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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: 4 3D P No

Rob Marshall has a big fan club amongst actors.  I know that Penelope Cruz and Geoffrey Rush, in particular, gush about the man.  And Johnny Depp has signaled that he wants to work with Marshall again soon.


It seems to me that Marshall thrills actors by asking them to push themselves into fresh water.  The perfect example of this – and Marshall’s directorial level – is Rush’s Barbosa in Pirates 4.  He starts the film as a fop and ends the film a hard core pirate.  (Is that a spoiler? Only if you haven’t sent he first three films.)

As a “B” story, this should have been comic gold throughout the film.  Every time we see him, the evolution should be one step clearer, so that the audience can anticipate and enjoy every entrance of that character. And most of all, the big ending, when we should be thrilled that our old evil pal, Barbosa, is back!

I saw the work Rush was doing.  But Marshall seemed to have no idea of how to sew this into the film.  Really, even in Rush’s first scene, the contrast of the blonde bearded privateer isn’t funny enough because we have already been soaking in Richard Griffiths’ fabulous foppery.  And these are the choices a director makes.  Griffiths kills. He is a theater hero.  So Marshall probably got excited and prioritized giving him more than a tiny cameo.  But he allows Griffiths to distract from Rush, who is a star of the film.

Typical Rob Marshall.

He has great taste and no story sense whatsoever.

I can’t say that I know how the screenwriters and Gore Verbinski and Jerry B worked together, but for me, it comes down to the director, who is also there in post.  You have to kill your darlings and make your movie, not your favorite moment that breaks the film’s rhythm.

It’s no surprise that Marshall can’t shoot action.  He shoots his best dance numbers like his actors are dancing is an 8’x8′ box.  Forget about Gore Verbinski’s giant visual imagination. Even intimate sword fights barely play here… which leaves nothing much to remember visually, aside from the form fitting mermaid tails and how they cover the models’ girl bits.  

Marshall isn’t the only problem here.  The usually reliable writing crew through out most of the repeating gags of the series and didn’t replace them with much.  

The most promising idea was that Sparrow deflowered Blackbeard’s daughter, played by P-Cruz.  The idea of real fatherly angst over his girl and “the wrong kind of pirate” seems like great fodder set at the middle of an action film.  But it doesn’t go there.  It doesn’t go to any real sexual chemistry between these two.  Couldn’t we even get the schtick of one of them still being in love and the other still being angry… Hepburn & Tracey/Grant/Bogart stuff… SOMETHING!!!  But it never seems to be confident about going hard in any direction.

Love Ian McShane, but he’s completely wasted here.  

There’s lots of green.  And the actors glow.  But the film sucks.  It just doesn’t have the magic of the first trio… not characters… not visuals… 

And the mermaids… have fangs.  Come On!!!  This is the cutting edge?  Hot chicks with fangs and tails?  And without any real story… they are there as a tool for the rest of the characters… how could they matter?

Of course, some critics have gone too far overboard and seem to be in the Nasty Critics Olympics.  Uncool.  

But this is junk that will only excite the least demanding audiences… and kids too young to follow storyline anyway.  Still, I expect that the marketing team at Disney will open the hell out of this thing.

Pirates 5, anyone?  Captain Jack gets married and has a kid HAS to be the next iteration. Pirates of the Crappy Diapers.  Give the character something to do aside from running to camera, widening his eyes, and turning right or left.  Give Jack something to lose (which he seemed to have in the previous films in Knightley’s character).  Give us something that allows us to love this franchise again.  Please.

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15 Responses to “Review: 4 3D P No”

  1. bulldog68 says:

    So from this review, it isn’t even a Shrek4, which was at least moderately better received than Shrek3. I’ll still see it anyway, but I get a feeling that I’ll agree with you. Oh well, that’s summer for you.

  2. NickF says:

    Aren’t there aupposed to be zombies in this, or is their inclusuion not even worth mentioning?

  3. LexG says:

    God that mermaid chick looks hot.

    I don’t even know who that is, but LOOK. AT. HER.

  4. torpid bunny says:

    Let it sit 4-5 years then do a reboot with Jack Sparrow’s origin story.

