Director Lee Seok-hoon (Dancing Queen) helms this period comedy/adventure film set on the high seas. Set in the first quarter of the 14th century at the founding of the Joseon Dynasty, the fun-filled Korean take on Hollywood films like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Pirates (해적: 바다로 간 산적) follows a group of pirates led by the fearsome female pirate Yeo-wol (Son Ye-jin) as they enter into a three-way clash with bandits and the military to recover the emperor’s royal seal, which was swallowed by a whale as it was being transported to the capitol.
While The Pirates is definitely successful at mixing action with comedy, and Son Ye-jin is invigorating to watch onscreen in her swashbuckling role as the kick-butt female pirate, the film does often go too far astray from its main purpose, and that is to simply dazzle us and amuse us. Too many subplots involving political machinations tend to confuse things. It doesn’t help that there are three separate factions competing against each other straight through the film either, and that they often switch sides at the clank of a sword.
The film also has some dodgy CG work that spoils some of the fun. The whale looks quite fake, and some other issues plague the visuals. For a film that needs its visual effects to really come across well, this is a weak spot. Also ruining what could otherwise have been a better effort is the over two-hour runtime. It’s okay to sit through something mindless and silly for ninety-minutes or so, but that extra half-hour is pushing it, especially when so many of the scenes seem like filler that add nothing to the plot. For instance, a scene with the bandits in the forest trying a roadside robbery, although it may have been quite funny, ultimately does nothing to progress the story.
Even with its flaws, however, The Pirates offers up some solid action sequences and likeable characters dressed up in period costumes that catch the eye.
There’s lot of detail in this 1080p AVC transfer, specially in close-ups, but the detail also extends well into backgrounds. Colors pop nicely, especially primaries like reds, or the golden metallic embellishments on the ornate period designs of the royal accoutrements. That said, there are some digital anomalies like banding that can be spotted occasionally.
The Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack is an aggressive mix that goes from subtle, dialogue-driven fare with lots of audible atmospheric effects in the surrounds, and dialogue that often pans from the rear to the front and vice versa, to big and loud action sequences that push everything up front, big lows, and a wall of sounds. The dialogue stays clear through it all, but the louder sequences can become a bit fatiguing, with a bit of harshness in the higher frequencies and too many sounds competing for the same space.
Only the original theatrical trailer and additional Well Go USA trailers are included.
- Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24; Korean Dolby Digital 5.1; 00:02:09)
The Definitive Word
An amusing effort with lots of action and comedy, The Pirates is a bit inconsistent and should have been trimmed down to a more manageable length, but in the end it’s a fun film to watch.