Just forget the words and sing along

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean, and some childhood nostalgia

As I was finishing up my Chrismtas shopping the other day, I did deviate a little bit and buy a present for myself. It was sparked by a nostalgia for my youth.

Remember being a kid, and how they made those read-along books? You'd have the storybook, and then the book would come with a cassette of some guy reading the story. And then you could listen to the story and read along in your book. In fact, I'm old enough to remember them as records and books. And the really good ones had a song at the end of the story. Yeah, those were a seminal part of my childhood, but they kind of faded away sometime in the 90s as CDs became more prevalent. I guess the CD and book never caught on....

Until today! As I was Christmas shopping in Zellers, I couldn't help but notice a whole slew of them on store shelves. All CDs and books. I was quite tickled as I remembered fond memories of these. Obviously, it's Disney who's leading the charge, as they were all Disney titles.

So I decided to dip into my pocket and get a three-pack...three books, and the accompanying stories on one CD. And what three pack did I get?

Why, the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, of course!

And what am I going to do with this? Why, rip the CD and put it on my MP3 player, so I can have Pirates wherever I go!

Actually, while I'm doing this, I would like to take a moment to clarify my thoughts on the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. At the recent company Christmas party, I drew the DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End out of the big pile of gifts for everyone. At which point, one of my co-workers had to announce to everyone that I hate the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Let me make it clear.

I don't hate the Pirates of the Caribbean films. However, I find that they have one fatal flaw that prevents me from loving them the way the rest of the world does. What is that flaw?

I can't get into the mythology. I just don't buy it.

I think the mythology in the Pirates films that they start setting up in Dead Man's Chest is just much bigger and more convoluted than it needed to be. Eventually, the entire trilogy just collapsed under the weight of the mythology, forcing it go to what I thought was an unsatisfying conclusion.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've followed some rather convoluted mythologies in the past. Hell, I stuck with The X-Files for all nine seasons. But they had nine years to set it up. With something like Pirates, you only get three films. And when you start bogging those films down with exposition...people sitting down to explain the rules of the universe, well, that annoys me.

I think, in a future blog entry, I'll lay out what I think are the rules for a good mythology. And a rule that will most definitly be on that list is: not everything needs to be explained. If your film has to have a conference scene, where all the main characters sit around and explain how the fictional universe works, well, that's a danger sign right there.

That's why I prefer the the Lord of the Rings films over the original novels. I've tried many times to get through the books, but I just can't because every three chapters there's another "conference" chapter where the rules of the universe have to be laid out. However, in the movies, Peter Jackson seemed to know which conference scenes could be left in the books.

Do such conference scenes help flesh out the universe, and make for a rich and detailed experience? Yes. But, if it doesn't advance the plot or develop your characters, it does not need to be in your movie.

And that's why I can't fully embrace Pirates of the Caribbean the way the rest of the world has. The whole darn mythology of Davy Jones and Calypso and Pirate Kings just required too much explaining. And, in At World's End, where the characters are having their conference scene and they have to go so far as to pull out a rule book...right there. I was done. If your characters don't even understand the mythology, then that's a clear sign that it's convoluted.

Some people like their convoluted mythologies. Hell, thanks largely to its convoluted mythology, my best friend will still tell you that The Matrix Reloaded is THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE!!! But not me. After years of Star Trek and X-Files, I'm just done with trying to keep up.

No comments: