Monday, 20 November 2006

Dead Man's Chest DVD Commentary

First, thanks to Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio for providing the commentary, full of interesting insights and random facts. Also for all your patient online question-answering which has provided all of us wannabe film industry addicts with much fodder for discussion... and a bit of envy at the being-paid-for-living-in-paradise-while-making-really-cool-movies thing. :)

Here's some of the interesting stuff T&T talked about in their commentary:

Beginning from the opening wedding montage, Ted and Terry say they were aiming for a more impressionistic, rather than straight story-telling, style with the film. Orginally, apparently, the first scene was going to be Captain Jack's entrance via the Turkish prison, followed by the sequence of events on the Black Pearl up to the losing of the hat, and THEN to the abandoned wedding sequence. That theory was similarly abandoned upon a first viewing when it was felt to be too jarring for the audience - moving from a literal story-telling style (Captain Jack's scenes) to the impressionistic style, was too hard to relate. So the choice was to put the impressionism right up there at the beginning, and then introduce the audience to the "juxtaposition" of different characters' scenes in small vignettes. This juxtaposition determines how the audience sees the story and understands the character - T&T believe this is easier to relate to, because in real life that's what you see - small chapters of people's lives and it's up to you to fill in the blanks with your knowledge and imagination.
So, they say that they purposely tried to get away from the normal "one-main-character, three-act story" in favour of an impressionist "mosaic".
Which I really like. I think too often we can get caught up in the belief that a film needs to be as "realistic" and "believable" as possible. Really, there is so much value in a story presentation which allows one to be lost in a different world that is not reality. Indeed, sometimes the best way to make a story real to an audience is to set it outside of reality.
Similarly, one comment made was Billy Wilder saying - "give the audience the two plus two, and leave them to come up with the four themselves". I like it ("simple, easy to remember").

The Passing of Time
This idea is first introduced in the Black Pearl's rum cellar when Bootstrap Bill appears to warn "Time's run out, Jack". Ted or Terry (don't ask me to keep track of which voice was which!) pointed out a lovely image that I hadn't noticed before; when Captain Jack reaches for the run bottle and sand pours out of it, Bill says his line about time. Like sand through the hourglass.... it's a really nice image, and it helps to set up the idea of not only Captain Jack's time being up, but time being up for all those who belong in the world of Pirates, adventure, and a free world.
Which, of course, is reinforced later, and throughout, by Lord Beckett, his veritable army of EITC men, and his map.
The map, say Ted and Terry, is a symbol, to Beckett and to the audience, of the level to which the EITC, with the backing of the Crown, are taking over the civilised world. As the film progresses the map becomes more complete, and in it's final scene it is finished, signalling, perhaps, the end of the world as we (well, Captain Jack and his kind) know it. Also very important to this idea, they said, was the finding of the EITC spices in the cannibal-tribe hut. Another clue that the company is pushing Jack's kind further and further.

Creating the Story
Ted or Terry said that when they were asked to write a sequel or two, they had to make a decision; they could have made a whole new story (in the way the James Bond series does), or they could "retroactively engineer a larger story from the story of Curse of the Black Pearl. Obviously, they chose the latter, and the story points they built on were:
~ The compass. Thanks to a stroke of luck, they were able to change the purpose of the compass slightly to fit a bigger story. Originally (way back when writing the first film), the compass was indeed intended to point only to the Isle de Meurta. But that fact never made it into the actual film (it was left as something mysterious), so Ted and Terry simply changed the facts to read that the compass in fact points to whatever the person looking at the compass "wants most at that time. How clever. (oh, and they were very insistent that it was that definition, that the compass does not point to the person's "heart's desire" but to what they want most right then.)
~ Captain Jack's entrance - they wondered briefly if they could ever create an entrance as good as his COtBP entrance, before deciding they never could. So they settled for coming up with one that wouldn't "suck relative to that". I think they succeeded, I love the coffin-blasting entrance.
~ The "they made me their chief" line. It was an impro'd, throwaway line in the first film, and it became the inspiration for a very important sequence of DMC. Ted or Terry said that the cannibal tribe sequence is "a tribute" to that original line.
~ "Why is the rum always gone?" This line from Captain Jack recalls the island scene with Elizabeth and gives a small clue to what may be going on in his head.

