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