I've finally figured out why The Asylum calls itself The Asylum. It's because eventually watching their films are going to drive me into the nuthouse.
A few days from now will see the release of the megablockbuster PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST. A few days ago saw the release of The Asylum's direct-to-DVD knock-off, PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND. On the one hand, PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND is one of the best looking features The Asylum has ever produced from a purely aesthetic standpoint. It's handsomely shot; unquestionably the most photogenic film The Asylum has ever churned out. On the other hand, it's one of their biggest failures from a pure entertainment standpoint. Let me point out the phantom quote that appears on the cover of the DVD box:
"Swashbuckling adventure in the high seas as you've never seen it before!"
I don't know what imaginary, non-credited film critic made up this fictitious quote designed to fool less discerning eyes into thinking that it is an actual quote from an actual film critic, but that phony person that does not exist is a damn liar. The marketing flack that came up with that blurb should be made to walk the plank, or at least be given a hearty flogging. Swashbuckling adventure, eh? Let me crack open my dictionary.
Swashbuckling - adj: flamboyantly adventurous, n: flamboyantly reckless and boastful behavior
According to The Asylum's dictionary:
Swashbuckling - adj: with as little action or excitement as possible, n: an endless series of boring conversations that lead to more boring conversations
The worst crime a movie can commit is to be boring and PIRATE OF TREASURE ISLAND is a career criminal from start to finish. Even at only 75 minutes, it's a looooooooooooong 75 minutes. I mean practically nothing happens in this thing. There is a plot. There are characters. The characters are constantly talking about stuff related to the plot, but nothing happens. Nothing! This is not swashbuckling, people. Alliances may be forged and backs may be stabbed, but standing around talking about what you're going to do, who you're going to do it with, who you're going to do it against, and why you're going to do it at all does not constitute swashbuckling. However, the characters do go from one place to another so I guess I have no choice but to give them the "adventure" part, but only on a technicality.
Rather than try to explain to you the plot to this joyless variation on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale, again I defer to the DVD box. Here's how the plot synopsis reads:
"An innkeeper's life of monotony suddenly changes..."
Changes? Oh, I assure you his life of monotony continues for a good 75 minutes. Uh, sorry, couldn't help myself. Let me start over.
"An innkeeper's life of monotony suddenly changes when he comes into possession of a treasure map. Enlisting the help of Long John Silver and a band of cutthroat pirates, he sets off in search of the cursed Skeleton Island."
Young Jim Hawkins is still young but no longer a kid. He's now a strapping young adult longing for adventure and money. Frankly, I could never tell exactly which he was more interested in nor did I care. Two pirates - one of which wears a pair of ridiculous looking googily-eyed glasses that appear to have been purchased from a novelty joke shop - take one another out in Hawkins' pub thus allowing him to acquire a treasure map. Naturally, Hawkins starts to put together a voyage to the island where the map says the treasure is located. Everyone involved is either a privateer, a shipmate, a pirate, a pirate disguised as a shipmate, a pirate with a grudge against another pirate, a soldier looking to arrest pirates, or in the case of the women, lusty wenches just waiting for the chance to fulfill their piratic dreams of female empowerment.
Speaking of feminism, my favorite scene is the shocking revelation that one of the ship's all-male crew is actually a woman disguised as a man. This revelation came as a tremendous shock to me, not because he turned out to be a she, but because she was supposed to be passing for a he and I was not aware of this. She's so obviously a woman that I didn't even realize she was supposed to be masquerading as a man until it was revealed and other characters reacted with surprise. Amazing.
The listless and talky voyage of PIRATES ON TREASURE ISLAND fails to capture any of the spirit of adventure, camaraderie, or shenanigans that made PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN a hit film and TREASURE ISLAND a literary classic. We will get a tiny handful of close quarters sword skirmishes so uninspired they make the swordplay from Uwe Boll's BLOODRAYNE look like they were choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping. There will be a handful of shootings of little consequence. And there will be a very brief storm at sea sequence that momentarily breaks up the tedium. Mostly, PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND is about characters sitting or standing around and talking your freakin' head off. This would be acceptable if they said anything worthwhile or did so in a compelling manner. Alas me bucko, this is yet another one of those films with a plot that manages to be both simplistic and convoluted all at the same time; a pity it never managed to be interesting.
