The Pirates! With Charles Darwin!

In the UK, they released an exciting new movie a while back, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists. I have the book. It’s marvelous: it prominently features pirates, beards, scientists, and Charles Darwin, and is exactly the kind of story I like.

The good news! It’s just been released in the US. The peculiar news: it’s gotten a name change, to The Pirates! Band of Misfits, and they’re not mentioning Charles Darwin in the trailers. If you’ve read the book, though, you know that Darwin is rather central to the whole story.

Apparently, “science” and “Darwin” are box office penalties in the US. I’m going anyway, as soon as I can, because the content is presumably unchanged and I like science, beards, Darwin, pirates, and the funny, even if the marketing idiots are frightened.


  1. says

    It would be impossible to cut Darwin out of the movie – he’s one of the main characters.

    But he’s not the historical Darwin. To say that the film is historically inaccurate is like saying that Mount Everest is a biggish hill. Just go along with it for the fun ride.

    I saw this film a few weeks ago. It is very funny indeed, IMO, especially if you like pirates with beards.

  2. says

    Evolution, the fun years.

    But see, this probably proves that Darwin just pirated it all from Wallace, who was a woo-woo spiritualist in later life, and Wallace proves that consciousness is magic and floats in the 14th dimension after death. So there.

    Glen Davidson

  3. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Historical accuracy – No. And doesn’t even pretend to be.
    Lots of fun? Yes!

    I saw it a couple of weeks back at the only drive-in that exists in the state and had a whale of a time.

    Arrrrr! (Not that you can put that at the end of a sentence and make things better)

    For some reason it was released under the Band of Misfits subtitle in Australia too.

  4. sc_dd2884e9d3ef647a91ff4cda94498017 says

    I remember reading about the “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” film, and going “huh”? It’s not just Science and Darwin that are audience turn-offs – even Philosophy is taboo, even though the “Philosopher’s Stone” didn’t actually have much to do with Philosophy …

  5. eclectabotanics says

    Perhaps without Darwin in the title, the children of godbotherers will be more like to be exposed to the “character” of Darwin. Then maybe they’ll sneak off to the library to see what else they can see. The truth of his theory can’t be hidden from everyone – but many will try to deny it.

  6. says

    I must see this movie. Seriously: Pirates, Darwin and David Tennant doing the voice of Charles Darwin. A recipe for sheer awesomeness. I’m a bit disappointed that the movie appeared under the American title here in Belgium, though.

  7. sirbedevere says

    this probably proves that Darwin just pirated it all from Wallace

    Nonsense. Gromit was the brains of the organization!

  8. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Darwin was not in the title of the UK version either. ‘In an Adventure with Scientists’ but the USAian antipathy to science and evolution (because marketing people underestimate their audience – I hope) explains why he’s probably not in the trailers.

  9. says

    I’ve seen a few trailers and thought that it was just another dumb, non-funny, male-filled kids’ movie and dismissed the idea of being remotely interested in seeing it. Now that I know that it’s got Darwin and science (& David Tennant), I might reconsider. Not the best marketing strategy for someone like me.

  10. carlie says

    I dunno – “Charles Darwin, Superpirate” might work; they’re trying it with “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer”, after all.

  11. Christopher Denney says

    When I read the “and join forces with a young scientist (David Tennant)” part I was hooked.

  12. kevincrookes says

    They’re two different films. “Scientists” was released in the UK in March and “Misfits” was released today.

  13. says

    He’s not MENTIONED in the trailer but he get’s plenty of screentime. (Not that we have to worry. I don’t think the creationists recognize Darwin without his later trademark beard.) As a huge fan of Aardman’s work I’m very psyched.

  14. doktorzoom says

    Remember, this is a movie industry that took The Madness of George III and re-titled it as The Madness of King George for its American release. They were worried that even the US audience for art films would stay away since they’d assume it was a sequel and they’d never seen the first two.

  15. pipenta says

    I saw a trailer for this in a theater (in the US) not long ago. And I noticed one of the characters looked like Darwin and thought, wouldn’t he be a fun character in a movie like this. But surely they’d mention him by name? Ah well…

    I’m a big Aardman fan. I would have seen this anyway. Now I can’t wait.

  16. ladyh42 says

    Huh, that movie just went from a maybe to a definite yes, and I might even take the kids with me too!

