Splashing down on Netflix today is the Korean action-adventure movie, The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure. The movie – from director Jeong-hoon Kim – is the spiritual sequel to 2014’s The Pirates, and stars Han Hyo-joo and Kang Ha-Neul.
The film follows the story of a Captain Hae-Rang and her crew as they go in search of treasure. In the movie, Hae-Rang’s ship crosses paths with a group of fishermen, and after some initial disagreements (including a dash of double-crossing), they join forces on a quest for royal gold.
Along the way the pirates meet up with a rival group, who are on a similar mission. This second group is considerably more cutthroat than Hae-Rang’s crew and the two opposing sides soon engage in combat.
However, this small scuffle does not deter either side and they are soon back on the open seas, continuing their treasure hunt. But will they reach their goal, or will the forces of nature scupper their plans?
Right off the bat I’m going to be quite clear about The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure and say it is a real mixed bag, which has some really good elements and one element which is really weak. And unfortunately, the really weak element brings down a great deal of the good stuff.
My issue with The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure is that this film has no story. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s a narrative of sorts stretched over this two-hour movie, but it’s weaker than tissue paper and just as disposable.
If the plot summary at the beginning of this review sounded threadbare it is because not a great deal happens in the film. There are some pirates, they search for treasure, there’s a fair bit of shouting, some back-and-forth between characters, and a resolution, and that is pretty much it.
In terms of the story, the film never goes anywhere surprising, nor does it try anything new. It is a bog-standard adventure romp, that works at a very basic level and requires a significant amount of patience to see it through.
I stuck it out, but I expect some will not. To me, the story felt rather poor, like something I would have dreamt up as a kid, and acted out in my living room, leaping off the furniture while pretending I was a salty seadog – or something along those lines.
So, yeah, the story is rubbish. I struggled with it, and found it hugely detrimental to everything else in this movie.
However, if you can bench the weak story (and I know how difficult that is), the other aspects of the film are superb. The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure boasts some fantastic visuals, some excellent fight choreography, and a few spots of humour.
When the film leans into the action, it is a lot of fun. There are some strong fight sequences in the picture, including some good old fashioned swashbuckling scenes, and I liked this aspect of the movie very much.
Every time a character drew a sword, threw a punch, or swung through the air on a rope, the movie suddenly came alive. Excitement filled the screen and everything fired on all cylinders.
The poor story was momentarily forgotten, and I found myself lost in the magic. And the same could be said when it came to some of the visual flourishes in the movie too – this is where the film really hit its stride.
The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure looks exquisite at all times, but there are some scenes in particular which go that extra mile. From an undersea swim with jellyfish, to a lightning-filled climactic showdown, there are sequences in the film which really pop off the screen.
No matter how many times I found myself losing interest in the ongoing narrative, I never got bored of looking at the picture. This is where the film truly excels and had I simply been watching for the visuals alone, I would be more than happy with what was being offered.
But good visuals and enjoyable action do not make the perfect film. Nor does that aforementioned dash of humour which added a light touch here and there.
For a film to work it needs to tick all the boxes and sadly, The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure comes up empty in the writing department. This is something which can’t be overlooked, and the poor story leaves a cannon ball-shaped hole through the hull of this film.
Director Jeong-hoon Kim does a fine job of bringing the action and adventure to the screen, and hats off to the production team for making this movie look so good, but alas, The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure doesn’t quite cut it. I would love to see the visual aspects of this movie applied to a better script, and I believe Kim certainly has the right eye for this type of film, but as it stands this particular movie falls flat.
Watchable and certainly enjoyable in places, the movie has its moments, but those moments aren’t quite enough to save it. Due to the one very significant problem, which stopped me from becoming completely invested, it is a misfire for me.