which brings me to

Captain Jack's attraction to Elizabeth
Ted and Terry made quite a big deal of this possibility, starting from when Captain Jack remarks about the rum being gone. Apparently this indicates that Elizabeth "is playing into Jack's thoughts to some degree". Later, the problems Jack is having with the compass are attributed to this as well, as well as the fact that in Tia Dalma's hut, Captain Jack is the one who knows the answer of a woman being the thing that vexes all men.
The biggest hint, I thought, was near the end in the oft-debated moment in the longboat, when Captain Jack looks at the compass, registers an odd look, then rows back to the Pearl. One writer said that it was purposely left ambiguous but that he thought the compass had been pointing towards land. The other made a disagreeing sound, and said "no I think... no... well, I'll just say I think it was pointing the same way the whole time actually".

and Elizabeth's Frustration
This was also highly emphasised by Ted and Terry as very important to Elizabeth's character and story in DMC. Her frustration at not having been "married" yet is made evident in the jail-cell scene with Will, and reiterated several times, most obviously the "marri-age" scene with Captain Jack and their almost-kiss at that point.

The Importance of the Cannibal Island
I have to admit I never really got the importance of this sequence. It just seemed like a weird excuse the torture actors and stunt people with long sticks and cages. However, I have been enlightened.
The cannibal island sequence is, according to T&T, vital in progressing Captain Jack's storyline from avoidance of fate to an action plan to move with. Up until this point he was only trying to get to somewhere safe, to save his own behind. After this point, he knows without a doubt that there is nowhere safe for him:
~ At sea, the Kracken is after him.
~ In civilised society, the law and the EITC are after him, and
~ In uncivilised lands, cannibals are after him.
Therefore, the only option left is to actually make a plan and face the music (because, as we learned in COtBP, Captain Jack doesn't make a decision or a move until he absolutely has to.
So there you go; the mindlessly funny action sequences have a purpose. :)

Ted and Terry seemed quite amused by their own use of this word - one of them said sarcastically "oh come on, big summer movies don't use literary devices!"
They mentioned three main instances of foreshadowing. First, the fact that Captain Jack arrives in a coffin and says something about taking a short "side-trip". And related, the fight scene when he falls into a grave near the church. Third, for Elizabeth - when she's fighting in the tavern and she knocks Norrington over the head to stop the fight. The comment was "she's willing to hurt someone she cares for" to save the day.

Hints for At World's End
There were a couple of little hints. At Tia Dalma's hut and at Davey Jones' organ, big drama was made of the matching locket and music box. And also at the hut one of them said "every single thing in here has meaning if you really take notice". A really interesting one was about Captain Jack as the god in human form with the cannibals. They were talking abotu that idea being based on a real bear-worship tribe somewhere in Asia etc, and one of them said that Captain Jack as the god-man was a "subtle set-up for something that goes on in Pirates 3". Mmmm, interesting. I imagine it's something to do with how the Captain survives the Kracken and "defeats death" in some uber-spiritual/supernatural way.
One more random comment was that many things that are "in plain sight" in DMC will be revealed to be much more important in AWE. Cool. :)

Okey dokey, that's it. All my notes, laid bare. And much tidier.

Hope that's at least vaguely interesting to someone. :)


Lizzie said...

Thanks for typing that up. I enjoyed reading it. it cleared up a lot of things for me. As Jack Sparrow would say "That's Interesting. That's Very Interesting"

Sumara said...

No worries Lizzie, I'm glad you liked it. :)

merlin said...

*plugging ears with fingers*

just kidding :) but it ain't fair ... and it'll come out ... oh, right about the time I enter full-blown psychosis from lack of sleep due to papers and impending finals ... oh well

OK ... I lied, I did read ... sounds good, I feel vindicated :)
Did they mention that the map is symbolic not only for Becket in this movie ... it started in CotBP when Barbosa says to Jack, while fighting in the IDM, "You're off the edge of the map, mate ... here there be monsters" - which, of course old maps had monsters around the edges - and according to Becket "the blank edges of the map are being filled in"

Also, I just thought of this about the EITC spices in the cannibal hut and an issue of what the EITC is, at its core, or what it might symbolize in modern life, and lines such as "I'm afraid currency, is the currency of the realm" ... and the drive for currency in a lifestyle inundated with marketing, and a motto much abused by marketing pundits, such as "variety is the spice of life" ... just something about the fact that what the EITC itself specifically provided for the cannibalist captain Jak cook-off was the spice or "seasoning"

Sumara said...

