“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” is boring filler

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) tells the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the girl on fire, who has been thrown into the middle of a civil war, reluctantly becoming a symbol of hope for the rebels against the Capitol, who have taken her friend/potential lover Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Forced to present video commentary on the escalating war, Katniss must deal with her need to be a symbol of hope and her conflicting desire to save Peeta, who becomes a similar symbol of resistance for the Capitol.

After an incredibly ponderous first act (needed to stretch one film into two, as is often the case to pad pockets with franchises nowadays), the film picks up somewhat, but holds back for the final film. The viewer is always kept at a distance from the juiciest part of the story: what it is like living in war-torn districts split between loyalists and freedom fighters. Knowing that there is a conflict out in the world, but barely ever able to see it (even if that is how it is in the books) makes the film feel less emotionally engaging. Withholding conflict may have been an attempt at a friendlier rating as well, but even hints of action could have sufficed.

Katniss is often not a driving force in the narrative, the events of the plot usually happening around her and without her involvement. This again makes the drama much less engaging without an emotional stake in our protagonist. Contradicting the source material, Katniss should be deep in the conflict, fighting (shown briefly in the film, but needing to be much longer) against government troops (perhaps defending her sister or mother), trying to figure out what she can do to save Peeta and putting her life on the line against the wishes of the rebel leadership. Keeping her on the sidelines while all the action takes place independent of her makes the film slog along. Even the conclusion, a rescue operation, features Katniss in the safety of the compound watching the raid take place, a perfect moment for her to sneak away and try to save Peeta on her own. Prose is a very different medium than film and changing from one form to another, while risky with a massively popular franchise, is necessary more often than not.

“The Hunger Games” films have always been commentaries on our cultures, our views of entertainment and celebrities and revolutions. While the film alludes to the modern uprisings in the world today, it could have gone so much deeper into relevant social issues. There is a sequence where a group of rebels sacrifice themselves to deliver bombs to a water dam, destroying the Capitol’s water and electricity. It is a thrilling sequence, one of the few in the film, and brings to mind the protesters in Egypt and Iran and Tienanmen Square. More sequences such as this one, showing sacrifice, desperation and the oppressive will of a cruel regime would have really added spice to the story and given even more self-reflection for our current times. Instead, we are left with more shots of Katniss wondering what to do and hunting in the woods.

It is also disconcerting to see what the filmmakers have done with Katniss’ character. In the first two films, she is very strong, volunteering to take her sister’s place in the games, mournfully burying Rue but keeping herself together, arm twisting Haymitch into agreeing to go into the games for Peeta if it comes to it. Here, she is left on the sidelines, an emotional wreck, wondering what is happening to her “boyfriend” while flirting with another man, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Wondering if she has lost both Gale and Peeta, she breaks down crying and has to be comforted by Haymitch. As she sobs in a man’s arms, the strong heroine the audience is accustomed to withers a bit, replaced by a depressed woman who suffers from nightmares, crying, sitting on the sidelines while men carry out the action. The filmmakers seem to have lost their grasp on what made Katniss so important in action films today.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is not a bad film, but an incomplete one, just hitting the necessary beats of the story without much flair or excitement. This entry is more of a snoozefest than an action winner.

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“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.

‘The Birth of a Nation’ misses the mark

For me, it was impossible to view “The Birth of a Nation” without the bias of Nate Parker’s past. In college, Parker was accused of raping an intoxicated student (along with fellow student Jean McGianni Celestin). Parker was acquitted of the crime, and the victim committed suicide. The negative publicity followed Parker throughout the press release of his first directorial film.

I tried to view the finished film without that knowledge in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t. Perhaps that has influenced my overall interpretation of the film. Perhaps someday I’ll try to revisit it with a fresh perspective. But for now, looking solely at the movie and it’s quality by itself, it seems to be rather clunky.

Nat Turner (Nate Parker) is a slave in the south who learns how to read and becomes a preacher. He orchestrates a slave uprising, killing slave-holding families until his band is captured and hanged.

Taking the title directly from D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation”, the film is a slap in the face to the racism inherent in that story. The action scenes are handled well and the buildup utilizes film composition, cinematography and sound to great extent.

The problem comes with Nat Turner’s characterization itself. Not to excuse the behavior of the slave holders, but when Turner begins killing them, it doesn’t feel heroic or like justice; it feels like murder, and he revels in it. The film’s attempt for us to feel sympathetic with a murderous uprising falls flat, and we look at Turner as delusional rather than inspiring. Watching the trailer above, it feels like false marketing, almost an entirely different movie than the one ultimately shown.

