Runtime: 2hrs 10mins
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South Korean filmmakers have produced quite a few internationally successful big budget films. The very successful 2003 film "Oldboy" even inspired an (unnecessary) American remake. However, Pirates is a film very obviously inspired by the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, as well as countless other famous fictions. There are many moving parts here so let me see if I can pare this down:
Much like POTC, the story here involves a large ensemble cast with a couple of primary leads and villains. Jang Sa-jung (Nam-gil Kim) leaves his life as a member of the royal guard to build his own community of bandits in the forest near the mountains. Before he leaves though he burns all his bridges, in an opening fight sequence heavy on slow-motion. By fighting his captain and leaving him near death he also ensures that he'll have a nemesis to battle later on in the film.
|A pirate who gets seasick isn't cutout to be a pirate.|
In the same way "Pirates of the Caribbean" is an interesting mixture of many elements of fictional lore and a few bits of factual history, Lee Seok-hoon's "The Pirates" mixes up a concoction of both fictional, romanticized piracy/banditry and history. Jang Sa-jung's (Nam-gil Kim) woodland bandits are reminiscent of another famous band of merry men, even if he doesn't share much in common with the honorable Robin Hood. The relentless search for a destructive giant whale brings Captain Ahab to mind. And of course there is piracy and martial arts aspects of the film.
|May as well be named Jack Sparrow|
The way all these elements come crashing together is all a bit too predictable. The CGI leaves a lot to be desired, and some of the things that happen are simply all too contrived. But sometimes knowing what you're in for can make all the difference in your experience with a film. Lee Seok-hoon's "The Pirates" is a fun, enjoyable, even goofy fantasy that asks quite a bit of our suspension of disbelief. But considering the films, and other sources of fiction that inspired it, we should know to expect all this. It delivers a fun action, adventure comedy every bit as good and bad (and sometimes over the top) as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films that inspired it.