Magazine article Variety

Not Much Wind in These 'Sails'

Magazine article Variety

Not Much Wind in These 'Sails'

Article excerpt

After all the Gand PG-rated pirates brought to life in the Disney-ride-turnedmovie era, the prospect of pay-cable buccaneers, complete with all the expected violence and debauchery that entails, sounds promising. Yet "Black Sails" never quite takes off, developing into a tired treasure hunt with indifferent casting and stock characters. Counting Michael Bay among its producers, this South Africa-lensed production might tempt adventure-seeking viewers to plunge into its crystal-blue waters, but despite some handsome aspects, the show ultimately proves as hollow as its CGI-rendered ships.

Conceived as a prequel to "Treasure Island," the premiere opens with a big action sequence, as pirates raid a vessel for reasons known only to its captain, Flint (Toby Stephens of "Die Another Day"), and soon enough a not-so-long John Silver (Luke Arnold), a resourceful survivor of the doomed craft. Like so many pirate tales, it all boils down to a document that will supposedly lead the crew toward a fabulous payday, if only they can decipher the clues, while squabbling factions vie to obtain them.

That the swashbucklers include women who give as good as they get - beginning with Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New), who runs the island's smuggling; and an ambitious whore named Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy), who becomes part of Silver's plan - doesn't really provide much in the way of feminist progress in something this mindless, just as the sex and violence, alternately explicit and brutal, don't do much to advance the larger story.

Indeed, once the oars begin turning, as it were, "Black Sails" becomes rather static and talky. And while there are interesting glimpses into the democratic world of piracy - where the captain has to fend off a challenge to his authority if his schemes aren't rewarding the crew with a proper return on their pillaging - it's more difficult to care about whether he, or anyone else, lives or dies. …

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