Blackbeard: The Complete Miniseries (review)

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It’s not exactly Pirates of the Caribbean, but it’s hoping desperately that you might accidentally mistake it for the Disney blockbuster… in the dark… with your eyes closed. A made-for-cable mini, this overlong and underdone three-hour movie has its charms, but it suffers from a minuscule budget and, more dramatically, from its origins on the squeaky-clean Hallmark Channel (where it aired in June): Blackbeard (played by Angus Macfadyen: Spartacus) is a “ruthless leader,” a “violent raider,” and a “merciless killer,” the DVD case informs us breathlessly, but, alas, this purportedly true story of an 18th-century treasure hunt is far too tame to thrill, and much of the action, like the pirate brawls that pad out the runtime, occur in muddy darkness. Intrigue comes in the form of a British naval officer (the vaguely Orlando Bloom-esque Mark Umbers) gone undercover on Blackbeard’s ship — shades of Horatio Hornblower abound, too — and the spunky young lady (the very vaguely Keira Knightley-esque Jessica Chastain) who mopes for his return, when she isn’t rather improbably working as a doctor among the poor island folk. And the cheese factor is upped considerably by the presence of Richard Chamberlain chewing up scenery as a local governor. Brief behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast constitute all the bonus materials.

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