Morgan Adams is a mighty pirate cut from a different cloth. When her eeevil uncle vows to find the family treasure by any means necessary, she decides to beat him to it with the help of sexy rogue William Shaw. Can she stop her uncle, find the treasure, earn the trust of her crew (and perhaps get the guy) before it’s too late? Find out in… Cutthroat Island.
How?! Morgan Adams has quite the dastardly reputation in the Caribbean. Already a fugitive from the law, she finds herself in even more hot water when her father is captured by her evil uncle Dawg Brown. Rather than give him the secret of Cutthroat Island, her father chooses to give up his own life in exchange for giving a piece of the treasure map to Morgan. Now on the run, she gets the begrudging acceptance of her father’s crew and sets sail to Port Royal to find a translator for the map. In Port Royal, dashing rogue William Shaw has also found himself in hot water having lied and swindled ladies across the isles. Now a prisoner, Morgan buys him at auction, but not before the authorities recognize her and a major shootout ensues. Across the island they catch up with Morgan’s other uncle, but before they can get the second piece of the map Dawg appears. A fight ensues, Morgan is shot and in the chaos William is able to find and keep hidden the map piece. Shaw, who has claimed he is a doctor, treats Morgan’s wounds and perchance a romantic spark is lit. But before long Dawg is in hot pursuit and they only barely keep them at bay by navigating through dangerous seas. During the storm Morgan finds William attempting to use the map for his own devices and has him locked away, meanwhile the crew revolts and sends Morgan and her loyal crew off in a tiny liferaft. Miraculously they survive and wake up to find themselves at Cutthroat Island itself. On the island they are dismayed to find that Dawg and her former crew have teamed up and also surprised when they find that William is there and has stolen the last piece of the map from Dawg! With all the pieces in hand William and Morgan find the treasure, but are found by Dawg who forces them to jump from a cliff. William survives and is taken captive, while Morgan sneaks aboard her old ship and takes it back. A big ol’ climactic fight ensues on the high seas resulting in Dawg getting killed by a cannon and William and Morgan recovering the treasure. They then smooch and such and set out on another adventure. THE END (or is it? (it is.))
Why?! As Vinny D would say: fambly. Geena Davis comes from a family of pirates who’s patriarch (her grandfather) found and hid the family treasure on Cutthroat Island. Only the whole family could together find the treasure… you know, as long as the crazy evil one doesn’t kill all of them first. So the rest is obvious. Gotta stop that crazy evil one from ruining the fambly plan.
Who?! Renny Harlin appears in the film uncredited, which isn’t all that exciting. What is exciting is that Thor the dog appears CREDITED in the role of Pirate Dog. He had already appeared in a prior Renny Harlin film, Cliffhanger, so they must have had a good rapport. Finster appears uncredited as Morgan’s monkey, which is a travesty as the role was pretty big. He is better known for his star role as the titular monkey in Monkey Trouble.
What?! Whether you think of it as four separate MacGuffins or a single MacGuffin broken into four pieces, this is a pretty good one as the entire plot focuses around getting all the pieces together. It’s also a little unclear why the treasure was hidden in the first place. Maybe to wait out the authorities. But the family had all the pieces the entire time and never cared to get together and get it until Dawg started his own quest? It doesn’t make much sense. I found this to be a little more interesting than the thousands of props for sale online, which honestly probably ended up there because the studio sold it all off trying to make a buck.
Where?! The Caribbean and primarily Jamaica. It got me thinking about mapl.de.map. There have always been some vague parameters on what would “win” the spot on the map for a particular location. Is it how prominently the setting factors into the film or is it the grade (A+ location in title wins). This makes me think the answer is the former. Would rather have a film that best represents the location take the spot. B.
When?! I could probably write a bunch on this, but I think this might be an A film. I’ll keep it short, but they tell us explicitly that the year is 1668. Why? Because at the time Jamaica had just changed from Spanish to British rule, and let’s just say the Spanish weren’t happy about it. As a result the British, aiming to keep control of the island, supported piracy to fend off the Spanish. The island then descended into lawlessness from 1660-1670 after which a treaty was signed and the piracy was reined in. Interesting.
I certainly understand the reviews for the film. It took a big swashbuckling adventure and just filled it with explosions and were like “that’s fun, right?” The complete lack of humor is glaring considering that was a big part of what made Pirates of the Caribbean such a success. They would even say lines that almost sounded like jokes, but I assure you they were not. Just kinda bland explosions most of the time. All that being said, it was still a rollicking adventure if that’s simply all that you were looking for. It also took some shots for the gender reversal with Morgan as swashbuckling captain and Shaw as gentleman in distress, but I actually thought that was deftly done. Matthew Modine plays the pretty boy liar who slithers his way out of trouble with his smile well and Geena Davis was very winning. So I disagree with that. Overall some good and bad things and not the total disaster I maybe would have thought given the reputation it earned at the box office. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Well, shiver me timbers. It is time to raise the Jolly Roger and ogle that 90’s heartthrob … Matthew Modine? Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – One of the most notorious box office bombs in history. All of the reviews seem to suggest it is … good? It does seem odd that swashbuckling adventures just were terrible in the 90s, so bad, in fact, that people thought pirate films were just done until Disney breathed new life into it half a decade later. What were my expectations? A good movie I guess. Which I don’t often say. It seemed plausible that the movie was actually pretty good, but it was just a box office catastrophe never seen before.
