Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Let’s talk about pirates. Specifically the fourth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, with the nifty name Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Now, I won’t bother to sum up the story, partly because I’m assuming you’ve seen it, and partly because frankly, it’s not very interesting or very relevant to the issues I have with the movie.

Besides, you’re not here to read a review of the movie!

You’re here to watch me nitpick and rant about details in a movie.

Let’s begin.

My main issues with this movie can be summed up with one word.

Blackbeard.

Now, my issue with him in this movie is twofold. Firstly, he’s in the movie.

See, it’s one thing to have Jack Sparrow, with Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, fighting the treacherous Captain Barbossa, the cruel Davy Jones or the cold and calculating Cutler Beckett, with supernatural treasures, mighty maelstroms and impossible legends.

You know why that is fine?

Because that’s FICTION. Make-believe. Not real.

However, Blackbeard WASN’T fictional. He was a real, historical person. He actually existed!

Here’s a short history lesson. This movie is set in 1750. That is 32 years after Blackbeard was KILLED by Lieutenant Robert Maynard. Not only was he killed, but he had been shot five times and cut over twenty times, his corpse was decapitated, with his body thrown in the sea and his head was tied to the Bowsprit of Maynards ship! In other words, Blackbeard got the everlasting shit killed out of him! And yet here he is, looking very spry for someone who suffered from a normally permanent case of being overkilled to death.

Yes, I’m being more nitpicky and unfair than usual, I know, but it just bugs me when people rewrite history like that!

But hey, this is a fantasy movie, and Blackbeard would probably be happy that his name still holds weight after almost three centuries.

So fair enough.

But that brings me onto my second problem with the character, and I think you’ll find this to be more reasonable an issue.

Before I get into the issue proper, let me ask some questions.

Have you seen the previous movies in the series?

If so, can you give me one of Barbossas lines from those movies? How about Jack Sparrow? Davy Jones?

My guess is that you can.

Now, can you remember a single line Blackbeard said?

My guess is that none really pop out to you in the same way that lines like “Do ye fear death?” do.

In fact, I’m fairly certain of that, seeing as I watched the movie not long ago, and I can’t think of any off the top of my head. And no offence, but I pride myself on my good memory when it comes to quotes and trivia. If I’M having trouble remembering lines from a movie from a couple of weeks ago, what hope does Joe Q. Public have, that saw it in theaters upon release?

Let me sum it up by saying that I can’t remember Blackbeards lines.

I will repeat that, if you don’t see the problem with that sentence.

I can’t remember Blackbeards lines.

On that note, answer me this.

Do you know who Samuel Bellamy was?

Samuel Bellamy, AKA Black Sam, was the most financially successful pirate during the third golden age of piracy, earning himself (according to Forbes) an estimated $120 million by the time of his death in 1717.

Do you think the average guy on the street knows who Hayreddin Barbarossa is? The ottoman pirate who RAN HIS OWN NATION and defended it against the combined forces of Venice, Malta, the Vatican, Spain, Genoa and Portugal?

Or how about Ching Shih, the Chinese Pirate Queen, one of the most powerful pirates in human history, commanding a fleet of over 300 ships and an army of about 30.000 pirates?

Be honest now. Were those names all familiar to you before you started reading this?

I’m going to guess not.

In fact, if not for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I’m guessing most of us probably wouldn’t know who Bartholomew Roberts, Charles Vane or Benjamin Hornigold were.

However, go up to anyone on the street, and ask them what Edward Teach did, and they’ll tell you within moments that he was the pirate known as “Blackbeard”.

Do you know why that is?

It’s not because these people are ignorant. My point isn’t to judge you if you’ve never heard of Ching Shih before.

My point is, there is a reason we remember Blackbeard.

That reason being, he made it his mission in life to make sure he was remembered. We’re talking about a man who would put lit fuses in his hat and beard to make himself appear more threatening, a man who would arrange endurance trials below deck in what was essentially a brimstone sauna.

We’re talking about a man who, while not as successful as Black Sam, not as influential as Ching Shih, not as powerful as Barbarossa, still is remembered more than any of them after almost three centuries.

And now, he features in a big budget fantasy pirate movie in the same universe as cursed aztec gold, voodoo priestesses and giant killer beasts from legend.

