another sequel, the dialogue might as well be in Esperanto."
When I read this I believed it, but last night I saw the movie anyway, in part because I had some free time, and some friends figured it would be a fun distraction, and I did not want to seem like a spoil-sport. Around the time the film, in a single scene, alluded to the penultimate scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey AND the Matrix I fell into that stupor Lee describes, and got to thinking. Where does the obligatory come from in Lee's phrase "obligatory summer diversion"?
My own list of complaints about the third Pirates film would have to include things like keeping the death of the Kraken off screen -- time taken discussing everything could have been used for a key, and probably visually interesting, scene. Lots of new pirates were introduced who seemed like they might do something, but their major role was to sit round and the cheer at the end. Elizabeth went through a number of changes in this film, but in the end she was just left stranded with nohting to do, and no direction. And, appallingly, the film expects you to remember things from the first film while throwing NEW incomprehensible mythology at you: the sword, the heart (old stories and new rules), the compass, the coins, the map, the objects for the bowl, gods, phasing through solid objects, the land of the dead, the pirate rules (does anyone else here watch Fairy Odd Parents?). I say "throwing" but I mean "talking about." Just one example: why can Barbosa and Depp can come back from the dead, but Elizabeth's father cannot? Because the writers want to write for Depp and Barbosa, but not for Elizabeth's father. I have seen movies make no sense in the past, but they were things like Charlie's Angels 2, or even Ocean's 12, where it was part of how the film is supposed to work -- these movies have no plot like ice cream has not nutrients, you are just supposed to enjoy the patter and the visuals. I do not know how much fun Pirates 3 would have to be to justify its incoherence, but I think, at the least, it would have to be the most charismatic, pure fun, energetic film ever made, for starters. They would also have to serve me some kind of free, excellent dinner during the film.
This is not the first film I saw in the theaters that I knew would be bad beyond belief: Spiderman 3, Terminator 3, Matrix: Revolutions, Johnny English, Star Wars 2 and 3, Daredevil, Hulk, Titanic, Identity. Pearl Harbor is, to date, the only film I have ever just walked out of -- Sara and I left the theater on December 4, 1941.
Social pressure gets me into the theater a lot of the time -- I feel like I have to see these films sometimes, to talk about them, and there are always some people I know who go and invite me along. Also I do get the occasional surprise: I enjoyed Live Free Die Hard for the most part, and Alien vs Predator was actually kind of fun. In some ways these films are the worst of all, because they lure me back into thinking that the critics and my instincts may be wrong. Why is seeing summer movies so much like being addicted to something that is clearly bad for you? I did avoid both Fantastic Four movies, but that is not enough.
The thing that kills me is the hours spent on Pirates 3 -- four, including travel time. I have so much unwatched stuff available on DVD I have so much more confidence in: I could have seen four episodes of 24, Battlestar Galactica, the Wire, or Deadwood. Not to mention all the things I only saw once that deserve a reviewing, like Lost and Samurai Jack. (I know I am comparing TV to movies, but I see the good movies as well as the bad; it is TV I am behind on).
Instead of seeing Transformers -- with its reportedly stupid jokes and awful pacing, and baffling visuals -- I will be at home, watching Avatar. Maybe later I will rent Transformers, and just watch the action sequences. Only I can stop myself from hitting my head against a brick wall.