I had another idea in my previous post, but didn’t want to muddle up that round of bitching with this point. You’ll need to read the previous post to probably get where I’m coming from in this post.
Pirates I led us to ask the great spiritual questions of all time, and Pirates II distracted us from finding those answers. I, for one, am angry about it. The fact that both of the movies are being made simultaneously indicates to me that these most important questions will be ignored - and so I’m not expecting much for the second film.
I think that the Pirates franchise ran afoul of their own success much in the way Lucas did with “Star Wars”. You made a good story, on a risk, that was decidedly expensive, and then, to your great surprise you made a metric screwtonne of money. A sufficient amount of money such that you could draw out your story. How to do so?
In my previous post I assert that the obvious questions for the second installment are:
How has Elizabeth grown more free. The Kierkergaardian or Nietzschean questions follow: in light of this absolute freedom, is she scared by it, is she frightened? How does the isolation of being ahead of her time weigh her down? If pushed into a moment of using her absolute freedom to damn / forgive, can she bear the weight of absolute agency?)
How has Will grown to accept the moral ambiguity of who his father was? Will he believe his life must follow a deterministic model: who is father is, is who he was? Has will become a true pirate? It’s an opportunity to become a Jack Sparrow, or a British captain - or shall he synthesize something new out of those roles (verily, be an American, in essence)
Jack’s existence is not to evolve, but to be surprised by the evolution. The cosmic trickster finding an amusing side-effect of his alchemy, he has changed by being the alchemist. Where are these subtle and sly changes (Depp surely has the chops to pull them off, and did in Pirates 1)
In Pirates II directory Gore Verbenski, probably under a lot of pressure by those creative black holes in suits at Disney ( they bought Pixar for a reason, folks ), replaced answering the cosmic questions of life with spectacle. Is there a lesson to be learned from the “Star Wars” sophomore outing?
Someone who did the right under similar strains was Irvin Kershner, who masterfully directed “Empire Strikes Back”.
The questions were:
How will Luke grow with the Force now that he’s been used / has used it. What is the nature of this force?
Han isn’t entirely out for himself, despite what we thought, what’s his motivation on that?
Who gets the girl: Will or Jacker, Han or Luke (planned out all three story arcs my ass, George)
What did Chewy say?
Kershner answers these, or gives the characters room to decant and to mull. We voyage with Luke to Degobah (“I can’t believe it! And that is why you fail.” Goddam, that scene makes me almost weepy sometimes. Oh master Yoda! How I loved you before you were a jumping booger with a lightsaber! ), we learn of Jabba and the bounty, we uh, see Luke make out with his sister, etc. Our love of the character grows as their exploration ( thankfully Luke and Leia’s exploration was capped at second base ) of themselves grows like our exploration of ourselves.
And, much like “Pirates II”, “Empire” was in the middle and ended with a “…To be Continued.” When I finished watching Pirates II, the gentleman next to me asked “Did I just get a f$$CK!NG To be Continued?”. While I was in the single digit years when “Empire” came back and can’t quite remember popular response, the coda ending and the promise of more character development and the promise of a new day gave us great hope for “Empire”’s successor.
Kershner kept the storyteller’s part of the bargain: He helped us know our friends the heroes better, and they helped us know ourselves better. Through this trust, we were willing to wait until the continuation. Like a payment on the final loan amount due, Kershner delivered.
Verbenski has broken this trust, and now I’m not sure I’ll even care to watch the third installment at all. Incidentally, I think this fate also befell the Wachowski brothers with Matrix 2 and 3 (following the same filming pattern, is this a danger of filming sequals simultaneously?).