A truly excellent movie always manages to boil its story down to the essentials. It’s the mediocre ones that fumble around trying to figure out what they’re about. I won’t say what the bad ones do, but it often involves some hand lotion and a back issue of National Geographic.
Some movies are made to entertain us, others to inform, titillate or provoke. This one seems to have been made expressly for the purpose of winning the Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction. It certainly wasn’t produced to give us a rigorously authentic account of Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) at the time of the Spanish Armada or a deeply insightful examination of England’s Virgin Queen as a human being. While 1998’s Elizabeth was fairly sober-sided historical drama, director Shekhar Kapur has this time offered up As Ye Olde World Turns.
Before the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the practice of shooting two sequels in quick succession had a short and unspectacular history. In the eighties, they tried with the Back to the Future movies and, while those sequels had some charms, they were pale imitations of the original. These efforts, however, were masterpieces compared to the Wachowski brothers’ follow-ups to The Matrix, which managed to completely suck all of our good will for the original into that blank space behind Keanu Reeves’ eyes.
Back when I was a lad, “Pirates of the Caribbean” was about the only cool ride left at Disneyland when the E tickets were all gone or the line for Space Mountain stretched to some time next Tuesday. It was either “Pirates,” “Small World” or head for parking lot. If you had suggested back then that the ride would be made into movie and that movie would not only not be rated G, but the lead actor would also pattern his character after a member of the Rolling Stones, Walt himself probably would have risen from the grave to personally throw your hippie ass out of the park.
Steven Spielberg’s lengthy rumination about the effects of revenge as a response to terrorism succeeds on the level of a thriller but falls short of its larger goals. Seeking to be evenhanded, Munich ultimately sags under the weight of its own equivocation.