Lance Henriksen stars as Long John Silver. Lance Henriksen as a pirate should have resulted in some five-star scene chewing. Shockingly, it does not. Johnny Depp is said to have based his PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN performance on Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards. Lance Henriksen appears to have also based his performance on Keith Richards, but in his case, the so stoned out of his gourd he practically needs someone to prop him up in order to finish the concert Keith Richards. He delivers lines of pirate speak, lines that often should be boastful or dripping with sarcasm, lifelessly with no enthusiasm whatsoever. It's as if he were zoned out on valium the whole time. Heck, maybe he was. Or maybe he just didn’t give a damn. All I know is it's depressing when Lance Henriksen gets out acted by a nameless busty wench.
The rest of the cast fares better than Henriksen but not by much. Tom Nagel, a veteran of Asylum-produced pirate cinema, having previously co-starred in their pirate slasher flick JOLLY ROGER: MASSACRE AT CUTTER'S COVE, blandly plays earnest pretty boy Jim Hawkins. Rebekah Kochan, the blonde chick from The Asylum's WHEN A KILLER CALLS, plays a pretty barmaid/"I got a secret"/"I've practically become the film's main character by the third act. How the hell did that happen?" that serves as Jim's potential girlfriend. Even the great Rhett Giles, an actor I continue to believe deserves bigger and better things than this, flounders as a pirate-hunting soldier that becomes something of a sword-fighting mentor to Jim Hunkins. On the plus side, Giles is the only one in the entire cast with a flawless accent. Of course, that's probably because he's Australian and the accent comes naturally to him.
Just about everyone in the movie is trying to do speak with some sort of British or British-ish accent, but they're all trying to do it in some way different from everyone else in order to better distinguish their respective characters only for it to become comical at times, although not as comical as the often hokey PBS childrens’ show quality costumes they all wear. The film is a virtual cavalcade of unconvincing accents that hurt the performances and nullify whatever dialog comes out of their mouths, not that the dialog needed any extra nullification.
Three screenwriters are credited with writing PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND. Three! A barely coherent plot that amounts to nothing and it took three people to assemble it? My guess is one person read Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and put together some cliff notes for the next guy to write a pirate movie out of it with the constant knowledge that the budget restraints required that the action be kept to an absolute minimum, and then the third guy stepped in and converted all the dialogue to old English and pirate speak. I'm also guessing a fourth uncredited writer, most likely a producer, poked his head in the door in the middle of a screenwriting session and made it known that the film needed some giant bug action.
Yep, there are giant bugs on Treasure Island, Skeleton Island, whatever the hell they call it island - a giant flying beetle and a few smaller ones to be exact. And what do these giant beetles do? That's right. You guessed it. NOTHING! The big one shows up at the very beginning, stares at someone, hisses a few times, and then the opening credits kick in. An hour later, characters encounter the smaller beetles that just stare and hiss at them until the scene fades out and nothing comes of it. At the very end of the movie, the giant flying beetle suddenly appears out at sea and buzzes the ship a few times until Jim Hawkins shoots it out of the sky with a cannonball causing the big bug to explode in a ball of fire as if it were a 747 that just exploded in mid-air.
Was this another case like The Asylum's KING OF THE LOST WORLD where the special effects guy had some CGI dragons already created and the filmmaker decided to toss them in for the hell of it? Were the beetles meant to be part of the plot from the beginning or something added in post? Perhaps the audio commentary track could answer many of my questions regarding the film but I have no desire to listen to it because I have no desire to ever see a single frame from of this film ever again.
Oh, and what exactly is the treasure? Get this. The real treasure isn't the loot in the treasure chest. The real treasure is another treasure map in the treasure chest that Jim Hawkins and his new predominantly female crew head off in seach of to end the movie. Are they actually threatening a sequel or just reminding us that everything we've just watched really didn't amount to much of anything? And here I thought THE DA VINCI TREASURE had one of the worst pay-offs I'd ever seen.
Bilge-sucking bit of cinematic scurvy, I say. Stuff PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND into Davey Jones locker and toss it overboard. I bet it will still sink to the bottom of the sea as slowly as possible.