And I can’t remember a single line he said.

See the problem yet?

I don’t know if the blame should be put on director Rob Marshall or the actor Ian McShane. But someone looked at the character of Blackbeard and decided “Let’s go with a subdued performance”.

Let me put this as succinctly and eloquent as possible…

BLACKBEARD WASN’T SUBTLE!

I like Ian Mcshane as an actor, don’t get me wrong. But he was not the right man for this role.

So who could we get instead? Well, Blackbeard was born sometime in the 1680’s. That means he’d be about 70 or at least his late 60’s. So we would need a man in his 70’s, someone who is big and bombastic, someone perhaps known for being over the top and larger than life?

But where could we get an actor like that…?

Oh, that’s right, BRIAN BLESSED!

Not only would that have worked, but it would’ve been a casting decision made in heaven!

I don’t know if they approached him for the role, but the fact that he did not play the role of Blackbeard is truly a loss for the world of cinema.

Anyway, let’s finish out with something more simple.

That something being that this was a completely pointless movie.

I mean, by the end of the movie, they’ve captured the Black Pearl, but it’s still stuck a literal ship in a bottle, meaning they still don’t have their ship, the Fountain of Youth has been destroyed, Blackbeard is dead (again), Angelica hates Jack (which she did already) and Barbossa is a pirate (again).

What was accomplished by this movie, apart from Barbossa getting a different ship?

NOTHING!

I will admit, right now, At Worlds End wasn’t the greatest movie ever made. But it felt big, it had a huge fight scene with two ships caught in a massive maelstrom, and closed the book for Will Turner and Elizabeth Swanns story.

While it wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, it was a good, high note to end on.

But then, this movie came along, being less impressive.

And the worst part, they intentionally scaled it down!

This just blows my mind! It’s one thing if you tried to go bigger but failed, but why the hell would you intentionally make a movie that is less impressive than the one before it?! If you can’t go bigger, THAT IS WHEN YOU STOP! That’s called Quitting While You’re Ahead!

Well, I’m going to go play Assassin’s Creed IV. At least there, the pirate shenanigans don’t end up making me annoyed and it has a good portrayal of Blackbeard

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WTFAW: Aladdin

Anyone who has read my last post, where I wrote about the 1992 Disney movie Aladdin, will be fairly unsurprised about this post.

Then again, even if you haven’t, you’re probably not all that surprised I’m writing about Aladdin fan theories anyway. After all, they are not only very stupid, but also, inexplicably, very popular.

So, Dave, what spawn of madness have you got for me today?

Dave: I have a couple of theories. Firstly that the Genie and the Merchant in the opening are the same person. This explains their likeness.

Actually, that’s not a theory. That was a proposed alternate ending, with the merchant turning into the Genie, but they went with the other ending. But they had Robin Williams ad lib most of the descriptions of the merchants goods, so it seemed a shame to waste it.

Dave: Oh, ok….Then how about this: The merchant is just making this story up to sell a lamp!

Right… stupid question, but how would a random merchant in an ancient middle eastern city know who Groucho Marx and Roger Dangerfield were? I mean, he would have to know who they were, if he’s making references to them.

Dave: Maybe he’s just incredibly lucky about his guesses….

Please don’t tell me I have to explain why that sentence is stupid…

Dave: Ok, fine! let’s get to the main event. This is probably the most popular theory there is about any disney movie!

Oh, joy…

Dave: In the movie, when the Genie makes Aladdin a prince, he says that Aladdins clothes are “much too third century”, right?

Yes…?

Dave: But when released from the lamp, he claims he has been locked inside for 10.000 years. That means that he can’t be aware of fashion trends during that time.

Uh-huh.

Dave: So how is that possible, unless Aladdin actually lives in the future? Specifically, a post apocalyptic future, presumably after 10300 AD. At some point, some huge cataclysm occurred, turning the world into a blasted wasteland, with the middle east being the only civilized area left. “Agrabah” is actually a corrupted form of the word “Arabia”. This also explains why the Genie knows popular culture like Groucho Marx, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jack Nicholson!

OK, this is more like it! I got worried you’d gone sane for a moment… Silly question, but what about the magic we see in the movie?

