The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists, Peter Lord (U)
Wrath of the Titans, Jonathan Liebesman, (12A)

Avast me hearties! It's Hugh Grant, a dodo, and treasure in every frame

Sometimes the thing you do first is the thing you do best. With its fifth feature-length film, Aardman Animations has returned to stop-motion animation and Plasticine model-making: painstaking processes concomitant with a high level of attention to detail. And this is the main reason why The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists feels like a return to form.

There's treasure buried in its every frame. In fact, although it's churlish to complain, one's attention is sometimes distracted from whatever precision-timed gag or swashbuckling action is occurring in the foreground by the wealth of jokes tucked away in the background. (Keep an eye out for the sample jars aboard the Beagle, or the street signs when the action is back on dry land. In fact, if you like puns, keep an eye out for any and every bit of writing, be it label, newspaper headline, menu item or that sign for Napoleon Blownapart's dynamite and gunpowder supplies.)

The film's 19th-century pirate captain hero, who is called the Pirate Captain and voiced by Hugh Grant, is in the same tradition of endearingly enthusiastic amateurs as previous of the studio's creations, including Wallace, of "... & Gromit" fame, and Arthur Christmas, from last year's digitally generated and disappointingly conventional Christmas film of the same name.

There seems little danger of the Pirate Captain ever winning the Pirate of the Year award he covets: the reward for his capture is a measly 12 doubloons and a free pen; one of his crew members is actually a fish that he's dressed up in a hat; and the ship's mascot, Polly, isn't even a parrot. She's a dodo. But this last fact might actually be the Pirate Captain's making, once he boards the Beagle and the young Charles Darwin (David Tennant) suggests that presenting the presumed extinct bird to the Royal Society would yield fame and riches.

As well as that very specific sense of humour that characterises Aardman productions (it is somehow exactly right that one of the pirates should sport a Blue Peter badge, for example), Pirates! has an invigorating new irreverence – presumably a product of the imagination of Gideon Defoe, who originally wrote and then adapted the source novels. Darwin, for example, is a geeky and callow virgin, who is frequently outsmarted by his trained chimpanzee butler, and is driven to act less by a thirst for knowledge than in the forlorn hope of ever impressing a woman. "I'll never get a girlfriend," he confides to his journal.

The empire-building Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), meanwhile, is the dastardly and megalomaniacal Bond-style villain of the piece, complete with mechanical undergarments and booby-trapped underground lair.

As one cheerfully dim pirate is heard to exclaim: "This is our most educational adventure ever!"

More historical, or at least mythological, characters are ill-done-to in Wrath of the Titans, a streamlined, all-action sequel to and improvement on 2010's Clash of the Titans remake. Sam Worthington returns as Perseus, who had previously hung up his sword but is persuaded to hold it back aloft and mount a rescue mission to the underworld in order to save his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) from his uncle, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and the universe from destruction at the hands of the Titans.

It is not a good film, by any measure other than that of the animators' advanced techniques and skill. It is set in uncharted landscapes where there be dragons, hydra and cyclopses – or, more accurately, cyclopes – and with the exception of the actors and their costumes, I doubt that a single element of the production ever existed outside the digital realm. And yet, on the giant Imax screen on which I saw it, at least, the molten rock of Tartarus, beneath the underworld, looked real. The giant – and I do mean giant – cyclopes not only looked real but as though they were in the same place in time and space as Perseus, instead of painted on a green screen at a later date.

There was a time when people believed figures such as Zeus and Perseus really existed, and perhaps they even believed in flying horses and one-eyed giants. Strangely, in their 2012 incarnations, it's the animated monsters that seem the most believably alive, while the figures played by humans are dull and characterless archetypes.

 

Next week

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?