The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists

Yes it is puppets and animation but it is Aardman Studios, the home of Wallace and Gromit, the pedigree for this movie means that without even knowing the plot, many people (like myself) will attend in the hope that the usual wry humour will be present.  It was. Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt (both Chicken Run, 2000) have continued to “push the boat out” no pun intended with this movie.  Technically it is of the standard defining level expected of Aardman.  It took 5 years to make this movie, and looking at the detail it is easy to see why.

The plot is straight forward, Captain Pirate (Hugh Grant, Love Actually 2003) wants to win Pirate of the year, and as a result he falls in with some scientists, namely Charles Darwin (David Tennant, Doctor Who 2005+) who sees Captain’s parrot for what it really is – a Dodo.  In London to win a prize, he crosses paths with Queen Victoria who hates Pirates with a vengeance, she also wants the Dodo!  The intra-pirate japes are first class, the visual jokes are as usual great.

Some movie franchises have a signature element such as Taxi (from the Luc Besson stable) where we have the rush to the airport/hospital etc. at the start; with Aardman it is the chase scene.  Ever since Wallace and Gromit started laying train tracks in that famous chase sequence out of The Wrong Trousers (1993), we have come to expect something special from them, thankfully they delivered.  I mentioned earlier in a privious discussion regarding Wrath of the Titans (2012) that I feel there is not enough time given to characterisation, yet in this relatively short movie we see Number two, “Scarf” (Martin Freeman, Sherlock 2010+) proving to be the loyal side-kick always looking out for his boss, then there’s Gout, the Irish pirate, played brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson (Albert Nobbs, 2011), Russell Tovey (Being Human, 2008+) plays Albino Pirate nicely.  Other members of the supporting cast include Jeremy Piven (Entourage 2004+), Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon, 1980) and Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake, 2004) who plays Queen Victoria.

I an interesting turn Lord, Newitt and Defoe manage to turn the Monarch and various other world leaders in to “the bad guys”.  Her ship the “QV1” is like something out of Wild Wild West (1999 & also staring Salma Hayek). Does the plot work, certainly. Can it stand up to other recent productions such as The Adventures of Tintin (Stephen Spielberg, 2011); with ease. The line about a nose being too small for his head may be a swipe at Tintin (where it was felt in some cases the characters’ noses were too large). It even stands up well with the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean  franchise.

9/10 great fun, lives up to the Aardman reputation and entertains everybody, young and old. Some feedback I got was that people need to see it a second time to catch all of the jokes, I remember saying that about Chicken Run

Wrath of the Titans

This second instalment (of how many I am not sure) has our hero Perseus, following in his human step-father’s footsteps, teaching his son the ways of the world, namely fishing and getting on with village life. All’s well until Perseus gets a visit/vision form his father warning him that all hell is about to break lose (literally). Our hero wants none of it, he’s busy bringing up son, but he’s soon going to feel The Wrath of The Titans

That is until the chimera attack his home village targeting him and more specially his son. Zeus (Liam Neeson, The Grey, 2011), together with his brother; Poseidon (Danny Huston, Edge of Darkness, 2010) and son Ares (Édgar Ramírez, Ché: Part One, 2008) are brought to the underworld by their brother Hades (Ralph Feinnes, Coriolanus, 2011), under the pretense of protecting the world from Kronos who is close to escaping Posiedon manages to escape the trap while Zeus, betrayed by his son Ares who sides with Hades and Kronos is help captive.

Poseidon escapes and makes his way to Persius who is told that the best hope he has is to find another demigod, Poseidon’s son Agenor (Toby Kebell, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, 2010) a less than heroic hero in the classical sense. Following words from a dying Poseidon, he makes his way to Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike; Made in Dagenham, 2010) who happens to have Agenor in her prison for theft. Freed, the three heroes go searching for the “fallen one”, Hephaestus played by Bill Nighy (Valkyrie, 2008), himself a God, cast down for originally helping Hades in his revolt (he created the tridents, spears and weapons of the gods) who can lead them in to the underworld. There are few moments of genuine humour in the movie and most of those are presented by Nighy who gives a refreshing performance through his character.

Off the team go to fight through the labyrinth of the underworld to rescue Zeus, and then back to the surface to defeat Kronos and his armies of hell.   Overall  Wrath is a better film than Clash but that’s because Clash wash a low bar to improve on.  The main issue I had with Wrath was that there was no characterisation and it felt that we were being led through a check list of Greek myths as they tried to get as many as possible in to one movie. The plot in Clash is less crowded with one main plot and linked sub-plots. The story still feels rushed with no time for characterisation but not as badly as the first movie.  The Zeus-Hades subplot helps to build the characters a little at least.

The Action sequences are improved with some of the open field battles working quite well, that said the sequence in the Labyrinth with the minator was almost claustrophobic. Sam Worthington is one of those actors I have not quite mad up my mind on.  I almost prefer him in roles like Texas Killing Fields (2011), he is still a bit wooden here but it is an improvement.  If there is a third will I go see it? Yes.  Wrath is an improvement on the first.  Of course changing director with Jonathan  Liebesman, (Battle Los Angeles, 2011) replacing Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, 2002) would have had some impact, but not  much.

Overall it could have taken time to work on character development more and tried to fit perhaps a little less in.

Rating 5.5/10, will pass a wet afternoon.