Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pirate Movie

I was thinking that the spoof factory that created the Scary Movie series of films could take a stab at Pirate Movie, now that Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest has had such blockbuster success (literally, a b...b...b...billion dollars at the world box office) that Hollywood executives will bless us with a campy Jack Sparrow story every summer from now til doomsday. (My wife went to her mother's this weekend, so it was good chance for me to do the catch-up-on-movies-the-other-one-has-seen thing.)

(Warning: spoilers follow. That is, if there is anyone alive on the planet who hasn't yet seen this flick.)

I enjoyed it, really, I did . . . it never promised more than light-hearted diversion, and it delivered that in spades. But there were a few points when the non-stop physical hijinks began to get ... dare I say it . . . boring. Like the Matrix sequels, the movie suffers from combat fatigue, to the point where a highly choreographed three-way duel on an unmoored rolling water-wheel is kinda ho-hum. The Matrix Reloaded taught me that action divorced from story becomes extremely tedious, because, in a CGI-saturated world, no mere physical feat can truly amaze us anymore. We need to care about the outcome, and that caring can only come from the story and our connection to the characters. And we couldn't care that much about the characters in a light-hearted campy summer movie, could we? When, at the end of the movie, the main characters are all mourning the loss of Cap'n Jack and contemplating recovering him from the jaws of death, I could barely feel a thing.

And yet . . . that's where the movie surprised me, because it did deliver on the story, in ways I didn't expect. The whole Davey Jones mythology was actually quite powerful, more interesting even than the cursed undead pirates of the Black Pearl. When Davey Jones asks some captive sailors, "Do ye fear death? Black oblivion . . . ?" for a moment I did fear death, and put myself in that position, wondering how I would greet the prospect of my own inevitable end. The fact that these men willingly chose their diminishment into increasing fishiness, to postpone the inevitability of final judgement, had a certain archetypal ring to it. The story takes its time to show how different men -- Will Turner, his father, Jack Sparrow -- engage this devil's deal, and that's where things get interesting.

There were other mythic elements, too: the compass that points to what you truly desire. That was philosophically interesting, because it echoes the truth -- you can't go after what you truly desire if you're desires are changing all the time. Only steadfastness of purpose (good or evil) can guide you to extraordinary ends.

And Jack Sparrow's end . . . well, that was quite something. For all its visual thrills, I got a greatest frisson watching the once-mincing, once-terrified Captain Jack charge down the gullet of the Kraken with sword drawn. That is the image of courage in the face of death, more stark and powerful than you'd ever expect out of light summer fare. Huh.



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