1642: A peace treaty between England and Spain leaves the English "privateers" who've been making themselves rich preying on Spanish commerce without much to do. Henry Morgan, one of the leading pirates of the Caribbean, has been pardoned and made Royal Governor of Jamaica. His captains split -- Billy Leech and Wogan retain their pirating ways, but Jamie Waring crosses over to the side of the law and its authority. Unfortunately, Morgan's attempts to capture his old comrades are being thwarted by traitors informing Leech of his moves. He sends Waring and some other loyal captains out to track down Leech and get to the bottom of the shenanigans. Waring decides to kidnap Lady Margaret Denby, daughter of the former governor, on his way out of town, because he's developed an attraction to her and he apparently hasn't completely reformed.
Anyone who thinks that Waring won't have the solution to the mystery and the girl by the time the movie's over has never watched a movie. Some nautical bluster and blasting, swinging from the rigging and one or two swordfights will, of course, intervene, but they're part of the package. The Black Swan is a fun enough romp, but it's got enough barnacles fouling its bottom to slow and roughen its passage. Power is in his native element as Jamie Waring, a rogue with his own sense of honor but a decided inability to take no for an answer in matters of the heart. At 87 minutes, director Henry King helms a story that doesn't overstay its welcome, but also tends to leave some threads dangling that could have been wrapped up more nicely.
There are some interesting parallels between The Black Swan of 1942 and Black Swan, currently in theaters. One is some pretty casual use of the source material at their centers. The Power-O'Hara movie is supposed to be drawn from Rafael Sabatini's 1932 novel of the same name, but the only thing they have in common is the title -- the name of the ship in Sabatini's novel and of Leech's vessel in the movie. Portman's movie, directed by Darren Aronofsky, centers on Portman as a ballet dancer in a production of Swan Lake, but people who go to see an actual performance of Swan Lake would probably not recognize a lot of the story they see on the stage.
Both movies misuse their female leads, although in different ways. Maureen O'Hara, an actress who could hold her own onscreen with overpowering costars like John Wayne, is relegated to a pretty weak shrinking damsel stock character. She gets one brief flash of real O'Hara glory at the very end, where she flips one of Power's earlier lines back at him and pulls him in for the kiss -- his surprise may have been genuine, and it hints that, given as three-dimensional a role to play as Power had, she might have seriously upstaged him (Their second movie together, The Long Gray Line, is considerably lower-key and lets Power act instead of swash, putting them on a much more even footing). Portman's Nina goes slowly bonkers from the stress of her role in the ballet, but Aronofsky never really lets her add anything to Nina that shows she was all that balanced to begin with. Little enough of Portman's likeability leaks into Nina that we're pretty much always aware we're watching an actor onscreen in a role, rather than being able to suspend a little disbelief and convince ourselves we're watching Nina lose it.
Portman's the subject of a lot of Oscar buzz, perhaps because Academy members realized that while it's OK to nominate an actress for playing a well-adjusted, compassionate and strong woman character like Sandra Bullock's Leigh Ann Tuohy now and again, the actual Oscar is supposed to go to a woman who's losing her mind, already lost her mind or is a prostitute or stripper. They need to get back on track, and although Portman doesn't hit the Theron trifecta, Aronofsky included several scenes with Portman as well as Portman and costar Mila Kunis that offer plenty of titillation for the discerning Oscar voter.
ETA: Dustalanche! Thanks, Charles.