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



Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.


Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss