I’d say The Pirates (2014) is a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is Korean and draws heavily on a certain period in RL history for the setting, so it helps if you’ve got a passing familiarity with, for example, Yona of the Dawn and so know that generals in ancient kingdoms sometimes decided to not attack an enemy but turn around and depose their own kings instead. Otherwise you might have to stop after the first 8 minutes of military briefing that devolves into awesome fight scene, and take a second to say, “okay, who just did what to who why?” And there’s a little bathroom humor later on I could have lived without. But it is great fun.
We’re talking Raiders of the Lost Ark type fun. Pirates of the Caribbean type fun. Even The Mummy type fun – if a good third of the Mummy were on the ocean instead of a desert. It is big – big fight scenes, big landscapes, big problems. It is bold – the fate of kingdoms and pirates is at stake! It is not ashamed to be dramatic and ridiculous – you have got to see the seagull reacting in utter horror as our two leads get flung through the air just ahead of a collapsing water system and a rolling waterwheel larger than a 3-story house.
And it has feelings. Love! Adventure! Loyalty! The sheer and utter argh when you’re two cranky groups of men tied up in prison together, and by golly you’re going to show the Other Guys who’s better even if you all have to thump and jump around like idiots.
This movie has enthusiasm. Something that seems distinctly lacking in most Hollywood productions lately.
Speaking of enthusiastic fun… Jun Sa-Jung, AKA Crazy Tiger, AKA the young soldier at the start of the movie who ends up fleeing the army? In many stories this character would be a famed and charismatic leader, beloved by his men, ever leading them in successful capers on the wrong side of the law!
Well. Not so much. He’s a great fighter, and definitely a charismatic leader to keep his guys together this long. But he fulfills all. Three. Pillars. Of the modern himbo. Strong of body! Pure of heart!
…Dumb of ass.
That’s okay. Yeo-wol, lady pirate captain leading the hunt for the lost royal seal, has smarts enough for the both of them. And she’s not afraid to use them.
(In fairness if you look at what Jun Sa-Jung managed to accomplish since his abrupt exit and while he keeps running into Yeo-wol, he’s not stupid. He’s got wilderness survival down, he knows field medicine, he sets up ambushes and distractions that work enough to keep his people alive, he hatches a plan to go capture a whale… granted that last would go better if he had any idea about sailing at all…. But he’s a lousy bandit.)
Yeo-wol, OTOH, is smart, competent – and aware of her own limitations. I particularly liked the bits in her fight scenes where she avoided taking a guy on blade to blade and instead relied on the greater strength of her legs to allow bracing a blow or landing a hit. It may be over the top cinematic fighting, but it looks plausible.
There’s bloodshed, and I’d advise it more towards older teens because there’s various upsetting incidents of violence toward a shark and a whale. But the bits with the whale in particular play into the theme of, what you do, violence or kindness, matters. Not just now, but in the long run – and in ways you might never expect.
Oh – and the old ninja vs. pirates argument? We have one ninja who runs off to become a pirate, so make of that what you will.
If you want to check it out, Youtube has it free with ads.
Edit: Okay, that’s the trailer. The movie is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ1aErDfnEQ