‘The Pirates’ almost manages to hold water

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‘The Pirates’ almost manages to hold water


Son Ye-jin plays the female pirate ship captain Ye-wol in this summer’s highly anticipated flick “The Pirates,” which serves up as much romance and comedy as it does action. Provided by Lotte Entertainment

When it comes to pirate-themed movies, one dominant feature springs to mind: Disney’s megahit adventure series “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Since 2004, the four installments have won worldwide recognition for their logical plots, compelling characters and humorous scenes.

So the question is, can any movie about the adventures of buccaneers compete with the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow and crew?

In “The Pirates,” director Lee Seok-hoon makes an ambitious bid to depict intense swordplay between the pirates, bandits and royal forces both at sea and on dry land. They are on a search for the missing guksae, or the state seal.

Despite the skeptical outlook expressed by some critics about this particular genre being taken on in Korea, “The Pirates” has turned out to be a family-friendly adventure flick loaded with a tremendous amount of comedy.

The plot inevitably follows a similar template to the “Caribbean” series, where the story line is strongly driven by a search for something with much honor or money at stake.

While the fountain of youth is the object of desire in the Hollywood blockbuster’s latest installment, in “The Pirates,” it is the guksae that is swallowed by a giant whale on its way back from Ming-dynasty China, which endowed the seal to the newly founded Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

As the great seal symbolizes the authority of a new royal family, government troops and groups of outlaws from both the seas and the mountains gather to find the mysterious whale and the guksae that is likely resting inside its stomach.

The pirate clan is led by the female captain Ye-wol, played by Son Ye-jin, who is taking up such a role for the first time in her career.

However, although she is the only prominent female character in the film, her acting comes across as mediocre and bland.

While it is true that Son does not interfere with the natural flow of the plot line or the performances of the other actors, her strong image as a “queen of rom-com” means that some of her action scenes lacked a certain splendor both visually and spiritually.

Against Son, actor Kim Nam-gil, who was also attempting his first goofy role by acting as the leader of the mountain bandits, mincing character Jang Sa-jeong stood out in terms of the ease in which he played his part.

As Kim admitted to seeing relatively many similarities between himself and Sa-jeong compared to the previous downcast bad boy characters he has taken on, he manages to deliver the free-spirited yet righteous Sa-jeong well.

Last but not least, maverick actor Yoo Hae-jin touts his brilliance at comical acting as Cheol-bong, who transfers his allegiance from the pirates to the bandits due to his serious seasickness.

While the premise of the character itself is very off-beat, Cheol-bong’s intense mumbling and grumbling coupled with having to fiercely compromise with a reality that often emasculates his character was something that only Yoo could have pulled off. When he’s on the screen alone he’s just too hilarious.

Overall, whether or not it’s because expectations were low, the film wasn’t too disappointing in the end.

One key issue, however, is that the film’s excessive focus on the comedic scenes that are scattered throughout the movie might have overshadowed its macroscopic narrative. But “The Pirates” is definitely worth the time and money to watch either with friends, family or lovers just to laugh unconditionally.

After all, that’s what the life of leisure should be about.

The film opens Aug. 6.

By jin eun-soo [janna924@joongang.co.kr]

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