Category Archives: disney

“Coco” is gorgeous, heartwarming

Tackling a subject like death in a children’s film is a tough balancing act. You can’t be too light or else risk seeming disingenuous. Too serious however and the film can become a morbid mess. Pixar has done a good job of straddling that line in films such as “Toy Story 2” and “Up” and they continue that streak with “Coco.” Their success lies in finding the silver lining in finite life: joy in family and experience over despair and anguish.

Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, “Coco” tells the story of Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy kept from playing music by an old family superstition. When he is accidentally transported to the land of the dead on Dia de los Muertos, he must find his great-great-grandfather and gain his blessing to return before he becomes a spirit as well. He recruits Hector (voice of Gael Garcia Bernal), a bumbling castaway, to aid him in his quest.

The film is a beautifully told, if ultimately somewhat familiar, tale. The land of the dead may be one of the most impressive animated environments ever created, full of bright colors, depth and brilliant hues. The imagination behind the construction of the dead characters and the spirit creatures is superb. The film plays out like an old fable told from generation to generation, timeless as it confronts childhood acceptance, manifest destiny and the concept of eternal familial love.

The music is respectable, if not exactly memorable, but it’s the emotions they represent that imbue them with cinematic power. When Miguel sings, it’s a reflection of his desire to live, an oxymoron considering he’s in the land of the dead.

A weak point however is the film’s second act twist. Pixar has always done a good job of building up their films with complex characters and themes only sometimes to feature stereotypical hollow villains. In “Up”, there is Charles Muntz. In “Brave”, there’s Mor’du. In “Wall-E”, there’s Otto. They do sometimes make a complicated antagonist such as Ego in “Ratatouille” or Lotso in “Toy Story 3”, but the twist in “Coco”, and the villain that permeates through the final act of the film, diminishes an otherwise strong story with a higher degree of schmaltz than is necessary.

But “Coco” is an otherwise solid film, fun and ultimately joyous with plenty to love and remember.

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“The Last Jedi” a mixed bag

*SPOILERS ABOUND*

 

There are some great scenes in the latest “Star Wars” film. A confrontation in the throne room of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) between both apprentices, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). A daring sacrifice to save the remnants of the Resistance fleet by Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). Luke staring down his former apprentice on the slopes of a planet covered in salt.

Then there are some terrible scenes. Yoda’s ghost (Frank Oz) showing up and somehow blowing up a sacred tree. BB-8 taking control of an imperial walker. Leia (Carrie Fisher) floating in space back to her ship after it explodes.

There are subplots that work (Finn and Rose on a gambling planet is fun if pointless). There are subplots that don’t work (anything having to do with Poe). There are some good new characters (Rose), and there are some bad new characters (Holdo and DJ). It seems so consequential to characters such as Luke and Snoke and so inconsequential to everyone else. To say “The Last Jedi” is a mess of good and bad is an understatement.

The film picks up on the promise of the previous entry, “The Force Awakens.” Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has been found. Rey travels to meet him and begin her Jedi training, after her mentor, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), was murdered by his evil son, Kylo Ren. Finn (John Boyega), a former stormtrooper, has joined the Rebellion after being recruited by his friend, Poe (Oscar Isaac).

The film is disjointed. Characters are introduced just to be killed off. Storylines go nowhere. The humor is hit and miss and generally more miss. It feels rushed, as if more time was needed to really iron out the story and character arcs. But in a cinematic world where franchises need to come out with new entries every year, filmmakers aren’t given the right amount of time to really get a grasp for their story. And the results are clunky films.

But the biggest issue facing this franchise is a lack of originality and purpose. While some have complained that the plot to “Force Awakens” is a carbon copy of “A New Hope” (justifiably so), the film felt like a part of the “Star Wars” canon. It seemed like a natural continuation of the saga and posed several interesting questions: Who were Rey’s parents? Why does the force call out to her? Who is Snoke? What is his backstory? What is the history between Kylo Ren and Luke? Will Luke rejoin the fight? These questions kept up the intrigue in the story. For a franchise starving for ideas (there are only so many different ways good can fight evil), these questions promised a potential new direction.

So it is disappointing that “The Last Jedi”‘s response to those questions was to just brush them away. Rey’s parents are no one. She’s important simply because she is. Snoke is dead and probably won’t be mentioned again. We’ll never learn about him and by ignoring his story, his death had little dramatic weight. There is no great revelation about the force or the Skywalker family or anything really. The big surprise in the film is that there is no big surprise. And that is a giant shame. It’s like setting up a joke and then not giving the punchline. It leaves you with a hollow feeling of disappointment.

While “The Force Awakens” promised intrigue, “The Last Jedi” offers more of the same. It’s another good versus evil, pedantic story of a young Jedi, an evil figure in a mask and failed mentors. The viewer left the theater of “Force Awakens” eager to see where the story was going. With “Last Jedi”, there is no desire. There are no lingering questions. We already know where the story is heading; Rey must fight Kylo and stop the First Order.

Just imagine this instead:

The film begins months after the events of “Force Awakens.” Rey has found Luke and begun her training, after great reluctance from the old Jedi. He questions if what he is doing is the right thing after his failing to save Ben Solo and the destruction of the rebuilt Jedi order. Rey learns about the strength of the Force, branching out, but she feels the lure of the dark side. She is frustrated with Luke’s depression and begins mentally connecting with Kylo Ren, seeing his struggle, and she sees how similar they are.

Meanwhile, the First Order reigns down havoc against the old republic. The regime that emerged from the ashes of the Empire has returned. The resistance is desperate. Leia tries to manage the war in her headquarters, but sees little hope. She recounts how Snoke appeared from nowhere, how he managed to coral the last vestiges of the empire to his will and how he needs to end.

