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Aardman’s The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists trailer

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Looks like another cracking film from the studio that brought us Wallace & Gromit...

Hugh Grant voices the Pirate Captain in Aardman's 'The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists' (2012)

 

 

Aardman (or should that be ‘Aar!-dman’?), the studio behind the Wallace and Gromit films, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away, have brought us two of the most splendidly entertaining trailers in ages for next year’s The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, or, as it’s known internationally, The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

The first one has a tremendous sense of pace. It starts with Imelda Staunton (the loathsome Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter) as a knife-wielding Queen Victoria, in a spot of historical revisionism. She bellows “I hate pirates!”, as the Navy officers she’s addressing recoil nervously, and then she slams the knife down into the table, on which the trailer smash cuts to the Pirate Captain sticking his knife in the map, and a jaunty, energetic reworking of a pirate sea shanty kicks in. It’s rather catchy, actually.

As with the rest of Aardman’s work, the trailer’s packed with quirky visual humour and quintessentially British surrealism: A fish in a hat! A monkey butler! It’s clever, but never self-satisfied, and doesn’t let up on the pace of madcap jokes.

There’s a skull and crossbones flag with ham drumsticks instead of crossbones, which is fitting, since it seems to be the kind of film to be filled with knowingly hammy performances. And the trailer ends, in an amusing spot of irony, with an exhortation against piracy.

Pirates and singing form a great high-concept combination, though it’s rarely seen apart from Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical The Pirates of Penzance and the movingly effective opening sequence of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. (The combination of pirates and dodgeball is even less well-served, though, with Alan Tudyk’s Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story as the only example that comes to mind.)

The second trailer, presumably for international audiences, and going by the title The Pirates! Band of Misfits, is more conventional, but still rip-roaringly entertaining. My favourite moments are when a woman gasps in awe at seeing “An actual pirate?”, to which Hugh Grant’s Pirate Captain responds “Obviously. Duh…”, and the fish’s nonplussed reaction when the Pirate Captain says he’s not a pirate, but just a fish that he’d dressed up in a hat.

Empire Online, which had the advantage of having taken a tour of the film’s production, sums it up brilliantly as follows:

"There’s ham-loving buccaneers, a brash seadog played by Ari Gold, a dodo that thinks it’s a parrot, a chimpanzee that thinks it’s a person, and a pirate ship built out of bits of two other ships bolted together. There’s actor-turned-national-hero Hugh Grant as the slightly hapless Pirate Captain, Martin Freeman as his smarter, Gromit-like sidekick, a pirate-loathing Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) and a seriously loopy quest for the prestigious ‘Pirate of the Year’ award on Blood Island.”

(There’s also an official synopsis, which you can read in the article at We Are Movie Geeks, but Empire’s summary is pretty much unbeatable.)

To paraphrase James Purefoy from A Knight’s Tale: If I knew nothing else about it, that would be enough. But then it amazed me still further, with two incredible trailers.

Aardman have also recently released a trailer for another upcoming film, Arthur Christmas, coming later this year, which is in CGI like the Aardman/Dreamworks co-production Flushed Away, as opposed to Claymation like the Wallace & Gromit films, Chicken Run, and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists.

Unlike the two trailers above, however, this Arthur Christmas trailer is sadly not that great, with the usually excellent James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Wanted, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) being given a slightly irritating character to voice, at least from the sounds of it. That is to say, it’s not that great except for the polar bear scenes, which are hilarious. (If the film doesn’t revolve around it, they should do a spin-off just about the polar bear.)

Perhaps the polar bear is going to be like Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau in the original The Pink Panther, in that whenever he’s onscreen, it’s utterly hilarious, but the rest of the time, it’s tedious and unfunny. Still, Clouseau spawned a series of films where he took centre stage, and the surrounding elements were improved as well, so maybe that’s what’ll happen here. The Inspector Clouseau of polar bears. (By the way, Hollywood execs, that brilliantly high-concept idea is mine. Well, I think it’s brilliant…)

Going back to The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, hopefully David Tennant, who’s included in the film’s impressive cast, will get more of a role than in (the otherwise awesome) How to Train Your Dragon, since as his tenure as the Tenth Doctor showed, he’s an incredible actor.

Incidentally, his The Pirates! co-star Hugh Grant also played the Doctor, though in Steven Moffat’s non-canon Doctor Who Comic Relief story The Curse of Fatal Death, and Brian Blessed and Russell Tovey have also featured in the show.

It’s interesting to note that the film contains three Harry Potter cast members: David Tennant (Barty Crouch, Jr.), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), and Brendan Gleeson (Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody); incidentally, as did The King’s Speech, which featured Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew), and Michael Gambon (Dumbledore). In either case, this could be a form of homage, since the Harry Potter books, and for the most part the films also, are rightly regarded as being truly excellent stories.

However, it could just be the case that all three (kinds of film) are distinctly British in their sensibilities, and hence share the tradition of populating their casts with great British actors (though Brendan Gleeson is Irish).

With Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides now in the top 10 all time box office films, hopefully the popularity of the genre will transfer to The Pirates! An Adventure with Scientists, since whatever you think of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels (personally, I rather like them…), Aardman’s take on pirates looks to be plenty of fun.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists is directed by Aardman Animation’s co-founder Peter Lord (who directed Chicken Run with Nick Park, and produced the Wallace & Gromit films), and co-directed by Jeff Newitt, who worked on Chicken Run and Flushed Away for the studio, as well as directing some short films and TV. Gideon Defoe adapted his books into a screenplay for the film.

The film features the voice talent of Hugh Grant (Music and Lyrics, Love Actually, Bridget Jones, Notting Hill), David Tennant (Doctor Who, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, The Office UK, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter), Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter), Russell Tovey (Being Human UK, Doctor Who), Ashley Jensen (Extras, Ugly Betty), Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Salma Hayek (Desperado), Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon, Doctor Who, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost, GI Joe, The Mummy Returns, The Bourne Identity).

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (otherwise known as The Pirates! Band of Misfits) is released in 3D on March 30, 2012.

We Are Movie Geeks

See also:

Awesome low-budget The Avengers trailer spoof

Second Muppets teaser trailer is just as witty

Kung Fu Panda 2 - 3D review


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