Thursday, July 13, 2006

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

I was once a maritime law attorney. I have a great interest in pirates. Is there a connection there?

The new Pirates of the Caribbean movie is definitely not for small children. Perhaps it’s just me, (I have a thing about anemones, barnacles and other sea creatures growing out of people’s skin) but the sight of human beings being slowly transformed into collections of multiple sea creatures seems a bit too grotesque for children. In addition, this film sports an apparent voodoo priestess and multiple convincing attacks by a giant octopus-like creature that sinks ships in a single gulp. All of that said, the movie was interesting.

The cinematography, acting, humor, props, clothing and setting of Dead Man’s Chest all exceed the impressive standard set by the first film. The movie also continues an interesting tradition of the use of Christian archetypes. In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, we saw a curse that caused people to be deprived of all pleasure in life. The more they sinned, the less they got out of it. The only way they could be delivered from this curse was through the shedding of blood: the blood of the son of a particular father who had been partially responsible for placing the curse in the first place. Dead Man’s Chest continues this with multiple references to substitutionary suffering or punishment. The movie takes the idea of souls and damnation seriously. It also continues the theme that sin ultimately subjects us to slavery. On ther bad theology side it seems at times to say people are basically good. In multiple references, characters in the film say that they are praying or will pray about some particular problem. There is a man in one scene who is seen to have a cross and rosary beads and indicates that he does not fear death and judgment. His subsequent treatment may or may not be a rejection of Christianity depending on how you interpret the scene. It is ambiguous enough to fall either way. Likewise, there is a humorous scene involving a pirate reading the Bible. Or at least attempting to read the Bible. Nevertheless, a light or humorous treatment of Christianity is still less hostile than the way Christianity is commonly treated these days in television and motion pictures. This humor could even be spun in a positive way. I am curious if these things are Disney’s attempt to market its films to Middle American Christians or if, in fact, the writers of the film have some predilection to the use of universal archetypes from religion and philosophy?

In many ways the stunts in this film are more spectacular than those in the first. But I though the sword fighting scenes in the first film were still far superior to those in the current movie. While I thought the overall plot was a bit of a letdown, I am still looking forward to the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie when it comes out.

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