Poe and Finn work together on missions for the Resistance, but their confidence wanes as well. Finn asks Poe how he first joined the Resistance and he remarks how he first heard the stories of Leia and Luke and how they were heroes to him on his world, a beautiful planet that was ruined by the Empire. They inspired him to become a freedom fighter. Finn remarks how he has never known freedom and Poe tells him that one day he will feel it.

Leia recruits them for a top secret mission, a last dire choice in their struggle against the First Order. Finn will go back to the stormtrooper corps as a spy and rejoin their ranks. He will offer them secret information and work his way up to Snoke in order to assassinate him. Poe works as his handler and sneaks aboard the imperial cruiser.

Snoke chastises Kylo for his failure to snuff out the Resistance or find Skywalker. He reminds Kylo that he still mentors the Knights of Ren, the other apprentices taken from Skywalker, with him, and that any of them could one day replace Kylo. Kylo, angry, vents his frustrations to Rey through their communications. She sees the anger and divide in him and wonders if he is a good man haunted by bad mentors. She questions Luke and his methods. Kylo hints that Luke knows more about her past than he lets on and reveals how his Jedi training failed because Luke was obsessed with making sure the dark side never came to his students, in a way ensuring that it did.

Rey challenges Luke to reveal what he knows. Luke refuses to tell her, but Rey keeps pushing him. Luke eventually relents and reveals her parentage (something dark that ties her into the Skywalker family/Snoke in some way). Conversely, Finn, in his mission to gain the trust of the First Order, discovers the past of Snoke and how it too connects with Rey. Crushed, Rey abandons her training and seeks out Kylo.

Finn and Poe are captured by the First Order as Finn is about to assassinate Snoke. Kylo meets with Rey and the two of them talk about how their masters have failed them. Kylo talks about his desire to tear down the systems of the galaxy and rebuild from the ground up. Rey tries to talk to him about how the power of compassion can save them. Kylo tells her about the captured Finn and Poe. Rey begs to save them, but Kylo does not understand her feelings. He questions why she cares so much about Finn, but agrees to help her.

Luke, tortured by another perceived failure, ruminates with R2-D2. He hints at other prophecies that have yet to come true and wonders about his role in this galaxy. Knowing that Rey will try to contact Kylo, he decides to stop her.

Finn and Poe are tortured by Snoke and his men. Poe tells Finn to remember to keep searching for that sense of freedom before he dies. Rey and Kylo arrive in time to save Finn. Snoke tries to lure his old apprentice back, but Kylo, consumed in anger, refuses. Snoke unleashes the Knights of Ren and everyone fights. As the situation appears dire, Luke appears. He confronts Kylo and reminds him that he sees the good in him, the spirit of Han Solo. For a moment, he gets through to his old apprentice. Together, they fight and kill Snoke. As the ship explodes around them, Luke sacrifices himself to save his students. The remaining characters disperse to escape pods.

Kylo and Rey end up in a ship together alone. Kylo offers to join with her and create a new order. Rey is torn, unsure whether to trust him. She accepts his offer.

The fate of the galaxy now rests on this uneasy alliance. How will these two former adversaries work together, neither with a master anymore? What will happen to the other Knights? Will the romance between Rey and Finn work out or will she grow feelings towards Kylo? What was the final part of the prophecy Luke had foreseen?

This is sort of where I saw “The Last Jedi” heading. Answering some questions but leaving others open. Raising the stakes for the characters. Forcing them into more consequential decisions that reveal more about their inner selves. This is what “The Empire Strikes Back” did for the original “Star Wars.” Luke learns about the darkness inside him, further deepening his inner turmoil. Leia and Han learn about their feelings towards each other, but that also raises complications: Han is taken by the bounty hunter, Boba Fett, and they know that their relationship could strain their friendship with Luke. Even Darth Vader, who was seen as a simple evil villain in the first film, now faces an internal test: can he convert his son to evil, against his better judgment, revealing that even he has inner struggle?

“The Last Jedi” fails in deepening the conflict within the characters. They face no great internal struggle and the audience has no mystery leading into the final chapter of this trilogy. We know Rey’s history. We know Kylo’s history. Luke is gone. Poe is uninteresting. Finn is uninteresting. It’s just a simple good versus evil story. The middle chapter of a saga should have viewers on the edge of their seats, anxious to see how the mysteries and questions posed by the previous entries will unravel. Instead, we feel nothing about the final chapter.

For a franchise that seemed to be getting back on its feet, “The Last Jedi” is a step backwards in a way. While thrilling and emotional at times, it lacks clear progression and delves into monotony. With JJ Abrams returning to helm the final installment, perhaps a bit of that old “Star Wars” magic he captured with “Force Awakens” will return.

“Into the Woods” a solid film

Whenever Disney dabbles into fairy tales, especially darker ones, there’s an inherent perception that studio executives will dampen down the story and ‘Disney-fy’ it, making it more accessible for families and taking the darker tone out of it. With Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, there was fear that the studio would subdue the darker third act elements, some of them downright violent, but Disney, thankfully, has let director Rob Marshall tell the story as it was meant to be told.

Into the Woods tells the story of a Witch (Meryl Streep) who places a curse on the house of the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). To remove the curse, the couple must retrieve several objects from other fairy tale creatures such as Little Red Riding Hood (Lila Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone). As the tale unfolds, an escalating series of events and romances converge to bring about a dramatic finale.

Sondheim being Sondheim, the music keeps the film moving even as it struggles at times to maintain its footing with so many storylines and characters. Prince Charming played by Chris Pine, by far one of the most entertaining characters, is given far too little screentime while Jack’s mother (Tracey Ullman) is given far too much. Some of the CGI effects also come off as rather pedestrian and the direction at times lack focus. And while Disney should be applauded for keeping the darker tone and message of the original production, some of the intense moments are either only winked at or glossed over instead of emphasized for true dramatic effect. The strength of the characters however makes up for the film’s shortcomings.

