After reaching as deeply as we could into our pockets to pay the £10 (concession price) for a ticket to the third part of The Pirates of the Caribbean juggernaut at the Odeon Tottenham Court Road, my friends and I retreated to the Sainsburies down the road with our meagre change to stock up on enough provisions to last us through the three hours and twenty minutes (running time + trailers) we were about to spend sitting in the dark bowels of the cinema. After loading ourselves down with fruit and chocolates (Malteasers of course, a king amongst sweets) we took our seats in the auditorium and waited for the show to start.
And wait we did, wading through car adverts, phone adverts, (rather ironically) anti-piracy adverts, adverts for films, adverts for the cinema we were in, adverts for the phone company that sponsored the cinema we were in... at this point my friend glanced down at her watch to note we had already been in the cinema, eating and sitting for forty minutes. My raspberries were all gone. As were the Strawberries. The Malteasers were just being opened. Finally it looked like it might start, just a couple of flashy digital adverts for the company that made the film and the company that distributed the film and finally we were in.
Precise looking rags, carefully applied dirt, a restlessly moving camera roving up and down the orderly ranks of grimy extras, the music that was ceaselessly blaring behind the scene already slipping out of our notice. Yes, this was definitely the film we had come to see.
And for a while it was magnificent, glorious fun.
I gorged myself on malteasers, throwing two or three into my mouth with a crunch, melted chocolate glazing the front of my teeth. On the the screen the action was similarly sickly and satisfying. The colours were magnificent. The sets were enormous. The actors looked perfect. Not a single shot, not even a single frame was overlooked. Each one meticulously, expensively prepared. Each one dribbling with technological wizardry; every prop, every costume, every face, every wave, every inch of the screen thickly-sugar coated in Hollywood gloss.
And the action simply fizzed. There were pirate songs. Spectacular fight scenes. Lingering close-ups on flawless (and flawlessly disfigured) faces. Explosions. Pirate ships. Monkeys. More Explosions. More fighting. Clashing swords. Quippy dialogue. Jumps and jump cuts (the camera moving as fast as the actors). Shouts and gun fire and cannonfire. A magnificent musical crescendo. A daring escape. A wistfully perfect one-liner. An expansive, ocean-encompassing pan-back. A single ship disappearing towards a perfect horizon... and a fade to black.
And the audience breathed.
This was what made the first film such a success. Like the malteasers this was a product manufactured to perfection. Gloriously, deliriously, rich and satisfying. Twists and turns and breathless somersaults. This was not a theme-park ride turned into cinema. This was cinema turned into a theme park ride - as the film began to slow down you wanted to release the safety harness you imagined must be pulled down over you. But before you had the chance the ride began to speed up again, taking us round another time. And another.
I continued to funnel malteasers into my mouth. I couldn't stop myself, they were right there beside me. I kept going, popping one in after another, crunching some, sucking the chocolate off others. My teeth were feeling ever more coated thickly coated in sugary gloop. And still it went on. Round and round. Another explosion. Another fight. More quips. More twists. More characters. Is that Keith Richards? No time to dwell on it. Another explosion. More vast, ornate sets destroyed. More sickeningly perfect deep blue oceans filled with more galleons. More deafening musical crescendos. By now the film was bursting at the sides with expense, the rich Hollywood gloss threatening to leak out at the edges of the screen and dribble onto the floor like syrup.
Everything was too much. Everything was sickly, gooey. I was dizzy with spectacle, nauseous with chocolate. I wanted to get off (If truth be told I needed the toilet). I just needed it to come to some kind of stop. But no.
It. Just. Kept. On. Going.
Bigger ships. Bigger characters. Bigger fights. Ever trying to raise the stakes, to cram another explosion in. The composer trying to discover a new, impossible pitch of excitement.
Until finally, in a last, great orgy of special effects, beautiful people, outrageous visuals and deafening music, the final battle was done and the film was almost spent. We knew we were coming to an end. The malteasers were all but gone. We struggled wilfully through the inevitable tying-up scenes, by turns excruciatingly, painfully embarrassing (Keira and Orlando), relatively underwhelming (Johnny) and fundamentally uninspired (everybody else), and then we were left with Captain Jack Sparrow in a little boat. Setting sail into the same wide startling too-blue sea he appeared from around 10 hours of film ago.
Little had changed in the interim, just a few thousand spills and thrills and the odd comic interlude. Like in a real theme park we were back where we started. The longest Roller-coaster in history. The sickliest sugar-binge imaginable. Drink up me hearties, yo ho.