Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pirates of the Caribbean, man. What more could you want?

Apropos of nothing, here’s an off-the-cuff rumination on a decidedly black pearl of our modern popular culture.

In one of my favorite Disney movies, the classic second installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (we won’t mention the painful travesty that was the ill-executed fourth money cow which even the great Ian McShane was unable to redeem from its morass of confused storytelling and pointless spectacle that pushed the limits of absurdity a bit too far and a bit too blindly, finding itself too often merely chasing the magic and glory of its predecessors in unfunny self-parodyland, and may I be forgiven if memory colors it unfairly thus in my mind), the cynically pragmatic and deliciously nonchalant Banal Evil Incarnate, Lord Cutler Beckett, throws this unforgettable, superbly smug, melodramatic gem in the faces of the protagonists:

“The immaterial has become... immaterial.”

He means the mysterious forces of the supernatural, but it could just as well be read, “The invisible has become of no consequence.” In esoteric parlance, this is of course a lie and a dangerous delusion which leads the believer of it only to their own eventual correction and/or to the ultimate undoing of all their wrong-headed plans for the external. And even if those plans were to come to fruition, that fruit would be ashes in their mouth, an empty victory devoid of satisfaction or endurance. “All is vanity, saith the preacher.” (Yeah, I like to quote the Bible. I grew up with it. No apologies; it’s too rich and poetic a source to pass up. And sprinkled with awesomely truthy bits, once you acquire the taste. Jesus in particular kicks ass.)

Consistent themes in these Johnny Depp fantasy flicks are the fear of death, what people are willing to do to cheat their mortality and gain personal wealth, and where those efforts drive them.

Even though Depp is ostensibly the star, Bill Nighy steals the show for my money with every tentacular scene he mournfully and balefully stomps and splutters his way through. The organ-playing scene with the music box and the key is easily the most memorably poignant moment in the trilogy for me. His humanity and pain come through so undeniably, with such intensity and nuance, that I am hard pressed to watch it without getting a lump in my throat and mist in my eyes.

The slightly contrived-feeling but no less educational subplot of Mr. Flavorless and Kind of Forgettable Orlando Bloom Character and his poor dad, Bootstrap Bill, does not fail to strike chords of truth and pathos with its sacrificial resolution. Was the kid worth it? Only a father would know, and thank God for that. Love knows no bounds in what it is capable of in those who give themselves over to it, and the choice of a single moment, like Vader’s betrayal of his mentor in Star Wars 3 (what prequels?), can overturn the legacy of a lifetime of waste and error.

I’m getting rather hungry for some second breakfast, so I’ll leave this here and go on to the next thing. See you soon!

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