Dave: Aha! I knew you’d ask that! I refer you to Clarkes Third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic! The “magic carpet” is actually a type of hover vehicle rather than a magic entity. And Iago is genetically mutated or engineered to understand human speech, rather than just mimicking it!

I see…

Well, let’s go over this, shall we?

Firstly, I do agree that it’s strange that the Genie would know of fashion trends of the third century…

Dave: You see!

Unless, of course, he is lying about being in the lamp for 10.000 years. After all, in the animated series, we meet his previous master at one point! Speaking of which, there was also the crossover Aladdin had with Hercules, and-

Dave: Woah, what are you doing?

I’m debunking the theory. I’m surprised you’re not familiar with the routine. After all, isn’t that usually how our conversations go?

Dave: That’s not what I mean! Don’t drag the animated series into this!

What? Why not?

Dave: It doesn’t count! The tv-show wasn’t written when the movie was made! It doesn’t count as canon!

Oh, of course. I forgot this theory was made just a week after the 1992 movie was made, wasn’t it… The only reason I’m not allowed to use the tv-show is because when you think about that, the entire theory falls apart, isn’t it?

What about the sequels? Can I use them?

Dave: This theory is about the movie! Leave the sequels and the TV-show out of it!

Fair enough. I’m feeling generous, so I’ll play along with that little stipulation. After all, we wouldn’t want to crush the theory too quickly, would we?

So let’s go over the whole “Clarkes Law” argument. What about the Genies magic? The magic he is using can be chalked up to being technology… up to a point. His changing in size and shape could be because he’s some holographic construct, I agree.

But then you have to look at what he actually DOES! He changes clothes, makes objects appear and disappear at will, he changes the shape and size of other creatures, like Abu, Jafar and Aladdin and goes on to bestow similar powers to Jafar.

Dave: Well, like I said! It’s just technology we don’t understand!

Yeah, maybe.

Maybe the genie being capable of doing things that are basically giving the fundamental laws of physics the middle finger is because of non-explained advanced technology….

OR it could have something to do with him being an ancient, magical entity sprung from islamic and pre-islamic folklore. See, there’s only so far you can point at Clarkes law before the argument becomes ridiculous. I mean, what about the Cave of Wonders, with it’s impossible dimensions and literal mountains of treasures? That’s more gold than there is on the planet! And sure, the carpet might be a type of hover vehicle… except it clearly shows it’s intelligent! Tell me, what is the point of a vehicle that can feel sorrow, fear, alarm and joy? I’ve never built a car, but somehow, having a car that can be insulted seems like a recipe for disaster!

And then, let’s talk some more about the Genie, shall we? Suppose the reason for the temporal issues and references to popular culture is because he doesn’t perceive time the same way we do? Perhaps his magic allows him to perceive time differently?

Or it could be because The Genie IS AWARE HE IS IN A MOVIE!

Dave: Wait, what?

Remember the ending? The movie ends with him lifting the screen away, looking straight at the viewer and saying “made you look!” before the credits roll. He knows he is in a movie, which is why he is familiar with popular culture. He does not perceive reality in the same way as Aladdin and the rest of the characters.

Dave: That seems a bit-

Oh, and remember the first line in the song “A Friend Like Me”?

Ali Baba had the forty thieves, Scheherazade had a thousand tales.

He is referencing the book “A Thousand and One Nights”….

The book where THE STORY OF ALADDIN AND THE MAGIC LAMP CAME FROM!

See, either he is aware that he is in a movie, or you’re suggesting this is just the worlds greatest coincidence, with a completely unrelated person named Aladdin finding a magic lamp.

Which one sounds more likely?

Dave: Oh, no you don’t! Don’t you go all meta on this theory!

Why? Because I’m right? But fine, by all means. I’ll disprove this theory without the sequels, the animated show OR by using meta-writing.

Are you paying attention? The idea is that the entire world has been wiped out in some disaster, right?

Dave: Yeah!

And only the middle east is still around, with Agrabah being the only major settlement?

Dave: Precisely!

Well then. Answer me this.

Where do the apples come from?

Dave: What?