  5. movieman says:

    But this is junk that will only excite the least demanding audiences… and kids too young to follow storyline anyway.

    This is news, Dave?
    Sounds like typical machine-tooled Hollywood blockbuster-flotsam to me.

  6. lazarus says:

    “It just doesn’t have the magic of the first trio”

    All three? Really?

  7. Krillian says:

    Tried to see Bridesmaids last night but it was sold out. Wife & I settled for dinner and HBO instead.

    There was some good stuff in Pirates 3; it’s just easy to forget because it was buried by the excess and boring parts.

  8. AH says:

    Creatively, this series has totally gone off the rails. Financially, however, its the piggy bank that never runs out of money.

  9. christian says:

    To paraphrase Paule Kael reviewing PAINT YOUR WAGON and big 60’s musicals, these movies are about accounting solutions.

  10. indiemarketer says:

    Guess you overstated the marketing team, unless you were referring to their international marketing which actually opened the picture to expectations or better. Domestic soft. Lucky to get to $90M. No doubt a challenge when you are on #4 of a franchise. On to Cars 2.

  11. hcat says:

    I raised this question when Tron came out, does live action Disney ever really work for anyone? The first pirates was fun and breezy and its a hoot watching Depp in all of them and overall they are a good time but I find it impossible to get excited over a live-action Disney film since they all have that neutered nerfy feel to them. I realize they are designed to be this way and by their very nature will not put out anything to rough but even since they have ventured into the PG13 region their films still feel the same and have never approached the levels of Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings.

    I look down the list of Disney titles and as far as live action goes, I don’t think they’ve topped The Rocketeer yet. And while I enjoy it a lot it wasn’t one for the ages. Perhaps their purchase of Marvel will change this and they will get a few great action pics under their belt, but I am more worried that Marvel will become Disneyfied as opposed to the other way around.

  12. Proman says:

    Poland, throw Marshall a bone there, please. The man has never done anything like this film ever in his career and he was thrown into a franchise that already was growing with every installment.

    This is not the easiest spot to be at by any filmmaker, especially if his film is the one with a weaker story.

    Admiteddly, I haven’t seen the film yet but it seems that everyone’s just ragging on the guy.

  13. That’s the problem Promon. Rob Marhsall is constantly being hailed as some kind of genius when he’s clearly frankly a mediocre-at best director. Chicago was a lucky (overrated) fluke while Memoirs of a Geisha and Nine were terrible (at least Geisha broke even box office wise, but Nine lost a fortune). Yet Disney and all of the media pundits trumpeted Marshall as this grand improvement over Verbinski. He wasn’t that musical guy who was dipping his toe in the action film genre, he was just the man who would right the ship and deliver a solid streamlined Pirates adventure. But he didn’t. Part 4 feels twice as long as it is and is twice as fatty as At World’s End. Marshall keeps making one terrible film after another, yet he keeps getting major gigs. On Stranger Tides is a terrible movie in nearly every way, and Marshall deserves no parlay.

  14. Bitplayer says:

    Nine not making any money wasn’t marshall’s fault. they all read the script, the movie shouldn’t have been made. Anybody other than NYC theater aficionados wasn’t going to give a shit about Nine. First Pirates was great, been diminishing returns since.

  15. Sam says:

    Rob Marshall has never directed a film well. I loved Chicago, but the hyperactive editing ruined a number of the dance sequences. Memoirs was fine in the moment but faded fast in my memory afterward — it should have had a stronger emotional impact, but the emotion and the filmmaking were never in sync.

    And Nine should have been a GREAT movie. 8 1/2 is practically a musical anyway, except for the niggling detail that there isn’t any, you know, music. But the circus sequence, where Guido tries to tame all the women in his life is the closest thing to a Gene Kelly jazz ballet number since…well, Gene Kelly.

    I agree with Bitplayer insofar as Nine’s problems extended beyond the directing to the script itself, but I don’t see that as any reason to let Marshall off the hook for it.

    If a movie goes wrong, the director is normally mostly to blame. Still, if Marshall had ever done great work before, I’d be more inclined to let him off the hook now, given the difficult job in a new genre. But he hasn’t, and that makes him the most obvious weak link.

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