Turner feels like he is using God as an excuse for murder (something all too similar in modern times) and his constant visions of angels and whatnot only contribute to the feeling that Turner is not a messiah, but a lunatic.

Perhaps the times we live in do not lend themselves to sympathy with Turner’s rebellion. In this era where violence of any kind is discouraged as counterproductive, asking for sympathy for a band of murderers (however justified their actions may be) feels empty. Black film has made leaps and bounds in recent years with critically acclaimed films such as “Selma”, “12 Years a Slave” and “Get Out.” But those films speak of compassion and love. “The Birth of a Nation” speaks to anger and seems out of place.

‘Whiplash’ a solid rumination on teacher-student dynamic

Anyone who has ever been in a band or orchestra has had ‘that conductor.’ The conductor who gets up in your face and screams. The teacher who berates and curses you. The perfectionist who pushes you to the brink of your sanity with the incessant demanding.

Whiplash is all about that teacher. His name is Fletcher, played by Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons, and his pupil, Andrew (Miles Teller), has no idea what he is up against. Andrew wants to be one of the greats, a jazz drummer. Accepted into a prestigious music conservatory, Fletcher finds him and recruits him to his own personal class. He then proceeds to break the boy down piece by piece.

“My tempo! My tempo!” he cries as the chairs go flying.

He slaps Andrew in the face, pushing him to play on and on until his drumming hands are coarse with blood. He gets into his head, screaming at him, calling his father a wash-out writer and his own future a joke.

And rather than quit and give up on the dream, Andrew pushes himself harder and harder, past the breaking point.

The film is a classic example of an unstoppable force versus an immovable object. Fletcher’s demands are so unreasonable that it is impossible to meet them, while Andrew’s determination to be the best can not be matched. Who will win? The viewer ends up asking themselves if both characters are simply crazy, but at the same point in time, is that craziness good or bad?

Fletcher relates a story repeatedly throughout the film of Charlie Parker and how his drummer, Jo Jones, once threw a cymbal at his head after he screwed up during a piece. Terrified, Parker would practice for hours on end until he became one of the all-time greats. Do we condemn Jones, and in essence Fletcher, therefore for being excessively harsh, or is that simply the way that you create great art?

The film wrestles with this question as Andrew’s family begs him to stop for his own well-being while he pushes himself past the limits most of us would dare go. Fletcher tells him he is sick and tired of the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality, and that the worst words in the English language are “good job.”

Would Parker have become one of the greats if he wasn’t pushed past his limits? Is greatness something that can be squeezed out of someone, something they couldn’t find without that temperament?

J.K. Simmons is fantastic in the career-defining role of Fletcher, and Teller similarly deserves kudos for matching the intensity of Simmons. The film focuses nearly exclusively on them, and we are placed right in the crux of the action. The editing, sound and cinematography are all top notch and really add to the battlefield-like atmosphere the film presents, a tribute to writer-director Damien Chazalle’s vision (he had previously made a short film of the story to build up funding for a feature).

The film falls into unbelievability in several instances though, such as when Andrew gets into a car accident and keeps going. It keeps things from being taken too seriously by going to the extreme and diminishes some of the film’s power.

Rather than just being a story about teacher and pupil, this is a film about the ethics of teaching and the duties of students, an examination of a “world gone soft” and a question of how one achieves greatness. It gives us so much more than most films ever try to achieve.

‘The Imitation Game’ a fine yet standard Oscar-bait film

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, a mathematician recruited by the British army in an attempt to decode the “Enigma” Nazi code used against the Allies during World War II. Assisting him are a rag tag group of codebreakers and Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), his mental companion. As the casualties mount and the war gets worse, the pressure on Turing magnifies, and a secret he has kept for years threatens to destroy him.

Benedict Cumberbatch is great in the role of Turing, able to keep his quirks from being too offputting while hinting at a deep level of unease in his character.

The rest of the cast is solid as well. Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies provides welcome bits of comic relief as one of the closest spies to Winston Churchill and Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander is suave as one of Turing’s code breakers. Keira Knightley’s Joan is a bit of an enigma in herself. While the chemistry is strong between her and Cumberbatch, she serves no real purpose to the story other than as a foil to Turing. She also seems to be a character that was added solely for the purpose of having a woman in the cast and without more integrity to the plot, her storyline is a bit lacking.

