Jan. 22nd, 2009

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Let me be upfront with something to you all: I am a history nut and I must blame both the SCA and my High School history teacher, Phyllis Nations, for it all. Especially Phyllis because she was the first one to tell us about the attitudes of the people during various points in time (Mostly the Civil War as this is Georgia and there are a lot of misconceptions about it) and that US Grant was a drunken asshole. The last may be the Southerner in me, but I've seen it confirmed in several other places including a passage from Lincoln about his distaste for him.

Both "Master and Commander" and "Pirates of the Caribbean #1) came out in 2003 and I saw "Pirates" first, not seeing "M&C" until it came out on DVD much later. I was probably more familiar with the first having gone to Disneyworld on my honeymoon and going on the ride to specifically have Barbara point out where they had changed things to make it slightly more PC. But when I saw the movie, I took it with a grain of salt that Jack Sparrow could steal a sloop single handed and get away from a much larger frigate with ease. Hey, it was Johnny Depp, it was Disney, and it was a fantasy.

Then I picked up the first book in Patrick O'Brian's "Aubrey - Maturin" series; "Master and Commander". I was immediately immersed in British naval history at the time of the Napoleonic Wars and was hooked. O'Brian isn't for the light reading stack; he heavily researches everything in the books, takes pains to make sure that although his characters are fictional, they do things in proper and correct naval fashion, and that all ship actions (battles) are based on actual engagements of the time.

I tore through the books so I could watch the movie and understand what it was about. "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is based on the tenth novel, "The Far Side of the World", and is by and large (another nautical term) a true telling of the book. There are certain liberties that are taken in the plot (The bad guys were Americans, not French and it took place during the War of 1812) and the actors aren't exactly precisely what O'Brian described (Think John Goodman as Jack Aubrey and Steve Buscemi as Stephen Maturin), but the ship and everything about it was as dead solid perfect as one could get.

Now then there is "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End". Oh God, where to begin? Let's try the second, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" when two groups of the crew of the Black Pearl are trying to escape cannibals. One is lead by Jack Sparrow (I add Sparrow just so you don't confuse Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp, okay?) and the other by a bunch of what you might describe as the Pirate versions of Red Shirts. One of the group (foolishly) says "that all you really need is six people to crew the Pearl" and that touches off a race that ends in the deaths of the six red shirts.

Six crew. Including the captain.

The HMS Surprise in "M&C" has a crew of 192 plus officers and is roughly the same size as the Black Pearl. If you look closely at the scenes in "Pirates" on the Pearl's gundeck, they are using the same set and guns as "M&C", so I would say that they are equivalent in class. During "Pirates", maneuvers are executed quickly and efficiently and the ship is navigated while all the guns are manned and fired on both sides. The gun crew of a long gun (standard naval issue which the class is based on, 24 guns, 36 guns, etc.) takes 6 to 8 people to shoot. So, assume that the Pearl has 24 guns, with 6 men to a station, that's 144 men at minimum to fight both sides! And let's not forget the guns up top (probably carronades by the size), which were all firing and take a minimum of two per gun with 10 of them, so that's another 20 to bring you to 166 needed to effectively man and shoot both sides at the same time.

Oops. Forgot about needing a Gunner in the magazine and powder boys to bring powder and shot up to the guns (you didn't think that they just stored it anywhere did you?) Good, now we're shooting at things! Wait, where did the ships go that were outside the gunports a minute ago? Isn't that the quartermaster over there bringing up powder with the bosun? Who's at the helm?

Crap! No one is actually STEERING!

See what I mean? There's being too picky and then there's being remotely plausible. My major technical nitpick while watching it was that there were literally no ropes on the Black Pearl. There is a scene where Sparrow and Gibbs (the master?) are walking up the larboard side of the waist and I realized that there were no lines except the ratlines (the ladder like ropes) on that side of the ship. I started looking at it closely and I realized that probably they had 1/100th of the cordage needed. Must be handy to have that diesel down below, wasn't it?

And let's not forget they called the chasers "the forward guns" and the Dutchman has some abomination called "tri-cannon". I will cut the Dutchman some slack as it was a supernatural vessel.

I can go on and on. The Endeavor failed to fire one shot (it was filled with scared, superstitious seamen who *knew* they were about to die, so why not fire the 30 or so cannon on one side into the Pearl at least). And when they blew up (the magazine 'sploded) the Pearl wasn't rolled over and broached (again, I'm cutting the Dutchman some slack) from the force of the detonation.

Oh well, maybe later I can get to the strange plot.

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