[Note: This is not exactly a review – I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and it made me think more about what it was lacking than about what it had. So I have written about what I felt should have been there, but wasn’t. So this is more of a manifesto than a review. That makes it better, doesn’t it?

1) This is off the top of my head – not particularly well-thought-out.
2) This does not apply to every pirate movie in the future.
3) This is all my opinion. If you disagree, that’s quite alright.]

I liked the first Pirates movie. If I remember right, Johnny Depp was pretty much the only thing worth watching, but there was a lot of Depp there, and it was fun. The ending left a bad taste in the mouth, due to the romanticising of pirates. I did change my opinion about it later, because it seems fairly harmless, all in all.

Pirates 2 was a whole another deal. For one, it reversed the ending of the first movie, and gave us grimmer and more realistic consequences to Will and Elizabeth’s actions. All in all, this movie was a lot more like a true pirate movie should be – grimy, gruesome, bloodthirsty (with reservations), and filled with bastards from end to end. I still think the movies are too clean-cut – all pirates apart from the villains are basically ‘good’ pirates, and while I can understand some being shown as such (good outlaws à la Robin Hood), real pirates were nowhere as nice. And there was not a single true piracy incident in either movie. But I have to say that Disney’s pirates were actually less Disneyfied than most other pirates we see today, which was good (and surprising).

You can get the plot of the movie anywhere on the net, so I won’t recount it. It is exceedingly hokey, and I like it for that very reason. The scriptwriters couldn’t really get a story on, so they (a) relied on the special effects, and (b) filled the script with lots of F&#k Yeah moments. And I’m fine with that. I actually prefer that to a plot, because it makes it easier to put my brain on hold. The first movie had a bit of a plot, and the result was that we got 5 minutes of excitement after every 15 minutes of downtime, which was not good.

There is this implied love triangle between Jack Sparrow (Depp), Elizabeth (Knightley) and Will (Bloom), which might or might not exist. It’s not particularly interesting, and my recommended resolution for this is that Will and Jack should get together (they would make a nice couple, wouldn’t they?) and Elizabeth should make it as a pirate. This would definitely be a lot more fun than any other combination, and my idea is supported not only by the first two movies, but also by pirate and sailor culture (at least as seen through the pop culture lens using which these movies have been made).

When I first heard about this movie, I was somewhat irritated by the seemingly illiterate references to pirate culture (‘Dead Man’s Chest’ and ‘Davy Jones’, mainly), but I was pleasantly surprised by the tongue-in-cheek twist given to these terms, and that was when I began to think about the pirate movie/story I would really love to see.

Firstly, it should be lots of words beginning with ‘gr’ – grimy, gruesome, grim, gritty, grubby, greasy. Current pirate-related pop culture (consisting mainly of Monkey Island and Pirates) isn’t all of these. Monkey Island is, in fact, too clean, cutesy and nice, which is pretty much the only thing I don’t like about it. There should be something of a return of pirate culture to its roots: amorality, ugliness, and death – lots of it. The only way it would still manage to work would be to conduct it through a filter of post-modern black comedy that discomforts as much as it entertains. If you’re going to show someone murder and make them enjoy it, then you might as well make them feel guilty about it.

It does not particularly need to be accurate. Pirate culture is not important enough today to have to get it right. It has been present in pop culture in snippets rather than in chunks, as the Wild West has. When someone twists the Wild West around to have fun, the audience knows it. This is not so with pirate culture. So when you get it wrong, you inflame geeks, and make the rest of the audience think you’re right. So the writer/film-maker has the opportunity to create an entire new version of pirate culture that would still conform to the spirit of the original. One can take a post-modern look at it and still be able to create something that is resonant and interesting – you need to stick to spiritual truth, not to facts.

The lack of morality surrounding the pirate culture is particularly interesting. When I read people like Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis (the former much more than the latter) portraying murderers and killers as more-or-less entirely sympathetic characters, I feel uncomfortable, mainly because I feel there must be quite a few readers who genuinely identify with them. This is very clear in Ennis’s ‘masterpieces’ – Preacher and Hitman. Tommy ‘Hitman’ Monaghan kills people for money, but he’s supposed to be a good guy because he only kills bad people. And the heroes of Preacher are mass-murderers, but they are unequivocally ‘good people’. What I am getting at here is that the pirate story could make this equation a lot more interesting, because you could play on the characters as being entirely morally ambiguous (and therefore unpredictable and interesting) rather than ‘basically good’, as done in the Pirates movies.

This is all I have for now, and I’m posting this to keep things in line. I might append to it as I think things out.