Before I start, I want to explain that my rules for movies are a little bit more stringent. I’ll only pick movie heroines which are the protagonists of their own movie, no secondary protagonists (on the upside, if there are multiple protagonists I might pick them as a group). I will also exclude romantic comedies. Not because I belief that there is something wrong with the heroine hooking up at the end of the movie (if the hero always gets his woman, why shouldn’t the heroine get her man? It is only fair!), but because I prefer it if the theme of the movie does not focus on the love-live alone. Woman are more than that. Plus in a romantic comedy, the male protagonist is just as important than the female one by definition.
But otherwise, every genre is allowed, and every movie. Even the movie which is considered the biggest box office flop of all times. This was certainly not my doing. I actually went to the theatre and watched Cutthroat Island. The most private showing I ever had, sadly. Because if you ask me: The movie is fun.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, it is not perfect. Far from it. But “box office bomb” does not necessarily mean “worst movie ever”. In fact, there are some really terrible movies which were nevertheless a financial success, and a lot really good ones which were overlooked during their first release for one reason or another. “Box office bomb” simply meant that there was more money spend on the movie than it eventually made. In this case, we have a movie which cost a lot of money, got nearly no marketing and is neither particularly good nor particularly bad.
Multiple writers were working on the script and it shows. It is uneven, there is even a mayor contradiction in it, and I think it would have done the movie a lot of good if it had gotten rid of a couple of characters and sub-plots. But honestly, in this case I don’t care that much. This is a pirate movie. I don’t expect deep story-telling from it, what I expect is some convincing swashbuckling. The uneven script is unfortunate, but otherwise, it delivers on all fronts. It has multiple fights, on land, at sea, lots of canon exploding, a storm, a treasure on an island, in short, it has everything a pirate movie needs. It naturally helps that the movie has a fantastic score (in fact, the score writer might be the only one who profiteered from working on it). Now, to be honest, the German version is a little bit better, because whoever wrote the script for the dubbing did a fantastic job and added some really good one-liners which elevate the movie as a whole.
A common criticism is the main character, Morgan Adams. I think she is the best part. Geena Davis performance might not be Oscar-worthy, but she certainly gave everything for this role, working without a stunt double whenever possible. She deserves some applause just for the part when she leaps back on the coach (it’s not only her, but there is enough of her to make it convincing).
The really great part though is the role in itself. Because this movie flips the usual gender roles: Instead of a pirate captain and a damsel in distress, we get a female pirate captain and a dude in distress. Word it that the role was originally written for a man, which might explain why the audience gets spared the usual nonsense writers tend to add when they try to write females – or leave out because they can’t imagine that a woman would behave that way. Unlike other movies which feature female action heroines, this one is consequent about it. If Morgan wants to sleep with someone, she sleeps with him, but she wont allow herself to get swayed by romantic feelings. If she is hurt, she doesn’t scream and cry, she bites the bullet and suffers nearly silent, the same way a male hero would do it. If she has to, she uses her female body as a weapon, but you should expect her to have a gun strapped at her leg under the skirts. She is a fighter, but also a good strategist.
In short, you could do exactly the same movie with a male protagonist, and excluding one or two scenes in which she uses her gender to her advantage, the result would be exactly the same. There have been a lot of pirate movies, most of them being made in the 50th and 60th when the genre was big (it is somewhat unfair to say that Cutthroat Island killed the genre until Pirates of the Caribbean came along – the genre was pretty much dead already, the movie just failed to resurrect it). But Morgan Adams stands alone as female pirate captain, who doesn’t end up getting rescued from her unlawful life at the end of the movie in order to become a proper lady, even though historically there have been multiple fierce and successful female pirates. She is a reminder that some woman are not content with the role society tries to force on them. To all times there have been some who challenged the status quo.
Quote: (William to Morgan) “Congratulations, madam. There’s another town you’ve destroyed.”
I recommend this one to all fans of pirate movies. All in all, it is not as good as the first Pirates of the Caribbean, but certainly better than all the sequels. It might be also fun to those who like stunts and explosions and don’t mind (or even like) it when a woman is the one doing most of the fighting. The director Renny Harlin has the devise that if one pays for building a set, one should take full advantage of it and blew it up in the end, and it shows. Speaking of Renny Harlin: for people interested in movie making, I especially recommend the DVD. It has one of the best audio commentary I ever heart, in which he discusses different aspects of the movie, including some of his mistakes.