The Immortal Voyage of Captain Drake Review
Weekend Sci-Fi channel movies are usually a wash. The special effects are cheaper than a dirty t-shirt from the Salvation Army, the acting makes Uma Thurman look talented, and the writing is “hack” you’re just waiting for a “slash.” It’s like Uwe Boll without Uwe Boll (except for Bloodrayne). So you’d think there would be no reason to watch one. I thought so too.
Until I saw this. Adrian Paul (Highlander) and Temeura Morrison (Star Wars) somehow collaborated on a real peice of work that somehow did not turn out 100% bad. Instead, it’s only Bruce Campbell bad. (Too bad he doesn’t show up.)
Adrian Paul is Sir Francis Drake, the famous English sailor who led the fleet against the Spanish and won because a storm came through and trashed the Spanish Armada. After another daring raid, he’s pressed into service by the sultan of a country that’s either fictional or the size of my thumbnail, but in either case is made up mostly of phlegm. The sultan’s country is suffering from a disease (probably leprosy), so the sultan has Drake seek out the Tree of Life.
Thus, an enjoyable romp around the world is born.
This is no big-budget blockbuster. The fighting scenes are hastily slapped together, with the actors shuffling around at senior’s dance night, and you can see the swords bend, flipping and flapping as they swing them around. The rifles look like giant logs that were only superficially cut into the shape of a gun. The CGI work could have come from CBS News during the nineties. Some of the historical details are wonky; for one thing, Drake’s second-in-command calls the soldiers of the United Kingdom the “British,” although back then they weren’t united, they were just English; and apparently their log-guns are also semiautomatic. Even though they use bloody powder. One of Drake’s men is also a nerd, and the writing staff had the audacity to turn him into a 21st century academic. I mean, I knew that back in the Renaissance there were people who were scholars, but this guy rattles off datapoint after datapoint like he’s the human incarnation of the Encarta Encyclopedia. Bad choice of characterization, there. It just seems so…shallow. Shallow enough that when he gets shot I’m glad he’s shut up. That scene, by the way, is lifted almost entirely from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indy gives his father the drink of eternal life, although its way shortened and distilled. Its also an apple, and since they went to the wrong tree, its of Knowledge, not Life. I surprised the boy’s head didn’t asplode right there.
But the movie’s salvation also comes from the acting and the writing. The writing actually builds on a fairly good plot, and it has remarkably good pacing that beats most contemporary Hollywood productions these days. It has a very epic feel to it on a shoestring budget. And then there’s Paul and Morrison. Paul might put too much effort into his accent, but his acting is good. This man knows he’s in a crappy movie that deserves from loving from Bruce Campbell’s loins, and he’s living it up. He portrays Drake as a somewhat absent-minded, arrogant, yet honorable pirate, with all the swagger and humor that makes you want to grin, laugh, and if you swing in that direction, swoon. Morrison plays the Spanish rival, and he does an admirable job playing the bad guy. He too, brings a powerful vitality and fun into his position. Obviously he’s down quite a bit, from Mandalorian commando to Spanish captain, but hey, at least he gets a fluffy suit.
This movie pleasantly surprised me. Cheap? Yes, but its fun. Fun enough that I can actually recommend it. Its mostly for Adrian Paul, though–that man stole this movie, stuffed it in a box, and then took round the world until he sold it to an arms dealer in Basra, who was apparently going to try and use it to kill people with B-movies. Unfortunately, its not that bad. It’s actually quite good.
Final Grade: B+