Jasmine almost got her hand chopped off by an angry merchant for stealing an apple. Where did it come from, if there are no other major settlements, like farming communities? And for that matter, where do the princes come from, if there’s nothing except a blasted wasteland beyond the city? Remember, prince Achmed from the beginning of the movie is just the latest in a long line of suitors.

Dave: Well, Agrabah might not be the ONLY settlement… there could be others…

Oh, but you said the word Agrabah is a corrupted form of “Arabia”. It seems strange to me that “Agrabah” is just referring to one random city among many, instead of the whole country.

(Let’s ignore the fact that “Agrabah” is harder to both spell and pronounce than “Arabia”, making the whole “corruption” idea a bit unlikely)

Dave: Uhm…

But let’s say that there are in fact many settlements around, and Agrabah, with it’s incredibly huge palace, is only the biggest.

Dave: Aha! In that case, there’s still merit to the theory that the arabic world is the only one that survived the non-specific apocalypse!

Yeah… except that we see other civilizations too.

Dave: I told you! Don’t bring the sequels or the tv-show into this!

Oh, but I’m not! My arguments are only from the movie. See for yourself.

Aladdin1
An ancient Egyptian putting the finishing touches on the Great Sphinx

Greece, looking very lush and green.
Greece, looking very lush and green indeed.

The forbidden city in china, during a great celebration.
The Forbidden City in China, during a great celebration.
Isn’t that funny, seeing as all of these places are supposed to not only be much older than they appear to be in this movie, but also be ever so slightly COMPLETELY FUCKING WIPED OUT IN A NON-SPECIFIC HOLOCAUST!?

Dave: Oh.. uhm.. well, I guess the theory might be less than accurate….

Well, colour me surprised…

You know, as brain-numbingly stupid as this have been, I suppose I ought to thank you, Dave. With this post, I’ve hopefully redeemed myself a bit in the eyes of Disney-lovers for my nitpicking of Aladdin, while also managing to piss off fan-theorists…

And if that’s not the textbook definition of a happy ending, I don’t know what is.

Back to Main Page

Aladdin

Time once again to talk about disney movies!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can I go on and on about how much I love disney, and then I proceed to make another article, nitpicking classic disney movies, effectively smashing our collective childhoods with a sledgehammer?

Well, my answer is very simple.

It’s Disney.

And I don’t mean that as in “It’s Disney, so it’s fair game”. I mean that there is literally nothing I could possibly say or do to ruin those beloved childhood classics.

After all, Disney was here before me and will probably be around after I’m gone. After almost a century of entertaining people, do you seriously think I could affect the adoration people have for Disney with a nitpicky article?

If so, I appreciate your faith in my abilities, but I assure you, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at Aladdin.

Before I start in earnest, much like Beauty and the Beast, there is one issue with the movie I will not discuss here. I don’t know when exactly I will, but I can promise you it will come somewhere down the road.

So, what is there to talk about with this movie?

Well, let’s start off with something simple. Specifically, the opening song.

Most of you will certainly know that the lyrics for the song were changed. Now, I have a small issue with this change.

Of course, my issue is NOT the changing of the lyrics in and of itself. It’s not a matter of “This is an iconic part of my childhood! How dare they change it!

See, people got offended at the implication that if you go to the middle east, you will be mutilated for no good reason. I think you’ll agree that is a fairly legitimate justification to make alterations.

And if you’re going to scream about Political Correctness gone mad, just remember… Disney is not just a beloved entertainer of children. They’re also a corporation. I’m not an expert at marketing, but somehow, calling millions of people backwards savages in a multimillion dollar movie is not exactly a good way to make people like you. It’s not like the entire movie is now ruined because of one changed line. So no, I don’t blame them for changing the lyrics.

No, my issue is just that they did such a poor job at it.

I mean, let’s look at the two lines

The original

I come from a land, from a faraway place,
Where the caravan camels roam.
Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face
It’s barbaric but hey, it’s home.

And compare it to the newer version

I come from a land, from a faraway place,
Where the caravan camels roam.
Where it’s flat and immense, and the heat is intense.
It’s barbaric but hey, it’s home.

Do you see the problem? They ruined the rhyme scheme! Instead of an A-B-A-B structure, with Place and Face rhyming, we got A-B-CC-B!

I mean, these are paid song writers! You couldn’t change the lyrics in any other way?

