The View From Here

Keith Richards in Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End – the UNCUT review

Michael Bonner

Keef, comedy monkeys and Keira’s chin.

Keith Richards, when he finally appears, close to the two hour mark, the first thing he does is shoot someone in the head.

It’s a pretty impressive way to grab my attention, admittedly. Dressed in a slightly faded, full-length frock coat, plumes of feathers spooling out of a large hat perched raffishly on his head, Keith Richards’ appearance in third Pirates Of The Caribbean movie is one of UNCUT’s most anticipated movie moment of 2007.

And does Keith live up to our expectations?

Well… It’s hard to tell if this is Keith himself, or Keith *playing* Keith, riffing on the public myth of him as a rogueish, rock’n’roll pirate. He even gets to strum a guitar, made, we're told, from a sea turtle's shell, during his 5 minutes' screen time.

There’s something very metatextual about all this. Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is a fictional character based on a real person – Keith Richards – who now himself appears in the movie as a fictional character.

In fact, Keith’s most substantial line of dialogue is as self-referential as it gets: “It’s not about living forever, Jackie boy, it’s about living with yourself forever.”

I’m reminded of a great moment in The Sopranos once, when Michael Imperioli's Christopher quoted a line from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” at fellow New Jersey Mobster Silvio Dante, played by The Boss’ guitarist Steve Van Zandt.

Anyway, Keith growls rather magnificently through his appearance, giving a good account of a slightly elderly, if no less deadly lion, who could take your arm off without too much by way of effort. It's not exactly one of the great movie debuts, though it's kinda fun. But, I wonder, is it really necessary?

One of the great nuggets we gleaned from Depp, when on promotional duty for the first Pirates movie, was that he'd based Jack's character on Keef. It's a brilliant little anecdote, but did we really need to see Keef, all done up here with crucifixes in his hair, all manner of eldritch rings on his fingers, and bad voodoo gleaming in his eyes? It spoils the fun rather; sometimes an idea is best just left as that.

It's part of the wider problem with Pirates: it doesn't know when to stop. It's big on spectacle, and rather little else -- and, after a while, even the spectacle begins to wane.

The mistake the screenwriters make is that we care particularly about anyone in these movies apart from Jack Sparrow. There's tiers and tiers of supporting characters who the writers appear to think are worth their own narrative arcs. It's exhaustive, trying to keep up with the various doings of this heaving multitude of characters. Here's Orlando Bloom's Will Turner trying to save his dad, here's lantern-jawed Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann elected Pirate King, there's Geoffrey Rush's brilliant Captain Barbossa out to regain control of the Black Pearl, Cap'n Jack out for immortality. And that's just the principal cast. It goes on, all the way down to Captain Barbossa's comedy monkey, all with different missions, quests, desires and allegiances.

A lesson could have been learned from the Indiana Jones movies. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg realised their audience cared only for Indiana himself, so each successive sequel simply booted Indy on five years and introduced a new quest and a fresh supporting cast.

I'd be hard pushed, frankly, to relate much in the way of plot detail to you. A lot of it is confusing, conflicting and often ill-explained. There's plenty of shouting, too, much of bellowed into squalling winds and driving rain as pirate ships battling East India Trading Company frigates.

I think I hear Keira shout "Prepare to broadside!" at one point, but she could be asking for a wine list for all I can tell.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End opens in the UK this Thursday


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