All of the cast excels, Meryl Streep of course stealing the show, but Emily Blunt and James Corden, as the heart of the story, really help ground an emotional stake for the viewer. Even as some musical numbers fall flat for not being cinematic enough or unnecessary and some characters do not hit the mark (Johnny Depp as the Wolf in a rather hideous costume), the journey of the Baker and his Wife keeps the audience engaged in the story. The story is not a children’s tale where things end happily ever after, but a reflection on how those types of stories help us deal with the cruel world around us. That message comes across strong, and the resulting film is enjoyable and thought-provoking.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” Analysis

Director: Gore Verbinksi

Writers: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert

Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush

Synopsis: A cursed pirate crew try to mend their woes while causing havoc, but their ex-captain, the son of one of their deceased crewmen and a wealthy heiress band together to stop them.

  • Special thanks to JoBlo Movie Clips

Protagonist: Will Turner

Desire: Elizabeth Swann

  • Inciting Incident: Elizabeth is kidnapped by Barbossa and his pirate crew.
  • Act One Climax: Will breaks Jack Sparrow out of prison in order to enlist his help to rescue Elizabeth.
  • Midpoint: Will leaves Jack behind and takes Elizabeth back from Barbossa.
  • Act Two Climax: Will acquiesces to Jack’s plan to break him out from Barbossa’s grasp and save them all.
  • Act Three Climax: Will tells Elizabeth he loves her.

Other Storylines:

Jack

Desire: The Black Pearl

  • Inciting Incident: (Off-Screen) Jack is abandoned on an island after Barbossa steals his ship.
  • Act One Climax: Jack uses Will as leverage to get his ship back.
  • Midpoint: Will betrays Jack and leaves him with Barbossa.
  • Act Two Climax: Jack devises a plan to save Will and defeat Barbossa.
  • Act Three Climax: Jack gets the Black Pearl back.

Elizabeth

Desire: Break free from the societal shackles placed upon her

  • Inciting Incident: Norrington proposes to Elizabeth.
  • Act One Climax: Elizabeth negotiates with the pirates to save Port Royal.
  • Midpoint: Elizabeth saves Jack and her when they are abandoned on a remote island.
  • Act Two Climax: Elizabeth accepts Norrington’s proposal.
  • Act Three Climax: Elizabeth chooses Will over Norrington.

Barbossa

Desire: End the Curse

  • Inciting Incident: (Off-Screen) Barbossa and his crew steal cursed treasure and suffer the consequences.
  • Act Once Climax: The Black Pearl destroys Port Royal, kidnaps Elizabeth and captures the last missing piece.
  • Midpoint: Elizabeth is revealed to be the wrong person they need and the lose their hope.
  • Act Two Climax: Barbossa kidnaps Will and returns to the island to end the curse.
  • Act Three Climax: Jack shoots Barbossa as the curse ends.

Norrington

Desire: Maintain the law and his place in society

  • Inciting Incident: Norrington decides to rid the world of pirates and secure his rank.
  • Act One Climax: After beating back most of the pirates of the Caribbean, he asks Elizabeth to marry him.
  • Act Two Climax: Elizabeth agrees to marry him in exchange for rescuing Will.
  • Act Three Climax: After Elizabeth turns him down for Will, he relents in order to do the right thing.

Jack’s Crew

Desire: Get their own ship

  • Inciting Incident: (Off-Screen) Jack enlists a crew.
  • Act One Climax: Jack promises a ship in exchange for their help.
  • Act Two Climax: The Interceptor is destroyed and the pirates are captured.
  • Act Three Climax: Elizabeth saves the crew and they take the Black Pearl without Jack.
  • Act Four Climax: The pirates return to save Jack at the gallows.

Themes:

  • The Representation of Piracy: The definition of piracy is in flux throughout the film. At the beginning, under the harsh critique of Captain Norrington and Governor Swann, pirates are seen as vile creatures of evil. This is reinforced when the pirates of the Black Pearl attack Port Royal. However, as the audience gets to know Jack, a new form of pirate begins to emerge; the image of the pirate as a good man. Piracy then becomes a moniker for freedom while Barbossa and his crew instead are realized as monsters consumed by greed. Greed then is the ultimate evil.
  • Moral Fortitude Versus the Rule of Law and Order: Norrington and his world represent the harsh realities of law and order, unbending no matter the circumstances. Elizabeth’s world believes in strict social classes, propriety and set matches, represented by her stagnant proposal to Commodore Norrington. The pirates of the story soon reveal a world capable of love, courage and morality, oftentimes at odds with the world of law and order. These quandaries come to a head over the course of the story.

Scene Breakdown:

