Having re-watched Pirates 1 tonight for the first time since seeing it in the theater originally, I am reaffirmed in my opinion of it as slow and overlong… especially the final battle which must last a half hour or so but in which nothing happens till the end (what’s the point of a swordfight if neither party can be injured?!).
However, I never felt that way about Pirates 2 last night even though I was tired. I expected to fall asleep during it but it kept me engrossed throughout. It does the smart thing by putting the pointless action scenes that have no plot relevance at the beginning of the movie when we haven’t started to care yet (and by “we” I mean “I”). I thought Pirates 2 was paced much better, didn’t have the slow start of Pirates 1, was funnier, and the long fight at the end which bored Ryan to death at least changed scenery unlike the swordfight in Pirates 1 which stayed in that same damn cave the whole time! It was nice to see a swordfight on a totally flat beach for a change before the obligatory multi-level hijinks.
Furthermore, Pirates 2 was a much more artistic movie, with many more interesting shots. After liking the style Verbinski used in The Ring, I was disappointed that Pirates 1 was very conventional photographically speaking, but in Pirates 2 he has finally injected a needed bit of style into the franchise. More interesting things are done with the camera from the outset, like the initial 90-degree overhead shot of the ocean which seems to quote Hideo Nakata’s opening shot of The Ring Two. Even the action scenes look better. The last time Captain Jack draws his sword in the movie was cooler than cool and the sideways shot immediately following it was also a thing of beauty.
Though much of Depp’s acting was simply mugging for the camera (moreso than in the first one, that is), he did not exhibit sequelitis on the level of Will Smith in MIB2. In every other way, however, Pirates 2 is a vast improvement over the original. It doesn’t take itself as seriously, Mackenzie Crook and Lee Arenberg almost steal the show with their metaphysical reflections, and now that Orlando and Keria are together there’s no need to waste any more time with the earnestness of their love story. Furthermore, while the first movie seemed intent on proving itself a real movie and not just a theme park advertisement, the sequel finally embraces its derivative nature and revels in references to other movies, from the most recent (Jackson’s King Kong seemed to pervade the first act) to the most classic (20,000 Leagues being the heaviest influence, from the pipe organ to the submersible vessel to the kraken). Tom Hollander is also good to see rejoining Keria after their anti-chemistry in Pride & Prejudice.
I had heard everyone moaning about how long Pirates 2 was, so I was expecting another half hour at the end. I didn’t expect the movie to end until another appearance by Jack, so the appearance of the director’s credit instead took me by surprise. For me, it never felt interminable as the first one did and does. In short, Pirates 1 is still fairly slow and not very fun to rewatch, while Pirates 2 is more interesting with a much higher rewatchability factor.