Nowadays, fans can pretty much look to any big screen blockbusters and point to more than a handful of effects that are obviously CG. It’s one of the big weaknesses in today’s age of filmmaking. Yes, computer generated imagery can make the previously impossible possible, but because of its widespread use, filmmakers have grown to rely on it far too much. The result: pretty much everyone assumes that many of the effects we see nowadays are achieved on a computer.
Pirates of the Caribbean is a franchise that’s always been pretty reliant on CG. From the very first CG skeletons that made up Captain Barbossa’s crew, to the octopus-faced Davy Jones, it’s not a franchise that would have been possible in decades prior. However, that’s not to say that all the effects are achieved using digital magic. In fact, there’s one key moment in the most recent film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, that was achieved using practical effects.
The moment in question is the guillotine scene. Jack Sparrow is awaiting his execution via the guillotine, when a cannonball takes out the support from the platform he’s on. The result? The guillotine starts to spin vertically, and every time it finds its way upright, the blade works its way down towards Jack’s neck, only to be sent away again as it spins downward.
Speaking with CinemaBlend, co-director Joachim Rønning discussed how that effect was achieved:
“There’s a scene where Jack Sparrow is strapped to a guillotine [and does that spin]. It’s one of the luxuries to have making a movie on this scale, the resources that you can come up with something and then like six months later they spend millions of dollars and built the thing! And you get to strap Johnny Depp into it and spin it around!”
The result is definitely impressive, especially if you believe the fact that even the blade itself was a practical entity. But don’t think that that was the only practical effect in the film.
“The franchise has a lot of [practical action sequences], and also talking to Johnny Depp about his inspirations for the character and going back to the Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin of it all. We really worked hard to take the action sequences and those kind of funny set pieces to the next level.”
For a true master class in physical comedy, we definitely recommend looking into the work of Buster Keaton. Not only were his gags practical (duh, given the time period in which the films were made), but man are they dangerous and impressive. Not sure if what they’ve achieved in Pirates manages to live up to that, but it’s some impressive physical comedy nonetheless.
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