  1. Prologue on the Seas
    • Action: Young Elizabeth sails on her father’s ship with a full crew. She sings about pirates and remarks how fascinating it would be to meet one. She spots young Will Turner floating in the water and the crew brings him aboard. A ship lies decimated in flames nearby. Turner wears a pirates medallion on his neck, which Elizabeth takes to protect his identity.
      • This scene sets up Elizabeth’s character. She is the prim and proper daughter of a lord, yet she sings about pirates and is fascinated with danger, setting up her contradiction. She is pulled between both worlds, the world of respectability and the allure of piracy and adventure.
      • Norrington and Governor Swann are also established here. We learn that Norrington hates pirates and wants to see them eradicated. Swann just wants to keep his daughter safe. They represent the path Elizabeth is seemingly destined for; the security of father to future fiance.
      • Norrington Inciting Incident: Norrington desires to rid the seas of pirates and secure his ranking in the social hierarchy.
  2. Ceremony Morning in Port Royal
    • Adult Elizabeth wakes up in her room. She still has Will’s pirate medallion, drawn to it for some reason. Her father bursts in and gives her a new suffocating dress that he wants her to wear to Norrington’s promotion ceremony. Adult Will stops by to deliver the ceremony sword he crafted. He is stiff and awkward with Elizabeth, unable to call her by her first name and just addressing her as Miss Swann.
      • Now in the present, we can see how these characters are still very much in their shackles of propriety. Elizabeth is still pampered by her father who buys her dresses and pushes her towards a lifestyle of respectability without adventure. Though she yearns for a more exciting life, Elizabeth is very much a girl, unable to break through and become a woman. This is represented by the corset she wears, the binds of her life suffocating her.
      • Will has become part of this social world if still on the outside somewhat. He breaks an ornament in Swann’s entryway, showing that he doesn’t quite fit in with this facade, and he is suppressing his true self. He is down on the social hierarchy, unable to meet Elizabeth as his equal despite his feelings for her. Both he and Elizabeth are trapped in their roles, heiress and blacksmith, unable to break free.
      • Norrington and Elizabeth Inciting Incident: Norrington lets it be known through Governor Swann that he wants to marry her
  3. Jack’s Arrival
    • Jack Sparrow arrives in Port Royal. He bids respect to hanged pirates dangling at the opening of port. His boat sinks as he arrives and he pays the attendant to not record his name. He tries to commandeer a ship out of the harbor from a pair of bumbling guards.
      • Sparrow’s arrival establishes his character; he’s a pirate and he’s charismatic though he’s prone to bad luck and is a bit of an imbecile. His swagger makes him a sympathetic though not quite empathetic character.
      • This is also our first mention of the Black Pearl, setting up its appearance for later. Jack’s Inciting Incident, as we will learn later, has already taken place.
  4. Elizabeth Falls off the Ledge
    • Commodore Norrington proposes to Elizabeth who, suffocating in her dress, falls off the edge of the pier into the ocean below. The gold medallion still around Elizabeth’s neck sends a shock wave when it hits the ocean floor, alerting the Black Pearl to its whereabouts. Jack Sparrow jumps in and saves her, bringing her back to the surface. Norrington meets them on the pier and recognizes Jack as a pirate. Jack then takes Elizabeth hostage and bargains until he is able to run away.
      • Norrington’s proposal to Elizabeth is what she has dreaded. Her acceptance would mean her acquiescence to a life without adventure.
      • Jack’s good deed in saving Elizabeth shows that he is in fact not a villain, but in using Elizabeth to escape, he shows that he uses villainous deeds to achieve an end.
      • Elizabeth Inciting Incident: Norrington’s proposal presents her with the choice of choosing security or seeking adventure.
      • Norrington Act One Climax: Norrington’s proposal would secure his social ranking.
  5. Jack and Will Meet
    • Jack takes refuge in Will’s shop. They swordfight, and Jack is captured.
      • More of Will is examined here, pitted against Jack’s character. We learn that he is admirable because he stands up for Elizabeth’s honor. He is courageous as he doesn’t back down to Jack’s threats. His skill in swordfighting bodes well for the rest of the story. His desire to protect Elizabeth’s honor is a setup to the lengths he is willing to go for her.
  6. Elizabeth Thinks about the Proposal
    • Elizabeth and her maid discuss the day’s events. The maid voices what is on Elizabeth’s mind: she is in love with Will.
      • This scene reinforces what the audience already knows: Will and Elizabeth should be together, even if they don’t want to admit it to themselves. The fact that even the maid sees it is evidence enough. Her interaction with the maid also underscores her life: she is pampered and princess, a distinct social class above the commoner. She must overcome her naivete to survive in the plot to come.
  7. The Pearl Attacks
    • The Black Pearl appears in the harbor, launching a barrage of cannonballs. Will fights in the streets. Two pirates kidnap Elizabeth. Other pirates leave Jack Sparrow for dead.
      • The dramatics of the battle highlight the deadliness of the pirate crew. They are vicious, killing at will, laying waste to the town. Their appearance is ragged and coarse, animalistic almost. These are the evil pirates we were promised at the film’s opening.
      • The interaction between Jack and the pirates highlight a bit of his mysterious backstory. They know each other. How? Jack remarks with surprise that there is a curse when he sees the bone arm of one of them. What does that mean? These are all setups to later payoffs in the story. For now, they just intrigue the viewer and leave them with questions.
      • Will Inciting Incident: Elizabeth is captured
  8. Elizabeth Meets Barbossa
    • Elizabeth negotiates with Barbossa to leave Port Royal. Barbossa keeps her prisoner.
