‘The Pirates’ is a film that doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, but it does a few things okay. It has hints of action, drama, and comedy, but none of them are really consistent. The story itself reads interesting enough (in an somewhat cringe-worthy there’s going to necessarily be some suspension of belief kind of way), but once it starts to come into fruition on the screen it quickly becomes clear that the plot alone cannot carry the film.
The story itself is pseudo-historical, taking place on the eve of the founding of the Joseon Dynasty. It seems that a great grey whale has swallowed the Emperor’s Seal, which was to be delivered to Joseon by envoys from China. A large reward is put out for the whale, and this draws out all kinds of fortune seekers. Jang Sa-jung (Nam-gil Kim), the leader of a group of mountain bandits, quickly is on the trail of the beast, but this quickly leads to a contestation and clash with Yeo-wol (Ye-jin Son), the female captain of a group of pirates. Treasure and glory await the captor of the great whale.
As the plot summary should easily reveal, the goal of the plot is not so much to tell a story, as it is to set up scenes. Mostly mindless in their portrayal, there are some entertaining sequences, but much of the appeal gets lost in just how cartoonish the whole thing feels. At times you cannot help but notice the blatant rip-offs from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ The whole thing just feels forced and haphazardly slapped together.
‘Pirates’ does more to waste time than to entertain. Most of its exciting elements are poorly recycled tropes from other films that do little but create an impetus to watch said other films. While it does have its moments, at a running time of over two hours it is just not worth the hassle.