Take a Drink: whenever Yoo Hae-jin (the seasick pirate) shows up
Take a Drink: for the whale
Take a Drink: every time someone comically exaggerates an expression
Take a Drink: whenever the royal seal is mentioned
Take a Drink: whenever a plan goes south
Take a Drink: whenever stereotype villain man laughs in a stereotype villain manner
Do a Shot: whenever you need to blog out the joylessly awful CGI
Do a Shot: whenever a dead person isn’t for reasons unexplained (also, disembowelment and drowning don’t usually produce eye-patches and Mike Tyson face tattoos where I come from).
By: Henry J. Fromage (Six Pack) –
I am an unabashed fan of Korean cinema, and it’s not just because I lived in South Korea for two years and am married to a beautiful Korean woman. Some of the most exciting and innovative cinema in the world has been coming out of there for the last couple of decades, and doesn’t appear likely to let up anytime soon. The Pirates… is not the best example.
Billed as the Korean Pirates of the Caribbean, The Pirates is about a ragtag group of land bandits led by an ex-soldier (Kim Nam-gil) who teams up with a band of pirates led by a badass chick (Son Ye-jin) to hunt down a whale that destroyed a royal ship and swallowed the royal seal, which threatens the newly created Joseon Dynasty. In order to collect the reward they’ll need to beat formidable enemies from their past.
But not a lack of conditioner. They have plenty of that.
I get it. The Pirates is supposed to be a dumb, fun summer blockbuster, and it’s not entirely lacking in those pleasures. There’s some engaging Crouching Tiger-style swordfighting, and Yoo Hae-jin…
Aka Korean Lil’ Wayne
… is a funny dude. Son Ye-jin is no damsel in distress, but rather a convincing badass, and Kim Nam-gil is a likable male lead, even if he does have the prettiest hair in the whole 5th Grade.
Seriously, it’s sooooo pretty.
The Pirates puts a bit more emphasis on one half of “dumb blockbuster” than the other… and it’s not the “blockbuster” part. It’s full of giant videogame swords and CGI nonsense, of course, but it’s also the kind of movie where the whale is the same one the heroine saved as a child, and of course the whale saves her later. It’s the kind of movie where one ship sneaks up on another without anybody noticing… on a clear day… in the middle of the ocean… multiple times. The only reason the plot even exists is because a ship decides to fire cannons at a whale because… it cut them off in traffic? That kind of dumb.
The CGI, green-screening, and wirework are simply atrocious. If there was an Uncanny Valley Ranch Dressing, The Pirates would be Gilbert Grape’s mom. In a world where Gareth Edwards can do his own CGI on his laptop for Monsters, there’s no excuse for special effects to be this shitty.
Turns out you don’t need to be Steven Sommers to make a Steven Sommers movie.
99% of the humor in this film is buffoony slapstick, where dumbfounded reaction shots are passed off as fresh humor.
This face, all day.
What’s worse is that it just gets dumber and dumber. There’s a scene where the bandits harpoon a shark, and it proceeds to drag them at speedboat speed like a freaking Looney Tune including, of course, past another pirate so he can give it a stupid look. Coupled with the terrible CGI, this scene becomes a sublime symphony of filmmaking incompetence.
There is way too much plot for a dumb blockbuster, and no earthly reason why it should be over two hours long.
Halfway through the movie, my wife said she’d rather wash the dishes, then went and did that. She’s Korean, and hasn’t watched a new film in her native language for nearly six months, and she loves movies. I got another beer, and soldiered through it.
I’m not going to say this is the kind of movie that endangers marriages… but I’m going to skip the sequels just in case.