      • Our first interaction with Barbossa reveals several characteristics of his character. He’s smarter than you would think, using long words that match Elizabeth’s. He has the respect of his crew as they follow his rules to the letter. And he is also not a bloodthirsty animal as others would believe. He treats Elizabeth fairly even though he is under no obligation to do so. He keeps his word to cease the attack on the port. Barbossa’s Inciting Incident has occured off-screen and is revealed later.
      • Elizabeth Act One Climax: Elizabeth proves her hidden inner strength by negotiating with Barbossa to save the port.
      • Barbossa Act One Climax: Barbossa sets sail back to Isla de Muerta to cleanse his curse after capturing the final cold piece and the blood to be repaid.
  9. Will Gets Angry
    • Will wakes up the next morning after being concussed and confronts Norrington on how to rescue Elizabeth. He gets nowhere with him.
      • Will shows his first signs of anger as he worries about Elizabeth. His concern leads him to a risky proposition: asking Jack Sparrow for help. While Norrington tries to stay within the law, Will’s deference to go straight to piracy shows his inner pirate nature.
  10. Will Joins Forces with Jack Sparrow
    • Will bursts Jack out of prison in return for his help to hunt down the Black Pearl and save Elizabeth.
      • Jack remarks himself how Will seems to be gunning towards piracy despite Will’s denial. The audience senses that Jack is up to something behind his deal, instituting another setup with an eventual payoff.
      • Jack Act One Climax: Jack commits to his own secret plan to reclaim the Black Pearl.
  11. Will and Jack Steal a Ship
    • Will and Jack creatively steal the Interceptor out from under Norrington’s nose and set sail after the Black Pearl.
      • With a clear goal in mind, Sparrow ceases to be a bumbling dolt and instead shows his inner pirate savvy. What once appeared to be a doomed trek involving an out-of-his-prime pirate and a blacksmith suddenly seems like a decent proposition.
      • Will Act One Climax: Will commits to the adventure of rescuing Elizabeth and sets sail after her captors.
  12. Will Learns about his Father
    • Will reasons that Jack knew his father. Jack tells Will that his father was a pirate and a good man. Will, refusing to believe him, draws his sword, but Jack convinces him to keep on going.
      • The knowledge that Will’s father was a pirate gives him added purpose. He must not only rescue Elizabeth, but now prove that he is not a pirate even though he feels the pirate within him. Now confronted with the truth, he must grapple with both sides of himself for the rest of the narrative. Is Will a pirate, a good man or both?
  13. Tortuga
    • Will and Jack recruit Gibbs in the hopes of putting together a crew. Gibbs questions Jack about his motives and Jack reveals that he is going to leverage Will to get his ship back. Will overhears this.
      • Jack’s personality reveals itself again as the audience realizes he is just using Will as a means to an end. So while he indeed is not a villain, he is not a good Samaritan either. In terms of mythic symbols, Jack would be considered a trickster, always keeping you guessing as to his motivation.
      • We still don’t know Jack’s motivation for taking the Black Pearl, but his need for it points towards something beyond just desire and towards obsession. This is personal for him.
  14. Elizabeth Aboard the Black Pearl
    • Barbossa explains to Elizabeth the curse upon them. She doesn’t believe him until she sees the zombie bodies of the pirate crew. She hides in her room, terrified.
      • Barbossa again presents himself as a sympathetic villain. He offers Elizabeth a dress to wear at a fancy dinner. He isn’t cruel to her. All he wants is to end his suffering and eat apples, something very relatable. We also understand his inciting incident, presented off-screen.
      • This serves as wakeup to Elizabeth. All her pampering is useless to her when confronted with the undead. And she learns that the pirates are likely to kill her. She must emerge stronger after this encounter in order to survive.
      • This scene also raises the dramatic stakes for Will and Jack. With us knowing that the ship they now hope to confront is driven by unbeatable zombies, we fear for their failure.
      • Barbossa Inciting Incident Revealed: (Off-screen) Barbossa and his crew have been cursed by treasure and must collect the treasure to end it.
  15. Assembling the Crew
    • Gibbs presents his crew of misfits to Jack and Will. They are an unimpressive lot. A terrible storm them about as they take off after Barbossa, but Jack smiles knowing that they’re catching up.
      • The strange crew, after the previous scene of undead pirates, further illustrates the dire situation plaguing Jack and Will. How could this group of miscreants deal with the formidable Black Pearl pirates? Jack’s determination to push through the storm shows his growing obsession with getting the Pearl back.
      • This scene also introduces the last subplot: Jack’s pirate crew. They desire a ship to call their own.
      • Pirate Crew Inciting Incident: (Off-Screen) Jack promises a ship to Anna-Maria, but reneges on the deal.
      • Pirate Crew Act One Climax: Jack promises the crew a new, better ship.
  16. Jack’s Backstory
    • As the Interceptor approaches the Isla de Muerta, Gibbs tells Will that Jack was captain of the Black Pearl and divulges how he was mutinied against by Barbossa and left abandoned on an island. Jack and Will go ashore towards the Black Pearl.
      • Jack’s personal story reveals his reasons for going after the Black Pearl. Betrayed by his crew, he will stop at nothing to get his ship and reputation back. His personal stake is what drives him and is his off-screen inciting incident.
      • Jack Inciting Incident Revealed: (Off-Screen) Get the Black Pearl back after the mutiny.
  17. The Ordeal in the Cave
    • As Jack and Will approach the pirates, Jack remarks how close Will is to piracy now, especially with his obsession for treasure, namely Elizabeth. The pirates perform the ceremony to end their curse, but it doesn’t work as it’s not Elizabeth whose blood they need, but Will’s. Will knocks out Jack before he can bargain him over to Barbossa, and he secretly sneaks Elizabeth away when the pirates are busy infighting. Jack is taken capture by the pirates.
      • All the storylines converge here at the midpoint of the film. Will gets his desire for the time being in Elizabeth, Elizabeth is saved, Jack loses his ability to take back the Pearl and Barbossa’s hopes of being cured are dashed.
