The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure is a wacky, high-octane swashbuckling adventure full of cartoonish action and silly gags. It is nothing we haven’t seen before but has an entertaining infectious energy if you go along with it.
When I saw a brand new South Korean pirate movie on Netflix, I was immediately intrigued. Movies made at sea are rare and far between. Pirate movies are practically an endangered film genre. With its rising popularity around the world, I was doubly curious to see what a South Korean pirate movie would be like.
The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure is one wacky motion picture. Or in some ways, it may be easier to think of it as a live-action cartoon with attention-deficit disorder. The tone is part-cartoon, part-wuxia and part-historical epic; where whales swallow people and shoot them out of their blowholes… only to be saved by them slamming against a ship’s sails.
Lead actor Kang Ha-neul’s bandit screams his lines with big gaping laughs into the sky like a possessed cartoon character, or a younger Korean version of Toshiro Mifune from Seven Samurai. Lead actress Han Hyo-joo is the cool-headed captain leading her crew of misfits and fools. The villains, who are government officials and soldiers with stern faces, feel like they’re in a more serious historical epic in a completely separate movie.
The fast-paced editing cutting between the three groups is like a pinball just bouncing around rapidfire. It is funny but also dizzying at times. Perhaps it is just South Korean humor, but international audiences may struggle with its constantly shifting tone. It hurts the film in its more serious and emotional moments, as it never fully grounds its drama.
A common gag in pirate films is the fragile morality between thieves. As we have seen previously in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, situations change and every character’s motivations are changing and the crew eventually turns on each other and double-crosses one another in hilarious ways. The Pirates ultimately pulls off this central gag well and it was funny enough to keep me entertained.
I believe The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure will play well with kids and parents can certainly enjoy it with their children for its laughs. As for the adults, it’s light harmless silly fun.
Review by ObsessiveCinemaDisorder