The Good – So … I wouldn’t call the movie good, which I’ll get to. But Geena Davis was solid, and the film is, indeed, a pretty fun adventure film. Like something like The Three Musketeers (the 90s one) maybe. The main set peces of Port Royal, the bar in Spittlefield, and the final naval battle are all incredible as well. You can definitely see where most of the money went in this financial disaster. And if you watched Masters of the Universe and thought “Man, I wish Frank Langella was allowed to really go over the top, he’s so restrained as Skeletor!”, well, then this is the movie for you. Best Bit: The set pieces.
The Bad – Unfortunately the action looks like absolute garbage. I might be being a bit harsh, but like The Three Musketeers (the 90s one) there is something about 90s films where swashbuckling action looks ultra cheesy and terrible. Something about cannonballs resulting in giant Hollywood explosions just doesn’t sit right. And something about the lackluster sword fighting in this film only serves to remind me how incredible Pirates of the Caribbean really is. And unfortunately Modine constantly feels like a second or third choice for the role, no matter how much good effort he puts in. Fatal Flaw: Bad action for how much money it costs.
The BMT – I don’t know … I kind of dug this movie. If you can excuse that it doesn’t look as polished as Pirates of the Caribbean and the action is kind of lame even compared to other swashbucklers from arond the same time, then there is a pretty entertaining pirate story sitting in there. And Geena Davis and Frank Langella are a solid good/bad team. Did it meet my expectations? Yeah, for the most part. I would have thought the movie would look better, but I can excuse that to get my swashbuckler on.
Roast-radamus – There is a halfway decent Planchet (Who?) for Captain Trotter who Ainslee just dunks on the entire film for being a dummy. Obviously a fantastic Setting as a Character (Where?) for Jamaica which, oddly, this film is rarely mentioned as being set there, but a good 50% of the film is very much explicitly in various parts of Jamaica. And then a solid MacGuffin (Why?) for the secret three part treasure map of Cutthroat Island, which isn’t on any maps! This film is very much closest to Good despite looking like garbage and having garbage action because, honestly, who hates a swashbuckling adventure story?
Sequel, Prequel, Remake – The obvious one is Sequel since they tease a sequel at the end of the film. Flashforward a few decades and Morgan Adams and William Shaw are married and ruling the roost in Madagascar as pirates extraordinaire! Suddenly, who shows up but their old enemy Dawg’s former first mate, uh … Pound Grisham (Dawg & Pound, get it? That’s the prequel I’m setting up). And who does he have as a prisoner, but Mordachai’s grandson, William Adams. Pound wants Morgan to help him to sail across the Indian Ocean and attack the great eastern pirate stronghold of … let’s go with Gao. Little does she know that this is all a ruse set up by William and Pound to attack her Madagascar fortress himself as her back is turned. Racing back to Madagascar things are bleak as it looks to be too late, but who is coming around the corner but Bowen (Christopher Masterson), and Mr. Glasspool, and all the other Caribbean pirates who now have their own crews. In the final battle blood proves thicker than gold (it makes sense, don’t think about it) and William switches sides to defeat Pound and save Morgan and Shaw’s skins. Looking to the half dozen pirate empires that rallied to her aid, Morgan openly wonders if there is any place that could stand in their way … could she, for example, rule Jamaica like Dawg once hoped? Smash cut to To Be Continued … Cutthroat Island: Escape 2 Africa. After would be Dawg & Pound: Tales from Cutthroat Island. And the third is Cutthroat Island: Black Harry’s Revenge.
You Just Got Schooled – This week’s film had another video game tie-in! Cutthroat Island for the SNES is a pretty basic brawler (think Final Fight) with a notoriously bad minecart level as level number 2. I played about an hour of this, but decided I should probably return to it after playing some brawlers. I never liked brawlers as I never had the patience to “solve” how to beat all of the different characters and things just devolved into button mashing. With this game that definitely happened, although I did eventually get to the point where I was able to get through levels 1 and 2 quite consistently. With only 10 levels there is a possibility I’ll finish this game sometime in the future. For now though I’ll have to give it a D. It is bad for a brawler, and apparently (who can tell these days) looks like garbage even for an SNES game of the time. I’ll get back to you about whether I’ve finished it sometime in the next decade.