Yay. :) I'm glad you popped in Merlin.

No, they didn't mention the monsters off the edge of the map thing. Just more about the taking over of the world as we know it - nad it seemed to be an important point that by the time of Becket's last scene, the map was finished. Which bodes badly for his enemies, I think, in AWE.

Your thought about the spices is interesting. Yeah, currency is taking over the world.

Have you read anywhere the plot synopsis of AWE? I've only seen a brief outline and it's very interesting. I won't tell if you don't want to know , but let me know if you do and I'll spill the beans.

Oh, by the way Merlin, Jo says to say hi. She misses your Harry Potter posts.

Sumara said...

forgot to say - yes, it does suck that you guys get the DVD so late. I thought that, apart from the Christmas thing, it might be because the film stayed in theatres for so long there.

Or maybe Beuna Vista's just mean. ;)

merlin said...


1. Tell Jo I said Hello too and that I did some posting over on MM, commenting on HP and some stuff from some picking around I was doing to take a break from studying.

2. I'm all for hearing any plot synops of AWE, so write away, or link away , whichever the case may be (or ... where is it from? online or was it part of the DVD package? [mine is in the mail as we speak]).

merlin said...

I got a jar of di-irt, I got a jar of di-irt.

It got here and I couldn't wait.

Just a couple things - mainly interesting vindication things for me.

1. I have a tendency to hit the Old Testament connections, things like the crabs and crustacians on the Dutchman crew and connectin with the OT dietary prohibition of bottom dwelling crustacian scavengers ... support from the DVD commentary = Davy Jone's bit of poetry when they call the Krake (which I guess GV had to fight pretty hard with the studio to keep in, but he was die-hard on it), which I think I had called really "epic sounding" ... from their comments it is either directly from Job or the book of Job is how they would characterize what they wrote there.
Although, interesting on religious stuff, they connected the cannibal island cannibals with maybe some religion in Japan, which I completely buy is there and that's who they were going ofr, but just interesting that they made no mention of classic gnosticism because that is pretty much what was in the story (classical gnosticism had a whole elaborate system in which pieces of divine spark were released from the prison of the flesh to return to the sun by way of the moon etc etc) ... not surprising at all that there would be parallels in an eastern culture like Japan, it's pretty common in world religions I think ... just found it odd that they didn't know of, or at least didn't mention classical gnosticism in the Greco-Roman world

2. My intuition on music is still intact: I listened to the Kraken piece alot when I got the soundtrack (that and the DJ piece) and I always thought Zimmer had the one part of it sounding like a hard-rock riff (the cellos and basses, usually connected with the crew of the Dutchman ... it's in the foreground when they come up out of the water on the Ille de Crucis) ... they said he ran the recording of the whole orchestra through a Marshall amp, maybe not the stack itsef but the MArshall heads are famous for that hard rock and classic rock sound on distortion ... if you want a nice thick warm fat distortion you use a Marshall head for that great tube-amp sound.

3. Over-all I was maybe a little disappointed but I think it is maybe more just in the DVD packaga as a whole, which I think started with the not having the deleted scenes in, just the gag-reel ... the writers commentary was good (and I know there was other stuff, I just wasn't taking notes because I was having trouble justifying even just a quick once through, when I have finals to study for ... but soon I will go through and takes notes, because I know there was more in there they revealed that I glossed over) ... and just having the movie now to watch in crystal clear picture and sound ... such a good film.

Sumara said...

Yay! I'm glad you got your DVD. Much happiness.

The plot synopses I read wasn't from the DVD, it was linked to a on a forum I read... I can't find the link again, sorry.

The gist of it was thet the EITC are running amuck, using the heart to control Davy Jones and the Kraken trying to destroy pirates. Meanwhile, Barbossa and crew are trying to rescue Captain Jack.
That was it basically, but I was excited about the confirmation that the heart can in fact be used to control DJ and the Kraken, adn therefore the whole sea.

Ah, only 5 months to wait...

Oh and I was a bit disappointed with the DVD too. Ted and Terry have said that there actually no deleted scenes to speak of, so they must've been exceptionally well organised with writing/shooting/editing.

Have you found any of the easter eggs? There are a few interesting tidbits.

jkr2 said...

hey merlin.

~~~~ sends merlin a big smiley ~~~~