      • After this encounter, the means and motivations of all the main characters change. Jack must negotiate his way out of death, Will and Elizabeth have to escape and Barbossa must find another means of ending the curse. The course of the story has changed.
      • The midpoint is also the moment when the main character must examine his or herself. Will, confronted with ever mounting evidence that he is turning into a pirate more and more, chooses to leave Jack behind, perhaps fearful that staying with him will eventually lead to piracy, a form of destiny he dreads. At the conclusion of the film, when given another opportunity to leave Jack behind, he will evolve to do the right thing, having accepted his parentage.
      • Will Midpoint: Will saves Elizabeth, his goal, and now must keep her safe.
      • Elizabeth Midpoint: Elizabeth is safe and must keep herself safe.
      • Barbossa Midpoint: Barbossa must find another means of ending his curse.
      • Jack Midpoint: Jack’s original plan fails and he must now find another way to get the Pearl back.
  18. Jack Negotiates
    • Jack negotiates with Barbossa to spare his life in return for telling him the name of Bootstrap Bill’s child.
      • Jack, ever the resourceful pirate, finds a way to cheat death again. His ability to stay alive adds to his endearing qualities and makes him endlessly fascinating: the viewer will keep wondering, how will Jack get out of this one as the situations grow more and more dire for him?
  19. Will and Elizabeth
    • Will helps Elizabeth with her wound from Barbossa. She gives him the gold medallion she had kept from him. Will realizes that the pirates will come after him because he is Will Turner’s son. He is angry at his parentage.
      • This is the first time Will and Elizabeth are alone together without the confines of the stuffy societal world. They are free to act as they wish and have changed over the course of the story. They are more open with each other, and their actions towards each other influence their behavior. Will, having gone through his ordeal to get to her, knows in his heart that he wants her. Elizabeth, knowing more about the underbelly of the world and the journey Will must have gone through to rescue her, knows what he feels for her. They are close to intimate, but the truth of Will’s parentage stops him from having her. He feels tainted for being of pirates’ blood and unworthy to have her.
      • In order for Will to succeed and earn his desire (Elizabeth), he must now overcome his internal fears of being a pirate. Only by believing that pirates are capable of being good men can he see himself as a good man and worthy of her.
  20. Barbossa and Jack Negotiate
    • Jack bargains with Barbossa for Will’s name in exchange for the ship. Barbossa, however, has caught up to the Interceptor and is willing to try it alone for the time being.
      • During the scene, Jack eats one of Barbossa’s apples, infuriating the pirate as they try to one-up each other in negotiations. It’s an interesting dynamic of Jack using the one thing Barbossa is endlessly craving, the bite of an apple, to get under his opponent’s skin. But Jack, still having somewhat of a heart, tries to save Will and Elizabeth at a time when Barbossa’s bloodlust after the debacle with the treasure has grown. It proves his undoing.
  21. Sea Chase
    • The Interceptor and the Black Pearl square off. The Interceptor and its crew are captured.
      • The battle involves Will and Elizabeth using their cunning and intellect to try and outsmart Barbossa. With everything they have learned, they put up a good test, but fall short against a far superior foe. Hope appears lost for all.
      • Pirate Crew Act Two Climax: The crew are captured and the Interceptor destroyed.
  22. Will Survives
    • After seeming left for dead aboard the Interceptor, Will emerges alive and bargains with Barbossa for the lives of Elizabeth and the crew.
      • Will’s desire to save Elizabeth must again be rekindled as she and everyone else are again captured. Barbossa regains the upper hand, but Will negotiates the survival of everyone, though not quite to the effect he had hoped for. His fate is suddenly taken out of his hands.
      • Barbossa Act Two Climax: Barbossa now has the final piece and the blood he needs and sails back to end his curse.
  23. Jack and Elizabeth are Marooned
    • Jack and Elizabeth walk the plank and end up on a deserted island.
      • The characters are now all at rock bottom. Jack watches his ship sail off. Elizabeth loses Will and Barbossa has everything he wants. The characters must devise a way out of their situation to survive.
      • Will is now no longer leading the action as he is Barbossa’s prisoner. Jack has no means of escape. It is up to Elizabeth, who must prove her inner strength, to save the story.
  24. Jack and Elizabeth on the Island
    • Jack gets drunk on the island as Elizabeth devises a plan to gain the notice of the Royal Navy. Her huge fire gains the attention of a searching Norrington.
      • Jack reveals a bit more about himself to Elizabeth, and in effect, to the audience. We see that it’s not just revenge that drives him to take back the Black Pearl, it’s what the ship represents to him. It’s freedom away from the rules, something that Elizabeth can relate to.
      • Hope is restored as the pair are found. Elizabeth’s resourcefulness shows how she is growing over the course of the story.
      • Elizabeth Midpoint: Elizabeth again proves her ingenuity by rescuing her and Jack.
  25. Elizabeth Negotiates with Norrington
    • Hoping to save Will from the pirates, Elizabeth bargains with Norrington and has to agree to marry him in order for him to send out a search party for Will and Barbossa.
      • Knowing what Will did to save her, Elizabeth must now do the same for him. In effect, as he proved his love to her, she must reciprocate that love. However, the cost of saving Will dooms her to a life of safety without adventure. Though enacted out of love, it seems that nothing can stand up to the power of law and order.
      • Elizabeth Act Two Climax: Elizabeth’s decision to marry Norrington to save Will seemingly seals her decision to stay with the civilized world over her love of adventure.
      • Norrington Act Two Climax: Elizabeth’s agreement to marry him gives him what he wants.
  26. Will Learns about his Father
    • Will learns that Barbossa murdered his father when he tried to defend Jack.
