Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Krakthulu (Pirates of the Carribean: Part III)

This is my last note about Pirates of the Carribean II. I'm tired of pontificating about media literacy issues, so this will be a shorter post.

Sometimes it seems like attributing "influences" to popcorn movies is giving them too much credit. When you compare something ridiculous, like The Emperor's New Groove, to something important, like Mitt Liv Som Hund, it's almost like saying that the contemptibly franchisey movie is deep, too. But then again, when something reminds me, however distantly, of something I really like, it's bound to get it some brownie points.

Take, for example, Davey Jones in Pirates of the Carribean II.

Did this guy look familiar to any of you other nerds? Especially you nerds with gothy or occultish tendencies? Did it make you want to speak in tongues and gaze into the ocean, wondering about non-euclidean islands that appear once every millenium? It made me do those things. Why? Because he screamed H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu.

If you don't know about Cthulu, take a moment to look him up. Don't just stop at the silly nerd culture references on t-shirts and in webcomics (here too), either... read some of Lovecraft's stories, which can generally be found around the Internet. He's a brilliant ambient occultist, and his prose deftly demonstrates that the most frightening things are the empty spaces, the margins of our perception and understanding.

There have been some movies made out of Lovecraft's mythos, but they mostly all suck.

Lovecraft's most famous character is a demigod named Cthulu, characterized as having a "pulpy, tentacled head," usually rendered with the tentacles hanging down from the jaw or thereabouts. Sound familiar? I can't but assume that this image was the inspiration for Davey Jones' octopustastic goodness, and I have to say, it resonated with me.

But the unlikely convergence of Disney and occult horror brings some other scenes to mind. For a slapstick swashbuckler, Dead Man's Chest had some surprisingly dark edges... the shipwreck, manned by insane sailors, precluding Jones' introduction, was reminiscent of Lovecraft's Innsmouth. Davey's heart was gut-wrenchingly realistic. The Kraken wrought a compelling level of destruction upon the sea-vessels, and Disney didn't seem to hold back on the deaths at sea. Even Tia Dalma (see previous post) was a dark turn on the Magic Negro archetype.

In this film, which was pretty cotton-candyish, this dusting of morbidity hardly scratched the surface. What it DOES give us, however, is a new reason to hope for the best out of the third movie. It's going to be called "Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End," and from that title, I sense that the Lovecraftian undercurrent isn't going to fizzle out between episodes. Like Lovecraft's stories about death and sublimation, I expect the third Pirates to be filled with a more profound sense of anxiety and unknown. There's the hint of a compelling journey, the simultaneous geographical / psychological exploration of the unknown, and I hope it's realized.

As far as I'm concerned, this movie has made promises. I expect Mr. Bruckheimer to deliver on them.

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