The direction by Mortem Tyldum is rather padantic with standard shot-reverse shot editing and no real artistic flair in the direction. The screenplay similarly suffers as a by-the-book plot. The film also has trouble escaping the feel and look of a film that was intended to win Academy Awards. There is the crying scene, the call to arms we’re-going-to-save-the-country moment, the social commentary vibe and the historical movie-of-all-times aspect. It is remarkably similar at times to similar Oscar fodder films The King’s Speech (2010) and A Beautiful Mind (2001). Focusing on awards is never a strong way to tell a story and the film suffers at times for trying to be “that” film. When it focuses on just telling the story, and the story is quite interesting indeed, the film succeeds.

The Imitation Game is nothing you haven’t seen before, but it contains everything you want in a film. There’s some action, some drama, some laughs, a deep lesson and an interesting historical story that you won’t forget.

‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’ a lot of fun

All Mission Impossible films are pretty much the same. They’re action and suspense spy films, pitting super agents against nefarious sects that attempt to wreak chaos. There are cool gadgets and elaborate heists and international intrigue and double cross after double cross. Tom Cruise has played the role of Ethan Hunt in five films now spanning the past nineteen years, and it fits him like a glove. So going in, you know what you’re going to get out of a film like this. And Rogue Nation follows the formula very well. That is both to its betterment and detriment.

Rogue Nation features a splinter sect of former spies known as the Syndicate that has secretly been financing acts of terror around the globe. The only agent who believes that they exist is Ethan Hunt, joined by his friend, Benji (Simon Pegg), but with the CIA shutting down their IMF operation, they’re forced to go rogue to take down the Syndicate before it incites a world war.

Boasting clever action sequences and bustling along at a thrill per minute pace, the film knows its audience and knows how to keep them engaged. Fittingly, the role of Benji is used to guide our empathy. Through him, we feel the film as Hunt is kept emotionally distant, and Benji is a conduit for us to see his thinking.

However, there is nothing new in the film. It is painfully full of the same spy tropes, from the one-dimensional villain who wants to change the world to the action scenes (as well made as they are) to the objectifying of the female spy, Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), to the double crosses that are pretty predictable. It’s a shame that as well made as the film is, it’s creativity is sorely lacking.

One of the pleasures of the new James Bond films starring Daniel Craig is the emotional journey they have given to Bond. His spy missions take a toll on him. Hunt still seems to be some kind of super human who goes on mission after mission with no personal stake other than national security, and he dusts himself off and gets ready for the next one. So the impossible missions are thrilling, yes, comfortable in their own skin, but they lack depth that brings true emotional engagement.

‘Alien: Covenant’ a rather forgettable film

Say what you will about “Prometheus” (and there’s a lot that can be said), but it at least tried to be something different. “Alien: Covenant” on the other hand is trying to balance the headiness of director Ridley Scott’s Biblical allegory with the blockbuster need for gore and old-fashioned scares. It is not a smooth melding.

“Alien: Covenant” starts with the crew of the spaceship Covenant dealing with a technical failure and losing its captain. The remaining crew, led by Oram (Billy Crudup) and Daniels (Katherine Waterston), investigate a nearby planet to see if it is sustainable for a human colony. They meet David (Michael Fassbender), an android left over from the previous Prometheus mission, who is identical to Covenant’s own android, Walter. Things grow dire as the situation surrounding David reveals itself.

The film is nearly a direct copy of every Alien film up to this point: people wake up from hypersleep, discover an alien world, investigate it, discover an alien creature that picks them off one by one until the lone female with short hair uses her ingenuity (and an air lock) to vanquish it. This being the fifth film in the Alien franchise, the stories feel incredibly stale. Audiences need something truly original to care about.

Perhaps the xenomorphs are released on the creator’s homeworld and they need to band together with the humans they tried to exterminate to stop them. Or we witness the creation of the Queen Alien and have a film based off her. Or we focus on a world where the xenomorphs have totally taken control and a small rebellion must discover a way to take the planet back.

Or we continue to focus on the idea of creation and the robots who become obsessed about it. The best parts of “Alien: Covenant” are the conversations between David and Walter, two androids discussing their purpose and the human condition. David’s experiments are a great basis for an entire film and his narrative could carry the whole story. Instead, we have more space explorers, a forgettable cast whose sole purpose is to die and the same old story we’ve seen again and again.

“Prometheus” was a mess of a film that nevertheless introduced some interesting ideas and dynamics to the horror-sci-fi genre. It’s sequel plays it a little too safe while at the same time trying to have it both ways and the result is a rather unmemorable film. There are some good elements, but the whole is underwhelming.

 

Understanding films from all angles