  17. Akira MacKenzie says

    Place yer bets! Place yer bets! How long until FOX News alledges that this movie is “atheist/Darwinist propaganda?”

  18. jolo5309 says

    this probably proves that Darwin just pirated it all from Wallace

    I know Martin Wallace is a pretty prolific game designer, but I don’t think he really had anything to do with Darwin’s work…

  19. says

    Every one go see it. It is great fun for everyone from the age of five upwards.
    Historically accurate possibly not, although for all I know Darwin may have got the idea for The Theory of Evolution from a passing pirate, and after the inferences inferences in a few recent Channel 4 documentaries about Queen Victoria, maybe she was as portrayed in the film

  20. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Interesting. Here, the title was translated from the US instead of UK version.
    I guess scientists in the title don’t sell. :(

  21. says

    I had no interest in seeing this movie until I found out what title the rest of world was seeing. Now I’m definitely interested. Misfit pirates? Meh. Pirates and Scientists?
    Count me in!

  22. Utakata says

    …as long as they can rename The Passion of Christ, The Passion of a Certain Judeo-Biblical Individual for example.

  23. Arkady says

    Heh, made me squee slightly when Darwin makes a brief reference to barnacles. Even with all the gleeful liberties taken with history, they managed that brief aside that mostly only us science geeks would get!

    I took my parents to see it a few weeks ago. We all enjoyed it

  24. petzl20 says

    Interesting situation. The public relations people will try to tone down the Darwin. But wait for the hysterical theists to catch wind of the movie and start publicizing the film, as in “Don’t go see this film.” But PR is PR and it will result in more people seeing rather than less. I think downplaying the Darwin is a win/win.

  25. F says

    Time to prepare corrections regarding Darwin for my niece, (assuming the historical inaccuracy is meaningful aside from Darwin cruising the ocean sea with pirates) who will almost certainly see this and absorb wrong ideas. She does seem to like the sciences, and takes correction on improperly recalled (or poorly taught) concepts quite well.

  26. Catnip, Misogynist Troglodyte called Bruce says

    I saw this movie 2weeks ago on the urgings of daughter-spawn.

    She’s developing good taste. Finally. I had visions of a smurfesque film, and so was (very) pleasantly surprised at the result. Kids loved it too.

    Not at all historically, or scientifically accurate….

    {spoiler alert}

    Although I confess to experiencing feelings of loss & dismay at the wanton destruction of such valuable scientific samples.

    Had to keep reminding myself it was only a film.

    {/spoiler alert}

  27. Ichthyic says

    film was fun, but the portrayal of Darwin was absolutely abysmal!

    they make him out to be a simpering, skirt-chasing git, with nary an original thought in his head, and happy to steal other’s ideas for his own gain.

    sorry, but even in fun, it’s pathetic from that end of things.

    made me grind my teeth.

  28. amblebury says

    Well, I loved it. Yes, Darwin was a bit simpering and ever-so-slightly dastardly, but it was so obviously not meant to be historically accurate I don’t see it as a problem.

    Queen Vic is also represented as being as nasty as all get-out, it’s hilariously OTT.

    Best line? Either, “Well, that beats the crap out of electricity” or, “She’s the feathery heart and soul of the ship, Captain.”

  29. edmundog says

    Just to speak up for our side, The Madness of George III wasn’t retitled for its American release, it was retitled everywhere. And it wasn’t because Americans would think it was a sequel, that’s an urban legend. It was for Americans, but was because they don’t see the phrase “George III” and know who that is offhand, and the author wanted it to be clear who it was about.

    Also, the second Pirates book was retitled for us as “An Adventure With Ahab” because we were expected to be more familiar with Moby-Dick, as it’s one of our cultural treasures. So it goes both ways.

    I’m not saying every decision made in this way is a good one, but it’s not always because people think Americans are idiots. Frankly, recasting The Albino Pirate with an American actor is plain confusing.

  30. says

    This marketing move backfired on me. My sister suggested this movie a couple of weeks ago, but I thought it would be just a silly unimaginative kids’ movie. Now that I know it has Darwin and/or other scientists in it, I would actually be excited to see it. (Although some of the comments above suggest that it has little scientific value so now I’m feeling lukewarm, which is still an improvement on how I felt towards the film before.)

  31. stonyground says

    Are we going to have horrified Christian parents dragging their kids out half way through when the penny drops?