      • Will is given extra motivation against Barbossa when he learns that Barbossa is responsible for his father’s death. Not only that, but hearing how his father defended Jack and tried to be a good man gives Will another perspective on piracy. As his interactions with Jack are beginning to show, perhaps being a pirate does not equate necessarily to evil.
  27. Jack Comes Up with a Plan
    • Jack negotiates with Norrington, getting a pontoon of his own to go and talk to the pirates.
      • Knowing Jack’s history of backdealing, the audience is anxious to see what Jack’s next move will be. We know he is adept at looking out for himself, so seeing how he maneuvers to get what he wants (the Pearl) while not compromising his conscience is fascinating.
      • Jack Act Two Climax: Jack sets in motion a plan that may give him the Pearl and save Will.
  28. Jack Manages his Final Plan
    • Jack gets Barbossa to spare will for the time being in exchange for knowledge about Norrington’s men.
      • There are subtle clues to Jack’s plan. He doesn’t fulfill what he told Norrington to his full extent, he takes a pirate coin without anyone knowing and he has Elizabeth locked up on her ship. This is the final play, what will determine whether the heroes succeed or fail. And his plan will finally answer the question of whether or not Jack is solely in it for himself or a team player.
      • Will is a passive player in his second act climax, but his silent agreement to go along with Jack’s plan locks in his decision.
      • Will Act Two Climax: Will trusts in Jack’s plan to beat Barbossa.
  29. The Battle Begins
    • The Royal Navy and pirates fight as Jack turns on Barbossa and frees Will.
      • We now realize that Jack has been on the side of good the whole time. He indeed has a good heart and is trying to save Will. With the final plan in place, it is now a do-or-die effort to defeat Barbossa and his crew.
  30. Elizabeth Saves the Crew
    • Elizabeth leaves her quarters and rescues the crew from the Black Pearl.
      • Elizabeth leaves her father as he preaches to her about her duties. This represents her officially leaving his dutiful side and trying to save Will herself, symbolically leaving her old life behind. She is no longer scared of the ghost pirates, throwing Jack the monkey overboard, showing her inner growth over the course of the story. She frees the crew and proves her worth as she has grown over the course of the film.
      • Pirate Crew Act Three Climax: The crew get the ship they’ve desired and leave Jack behind.
  31. Jack, Elizabeth and Will End the Curse and the Battle
    • Jack shoots Barbossa as Will drops the last coin in the treasure with his blood. Barbossa dies and the battle ends.
      • Barbossa’s journey ends in defeat. His only desire, to feel something, dies with him as he drops the apple he was going to eat. The script created a sympathetic villain with his character. He was relatable in his desire to feel simple pleasures and in how he was a man of honor. It adds greater depth to the story rather than him being a write-off villain.
      • Barbossa Act Three Climax: Barbossa dies short of his goal.
  32. Aftermath of the Battle
    • Even though the heroes seemingly have won, they have to now deal with the consequences of returning to the real world. They leave the world of piracy and freedom and return to society where Elizabeth must marry Norrington, Jack must be hanged and Will is a lowly blacksmith.
      • The experiences the characters have gone through have changed them to alter their destinies. Even though they are seemingly back to where they were before Barbossa’s arrival, their bonds give them the courage to change their futures.
  33. Will Saves Jack at the Gallos
    • Will tells Elizabeth he loves her before rushing off to save Jack at the gallows.
      • At the beginning of the story, Will was terrified of letting Elizabeth know his feeling towards her. She was part of the upper class of society and he was intimated by the disparity between them. He was fearful of presenting his feelings because he was unaware of his place in the world, between losing his mother and not knowing his father and feeling conflicted about his identity. Over the course of the story, he has learned of his father’s history and accepted his pirate ancestry. This acceptance gives him the courage to seek out what he has always wanted (Elizabeth) and to save Jack, a mentor of sorts who has taught him of acceptance.
      • Will Act Three Climax: Will professes his love to Elizabeth while standing up to law and order, accepting his place in the world, and completing his quest.
  34. Elizabeth Chooses Will
    • Will’s break out of Jack fails and it seems like both he and Jack will fall to Norrington until Elizabeth lets her feelings be known about Will. Norrington relents in his quest for Elizabeth and Jack escapes.
      • Elizabeth, gaining strength of her own over the course of the story, faces her decision: stay in the world of propriety or go with her heart. Having gained courage over the course of the story by fighting Barbossa and seeing the love Will has for her, she chooses to love Will and therefore completes her journey from frightened princess to independent lover.
      • Norrington’s journey ends here as well. When presented with Elizabeth’s choice of Will over him, he must then decide his own destiny: arrest Jack and Will and hurt Elizabeth beyond repair or let the criminals go free and compromise his ethics. Having seen how Will and Jack saved Elizabeth by going outside the law, he chooses to let Jack escape and to let Will love Elizabeth. His internal battle between morality and duty concludes with him turning a blind eye this one time.
      • Elizabeth Act Three Climax: Elizabeth, having proven her ability to stand up for herself across the length of the story, finally chooses the direction for the rest of her life.
      • Norrington Act Three Climax: Norrington chooses to bend his conscience for the greater good after being presented with pirates who are not evil.
  35. Jack Escapes to the Black Pearl
    • Jack’s crew returns to rescue Jack who sails off towards the horizon.
      • The final scene of the film gives Jack what he has long-sought: the Black Pearl. It is the loyalty of the crew that delivers him his goal and his journey is complete with them.
      • Jack Act Three Climax: Jack gets the Black Pearl back.
      • Pirate Crew Act Four Climax: The crew break their code and help Jack.

