Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Haunted Mansion VS Pirates of the Caribbean

     Growing up as a kid in San Diego, California allowed me to frequently visit Disney Land for vacation, and the two rides that I always looked forward to riding the most were The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. Most agree that these are the two most classic amusement park rides from the Disney Land park, in fact there so popular that in 2003, both rides had their own movie adaption. First there was “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and in 2004 there was “The Haunted Mansion”. Now when it comes to the two rides, it’s still up for debate as to which is better, I say that the haunted mansion is better but that’s just my own opinion. On the other hand, when it comes to the two movies, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is considered to be the far superior film and it’s pretty obvious why. I won’t even bother arguing why Pirates is better than mansion, but I am curious as to why Mansion failed so badly by comparison when there both only based on theme park rides, so in this different rendition of movie vs. movie, I’m simply going to try and determine why one works while the other doesn’t.
     The first big thing that separates these two films are the characters.  
     The characters in “The Haunted Mansion” were all pretty forgettable, I don’t even remember the name of Eddie Murphy’s character. We’ll than again, it wasn’t really a character, it was just Eddie Murphy playing Eddie Murphy for the hundredth time. All the other characters were just generic, with the exception of two stand out characters. One was Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota, who really brought the character to life with personality and spooky charms. The other was the butler named Ramsley, who’s brought to life perfectly by Terence Stamp. But it’s the characters from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” that stand out to us the most. Johnny Depp wasn’t just funny and animated as Jack Sparrow, he created a classic character in his own right, deserving to go down in Hollywood history along with Harrison ford Indiana Jones. The rest of the characters are all great too, Orlando Bloom plays Will Turner, who’s a terrific side hero and Captain Barbossa is an awesome villain and played very well by Geoffrey Rush. I’ll admit, I never liked Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann, but I do at least remember her. Overall, the Pirate characters are all mini classics and very memorable, and that makes them leaps and bounds better than what “The Haunted Mansion” has to offer.
As for the visual effects and art direction in these films, it’s much harder to pick which is better.

     In “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, we were given an incredible display a visual effects, with pirates morphing into skeletons whenever they inter the moon light. This was so unique and really cool to look at. To this day, I still don’t know how they pulled this off so well, it’s just a perfect example of CG done well without being to over the top. However, even after saying all of that, I still love the visuals in “The Haunted Mansion”. The CG effects are all done well but what I really love is the art direction, the sets and props on display are just so detailed and impressive. Everything is so decorative that I discover something new every time I watch it. Visuals are always more impressive to me when there’s something physically on screen, I just lose myself in this fascinating display of detailed sets and crafts. Hard chose, but I honestly like the visuals in “The Haunted Mansion” the most.   

 Now let’s be honest, the story’s for both these films are very basic, but that dosn't make them bad. but one's certainly better.

     In the case of both films, the plots about a curse that needs to be lifted, however “The Haunted Mansion”, doesn’t give you much more than that. It’s just this family being lead by the nose and given clues on how to break the curse, that’s really it. They try and throw in a subplot about Eddie Murphy’s character and how he isn’t paying attention to his family, which is fine but it’s honestly not that interesting. The curse in this film itself isn’t even explained that we’ll, we learn that the mistress of the mansion was murdered and the master of the house hung himself but how does that create a curse? There was no magic in the house before the murder, nothing to fully explain why everyone’s soul was trapped in the mansion or how statures could come to life and sing, everything just sort of happens at random. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” explained a lot more, not just how the curse worked and why it’s so important to remove but there’s a lot more substance to the film. The characters are all more fleshed out, given far more back story and are a lot more interesting. It’s still a basic, swashbuckling, action packed, popcorn flick but done with style, ingenuity and a nice three act structure with every scene feeling necessary. Nothing felt random and even when referencing the ride, it still felt in place with the story. Haunted Mansion just seemed to throw random things in there, just because it was in the ride. You really feel that with Pirates, there was more of an effort to make it more than an adaption of off a theme park attraction, like it’s trying to be its own creation and for that “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” definitely wins as the the superior film. Having said that, I'd take "The Haunted Mansion" over any of those awful “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels and I suppose that stands for something.

                                               Stay tuned for my second October marathon, beginning next month.           


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