Pirates 1: Scientists 0

Pirates as presented in the UK.

I saw The Pirates! Band of Misfits yesterday and while it was an excellent movie in many ways it turned out not to be the movie I would rather have seen.

The movie has a lot of laughs, lovely stop-motion animation and some amusing characters. But it lacks a little heart compared to Wallace and Gromit and I was struggling to see why Charles Darwin was in it as a slightly dim, foolishly love-lorn, mildly dishonest scientist. Then I discovered that he was there because the book on which the movie was based had Darwin in it. The movie is loosely based on the book The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe.

Pirates in Australia.

Interestingly in the UK the film is titled Pirates! An Adventure with Scientists. We, however, got the American version Pirates! Band of Misfits. So what happened to the scientists? The best thoughts out there on the web seem to revolve around the idea that scientists generally, and Charles Darwin in particular, are not popular in the American movie-going heartland and so the name was changed and the trailers cut to make the movie less, well, less about scientists. And that’s sad.

It is also quite ironic. Scientists come off quite badly in this movie. Not just Darwin, who really is treated poorly, but all the scientists that we stumble upon. From the man who invents an airship to look down women’s dresses to the conga line of generally prototypical nerdy scientists. You sort of get the impression that the usual Ardman wit was completely done over by a Sony Pictures focus group who would tick the box labelled ‘creationist’ on their census form.

It’s sad that we ended up with the US name. Not a big deal in many ways, I know, but it definitely smacks too much of pandering to someone else’s prejudices.

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