Conclusion:

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is an exciting film that features some great performances, builds some solid characters and is a cut above the normal blockbuster fare. However, there are a few script changes that could have produced a stronger story.

The protagonist of Will is a little boring in comparison to the much more charismatic Jack and Barbossa and his internal struggle is pretty pedantic. His repulsion of his pirate heritage needed to be more explored in the film’s opening. Showing Barbossa and his crew and their evilness in the film’s beginning would scar Will and Elizabeth for life. Elizabeth would feel much more compelled to take Will’s medallion to keep him safe. Will would face a much stronger moral conundrum about breaking Jack out of prison and the audience would question Jack’s morals more throughout the course of the film.

Will’s storyline also needs him to be more active at the film’s conclusion. It is Elizabeth’s and Jack’s decisions that determine the outcome of the story. It should be Will’s plan, him being the protagonist, that saves the day and his ingenuity would prove his inner pirate nature, having learned from Jack, and confirm that being a pirate is not necessarily evil. And we are then missing that scene where Will decides to accept himself in between the end of the battle and his attempt to save Jack.

It would go something like this: Will watches Jack led away in shackles back to the prison at Port Royal. He sees Elizabeth courted away by Norrington. He is conflicted as he returns to the blacksmith shop and looks over the old place he calls home, a place he doesn’t feel he belongs in anymore. He wrestles with what to do and decides to send a message to Gibbs and hatches an escape plan. He accepts his piracy by donning his new outfit and goes to save Jack on the day of his hanging. This would firmly show Will’s change from lowly blacksmith to freewheeling pirate.

In addition, Elizabeth is often relegated to the sidelines and feels a bit underwritten. She joins in the action and shows some bravura, but her character is rather flat, and she is more representative of “feminine hero” rather than a fully fleshed out character.

The true stars of the film are Barbossa and Jack. They are engaging, iconic and serve as the true spirit of the film against the rather bland Will and Elizabeth. Their originality makes “Pirates” a memorable film.

In conclusion, “Pirates” is an above-average film that stands remembered for a few of its characters, well-managed action scenes and strong visuals.

Live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ a cashgrab snore

Disney continues its run of uninspired, derivative live-action adaptations with “Beauty and the Beast.” Directed by Bill Condon, the film follows Belle (Emma Watson) as she meets the Beast (Dan Stevens) who… well, you know the plot.

The film feels more like an excuse to photograph lavish set design as its story is exactly the same as the animated film. Right down to the jokes pretty much, there is nothing new in this film, and the end result is that the movie is boring. You know what’s going to happen exactly as it happens. So while it’s pretty to look at, that’s no excuse for good story.

The cast is fine for the most part. Luke Evans is adequate as Gaston in a role that is far too villainous for its own good. Emma Watson does an okay job with Belle, but Dan Stevens as the Beast, in all his CGI monstrosity, is distracting. All the digital effects substitute realism for design and the result is a disconnect with whatever story we have. Special effects are supposed to blend in with the story, not be a central focal point.

In conclusion, the film is less a film than a mass marketing enterprise. It sells nostalgia instead of ingenuity. It sells it well though. The film has grossed half a billion dollars in the United States. Instead of nothing ventured, nothing gained, Disney has finally achieved nothing ventured, millions gained.

 

‘Captain America: Civil War’ a strong entry in MCU

It seems as though a new superhero movie is coming out every few weeks. Most of them pass by and out of memory just as quickly as they came, but there are a few superhero films that stand above the rest, that peak more interest than the normal reboot/sequel, and fans had circled “Civil War” on their calendar ever since it was announced.

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the film features Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) struggling to keep the Avengers together as the government cracks down on their exploits as civilian casualties pile up. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is in favor of registering with the United Nations and the proposed Sokovia accord, but Steve is not sure. When his friend Bucky/the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is implicated in a terrorist plot, the Avengers fracture between those siding with Captain America and maintaining their independence and those siding with Iron Man and starting public accountability.

Some of the action scenes are a bit nauseating as shaky cam takes over in place of actual dynamic action, but the set piece between the two rival teams of superheroes is one of the greatest in any superhero film; fun, interesting, action-packed and dramatic.

Marvel has always had a problem with maintaining dramatic stakes in its films. They are not going to kill off Iron Man or Captain America (they are worth billions of dollars) so how do you keep a movie engaging when there is literally no chance of your heroes biting the bullet? “Civil War” solves this issue by focusing on the relationship between Captain America and Iron Man. The characters may not die, but the relationship between them may come apart and the audience is kept interested by focusing on how Steve Rogers and Tony Stark develop as friends, turn enemies and how they will ultimately end.

Captain America is not a complex character. It is difficult to give him an internal dilemma and once he makes his decision in “Civil War”, there is not a lot going on internally. This is a detriment, but not a fatal one for the film. His actions serve as a counterpoint and seeing how far he is willing to go to maintain his friendship with Bucky and his independence is engaging enough.

And no MCU film has quite gone to the lengths of digging deep into the character’s soul a la Batman in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy. Doubtless this is to keep the audience as wide as possible, but there are moments for “Civil War” to go a bit deeper, especially with Iron Man in particular. With Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow) out of his life, guilt plaguing him and his best friend leading a resistance against him, the film suggests the depths of his sorrow, but could go even deeper, perhaps hinting at his alcoholism as it does in the comics. It is a wasted opportunity to build some escalating themes into his character.

For those who enjoy the MCU films, “Captain America: Civil War” will be an enjoyable experience, one of the best of entries alongside “Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But for those who have issues with the previous MCU films, those issues (lack of deep character revelations, franchise-building, cluttering narratives, uninteresting villains- though that is better in this film) will find more to complain about to some degree.

But kudos to the studio for making “Civil War” more than just another superhero film. There’s heart, fun and dynamism here.

‘Zootopia’ a deeper Disney flick

The theme of just about every Disney movie is “follow your dreams.” It’s sweet, timeless and, by now, pretty boring. So it is great that with “Zootopia”, the filmmakers haven’t abandoned that concept but added a much-needed dose of reality and racial diversity into the equation.

“Zootopia” tells the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a young bunny who dreams of being a police officer in the sprawling city of Zootopia, a place where predator and prey live together in peace. There has never been a bunny cop before, and she faces all sorts of prejudice for being perceived as less than bigger animals. As she tries to prove herself, she meets a sly fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con artist she enlists to help her get to the bottom of a case of disappearing predator animals.

The story takes a film noir approach (with a child-appropriate tone) towards the investigation and examines some poignant race-relation issues in the world today. The discrimination of predator to prey and prey to predator imbues the story with a deeper level of meaning than that of a standard Disney film. The characters must work through their own prejudices of the world to gain true understanding.

Real time and energy went into making the film not only fun and entertaining, but also different and deeper. It’s great to see an animated film, especially from Disney, tackle some prominent modern-day issues.

“Zootopia” is one of the better films of the modern Disney era. It is fun, insightful, heartfelt and memorable.