Just go to any rhyming dictionary and look up words rhyming with “place”. It’s not exactly hard. Don’t believe me? Look at this.

I come from a land, from a faraway place,
Where the caravan camels roam.
Where the hot desert sand rips the skin from your face
It’s barbaric but hey, it’s home.

That literally took me two minutes to come up with. I admit, it’s not perfect, but at least the rhyme is still there!

But that’s just a small nitpick. Now, let’s get serious.

Let’s talk a little about Princess Jasmine. First of all, if her father is a Sultan, should she really be a “Princess”? I’m not an expert on the appropriate terms, but I think the closest term would be “shahzade”.

(If that is also the wrong term, I apologize.)

Of course, I’m just speaking in regards of internal logic. I completely understand that they refer to her as “Princess” for the sake of the narrative. Let’s face it, how many of you even knew the title Shahzade existed before you read it just now? If they referred to her as Shahzade Jasmine, every kid watching the movie would probably assume the title was her first name.

However, later she tells Jafar that the good thing about being married is that “when [she] is queen, she will have the power to get rid of [him]“.

Now, THERE, I have to object. To call her “Princess” for the sake of clarity is one thing, but she will NOT become Queen. She will become Sultana!

And yes, it’s actually Jasmine in line for the throne, and not Aladdin. All the marriage should mean is that she will be eligible to eventually take the throne. But why do that, when we can give the title to Aladdin? It’s a good thing that in Agrabah, concepts like “line of succesion” is just something that happens to other people…

Anyway…

Jasmines whole reason for running away, which leads to her meeting Aladdin, is because of a non-specific law claiming she must marry a prince before her next birthday. The instigating factor for the love affair is that her father is a stickler for traditions (in the words of the broadway play)…

Except for the part where she doesn’t have to wear a veil and she’s allowed to CHOOSE who to marry… All things considered, it seems like the Sultan is pretty lax about the whole “traditions” thing…

Which might explain why he, at the end, decides to change the law so that the Princess may choose whoever she deems worthy. So of course, she chooses Aladdin, even though he’s not a prince.

Which brings me on to something that has bugged me for years about this movie.

That being… it seems a bit confused about its message…

See, a big focus of the movie is that Aladdin is lying by pretending to be a prince, when in reality he’s not. The Genie at one point tells him to tell Jasmine the truth, and Aladdin rejects the idea.

There’s even an visual cue about it, with the plume on Aladdins turban falling in front of his face when he lies. It would actually be a great message about being honest or to believe in yourself.

Except, of course, for two small things. Firstly, that it’s not lying that screws things up for him… Lying got him a girlfriend. He was then thrown in the sea by corrupt guards. And that wasn’t so much for pretending to be a prince as it was being in Jafars way.

When caught in his own lie, he kept lying. But again, that’s not what screwed things up for him. It was to forget to bring the lamp with him when talking to Jasmine.

I don’t want to seem cynical, but it seems to me that the movie says lying sometimes is a very good idea. Granted, he does feel guilty about lying, deciding to tell the truth. Which, if we’re sticking with the cynical viewpoint, says “Lying is fine, so long as you can live with yourself”.

And of course, there’s the second issue. Namely that he isn’t lying!

Do you remember the wish?

Genie, l wish for you to make me a prince.

He didn’t wish for the Genie to make him LOOK like a prince!

I mean, what was the point of the wish, if the Genie didn’t make him a REAL prince?! How “phenomenal” are those “cosmic powers” if all they do is change your damn wardrobe?! Where is his nation? Where is his palace? If he doesn’t actually have any power, then how can you claim you fulfilled his wish, you baby-blue bastard!?

Speaking of the Genie, he does the same thing with Jafar! The wish was to become Sultan, and all the Genie did was change his clothes and put the palace on a hill!

THAT IS NOT HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS!

Then again… Jafar somehow unmakes Aladdins wish by just changing his clothes… Either the genie is crap at his job, or we’re dealing with a seriously screwed up system of government here, with clothes being the defining trait of nobility…

Anyway, I think I’ve covered most of my issues with the movie. There’s one other thing, but I’m saving it for a later date. Really, I don’t think there’s anything else to talk about with this movie.

Dave: Are you sure about that?

Oh god, no…