Watching for Keira – Almost Nightly

Keira Knightley

A pirate walked up to me in the mall this holiday weekend as I was loitering outside of Anthropologie, waiting with only moderatre patience for The Artist. “Hey big man, I’ve got Pirates and Shrek 3 on DVD. Twenty bucks.” I shooed him away with a suave “belay me buck-o, and be about yer business.” But I also found it strange to be offered a pirated Pirates of the Caribbean – for which I’d laid out considerable scratch at the local cineplex two nights previous. Then again, perhaps twenty bucks was a bargain. Why shouldn’t the Motion Picture Association endorse pirating a movie that glamorizes rapine plunder?

Pirates3 gets a sad thumbs down from this reviewer: it’s too long, too unemotional, and too driven by computer graphics and a thick and clumsy plot (if it can be called that at all) that had me trying to fathom the many competing pirate curses that seemed to spout up like stranded whales as excuses for some battle or swordfight. A huge Hollywood mess, in other words – one that will rake in tens of millions of dollars (a success!) and satisfy audiences’ desire for a big, sweeping epic. Problem is, this thing screams “big sweeping epic!” without actually providing the sweep. Or for that matter, a single convincing character…save one.

And I’m not talking about Keira Knightley, though her presence – all angular profile and Oxbridge enunciation – is one of the few reasons to sit through the flick.
It’s not that her role is transcendant, or her performance electric. The former is unimportant, the latter merely spirited. But Knightley is trying – she’s working the scant material. Which is more than can be said for Johnny Depp, a fine actor collecting a massive paycheck, or Orlando Bloom, a tepid actor also collecting the aforementioned lucre. Depp reprises his role as Captain Jack Sparrow – and I use reprise in the loosest sense. His first portrayal was interesting, a fascinating study in his art. In the last two – filmed together in massive Hollywood bloat – are merely copies. And Bloom, almost as pretty as Knightley, is half her talent as an actor.

As Mel Odom remarked at Blogcritics:

One of the British Navy men said of Jack Sparrow, “Do you think he plans all this out, or just makes it up as he goes along?” or words to that effect. I couldn’t help but feel that way about the script. It was all well done, but some of it seemed to be plotting and twists of convenience.

The Moviegoer is even tougher:

…the swelling budgets of the two sequels, and especially the increasing reliance on CGI “spectacle,” have crushed pretty much all the joy and spontaneity out of this series. They don’t even stage a simple lighthearted swordfight in these movies anymore; it’s all about giant sea monsters and half-man, half-fish mutants now. Depp’s still around, but now he’s off in the margins of the film, amusing himself and nobody else.

No, the movie is Knightley’s. – such as it is. She fights the unfollowable plot, the insane overuse of CGI, and the lame dialogue admirably. It’s a mere bywater (well-paying) to what I suspect may well be a fine career. She broke through in Bend It Like Beckham, and owned Pride and Prejudice. She’s 22 years old and may well have a run not unlike Katherine Hepburn, who she resembles in body type if not in delivery and cool remove.

On to the finest performance: that of Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow’s father. It is brief and perfectly brought off, even featuring a little light lute playing by the Rolling Stone. Keith clearly enjoys the role and it’s well-written for him – evidence of some writing craft in a movie otherwise devoid of it. For his two minutes or so of total screen time, the review is simple: I laughed, I cried, I ate some popcorn.

8 thoughts on “Watching for Keira – Almost Nightly

  1. What, am I gonna be the first one to comment? Okay, here’s the thing, Tom: Keira Knightley is a total charmer. I even watched “Domino”, that’s how sick I am. And y’know, it was worth two hours of nonsense, just to watch Keira kicking butt. Plus you had Mickey Rourke in the same movie. And, y’know, you have to wonder if Tony Scott is just a few cents short of a dollar, but I can always watch one of his movies. However, I still don’t know if I could manage to sit through “Pirates 3”. I did see the first one on DVD, and I’ll tell ya, that was worth the DVD rental because Keira did a voice-over commentary that was more entertaining than the movie’s dialogue.

  2. Yeah, total charmer is a good description – sure, she’s pretty, but she’s got a presence. The movie, however, should have been called Dreck Three.

  3. Haven’t seen it yet. But what the Moviegoer said about Depp being over at the margins, amusing himself and no one else, struck home, as did what Tom writes about Depp’s performance in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End being copies of his original Jack Sparrow. That’s sort of what I felt when watching Dead Man’s Chest, that he had forgotten how to play Captain Jack and so he had to imitate himself. But I also thought that the director and screenwriters had forgotten what made Jack Sparrow tick and so they didn’t give Depp any help in recapturing the character.

    The difference between Captain Jack in the original and Depp playing at being Jack Sparrow in the second, and I gues s the third, since it’s really the same movie, is that in The Curse of the Black Pearl the Keith Richards act is a disguise Jack wears to throw people off and in the other two it’s all there is to him. In other words, Depp and the Verbinski and company have turned their main character into a joke because they decided what audiences loved about Jack was the joke.

    At World’s End doesn’t correct that course, I guess.

  4. Lance – excellent analogy, and no they don’t. He’s the joke the audience loves. So he does his schtick in the margins of what can only be called a plot in the most charitable sense.

  5. I haven’t seen P3 but I’m sorry to hear that Depp is ill-used (if well paid). He was the unexpected highlight of the already bloated first film in the series.

  6. Let’s put it this way – the first Pirates was Casablanca in terms of crispness, economy, timing, and plot compared to P3.

  7. Atleast we don’t have to see her in another one… check the interview on the site above. I mean, ya charmer, she’s a pokey-face charmer….

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