  32. sc_ac68f115f872fec7ddaf3fd9c7d54014 says

    I don’t mind that they’ve changed the name, having read ‘… Scientists’ & ‘…Moby Dick’. The movie is very heavily re-written; it doesn’t use much of the plot or dialogue from either book, despite allegedly being based on them (according to Wikipedia – in which there is another mystery: my copy of the book is called ‘The Pirates! In an Adventure with Moby Dick’, whereas the WP article replaces ‘Moby Dick’ with ‘Whaling’ (and they show the hardback cover). Interestingly it’s also titled ‘… Ahab’ in another edition. Go figure.
    The next books involve Communists and Napoleon respectively. Who knows what conniptions may ensue.

  33. says

    I’m going anyway, as soon as I can, because the content is presumably unchanged

    I read a review of this movie in my local paper today (Palo Alto Daily News) and the review said the movie had been drastically reworked for the Merkin market:

    The original subtitle was “An Adventure With Scientists,” and the antagonist was Darwin’s archenemy, the “evil,” “nefarious,” “blackhearted” Bishop of Oxford. Anticlerical satire is sheer heresy for the American multiplex, and like Philip Pullman’s dark fantasy “The Golden Compass” before it, this film has been drastically gutted and jerry-built to avoid a culture-war tizzy.

    Sad. Full review here:

  34. KG says

    It was for Americans, but was because they don’t see the phrase “George III” and know who that is offhand – edmundog

    I’m afraid this would be true of most Brits as well! Unless they happen to have taken a history course at school/university that covered the right period in British history, or have seen the film. George III is probably a better known figure in the USA, as “King George”, because his reign happened to coincide with the Revolutionary War (“American War of Independence” in British parlance).

  35. StevoR says

    Pirates? Darwin ? Can the Flying Sphaghetti Monster – may you be touched by his noodley appendage be far behind? ;-)

  36. julietdefarge says

    Hugh Grant (Captain’s voice) has been pitching it on TV. I suspect there will be parents dragging their kids out halfway through, unless they can’t connect the cartoon character with *that* Darwin.

  37. gravityisjustatheory says

    The name change seems pretty stupid to me.

    There’s nothing unusual about “Pirates + Misfits”; indeed, most pirates probably are/were misfits themselves. It might just as well be called “The Pirates”. Nothing about the title grabs me as novel or interestin. (Even though pirates can be interesting or fun, you still need some sort of plot-hook, or indication of what sort of pirates they are).

    But “Pirates + Scientists” is such an absurd juxtaposition it can only be awesome.

    Plus, I just makes me think that at some point or other, someone is going to have science done to them.

  38. edmundog says

    #44 – The original title was “An Adventure With Whaling”. It was changed in America to “An Adventure With Ahab” because we’d recognize the name, and it keeps the theme of their adventures being named after the people involved. (Scientists, Communists, Napoleon, Cowboys, Rabbis, Freemasons, Jennifer Garner, etc.)

    #46 I suspected as much, but didn’t want to be presumptuous.

  39. stonyground says

    I went to see it today with my daughter. The visual gags are so numerous that I think it needs watching over and over when the DVD comes out to get them all. The detail in all the backgrounds is amazing, particularly Darwin’s house and the galley on Vicky’s ship. Pirate King dressed as Elvis was quite funny. The pirates had a calendar with a mermaid spoofing that famous picture of a girl in a tennis dress scratching her bum. One or two evolution jokes. Altogether a good laugh, just great fun.

  40. scrawnykayaker says

    @45 Oh, crud. I guess that explains the lack of excitement among gawd-bawtherers. Too bad that in cases like this they don’t (AFAIK) sell DVDs with both the US and UK version of the movie.

  41. edmundog says

    My favorite background gag is that one of the options under “style of pirate roar” was “Brian Blessed”. And then he turns up voicing the Pirate King!

  42. Reginald Selkirk says

    I just saw it. Darwin is still a key character, but the plot has been changed quite a bit from the book.

  43. says

    @53 Well, you can always order the UK version from You just need to make sure you have a DVD player than can be made region-free (or get something like AnyDVD for your PC and play it on that). BluRay seems to be harder to make region-free, but I’m sure it’s possible too.

  44. doktorzoom says

    Turns out that the movie was The Madness of King George in England, too; The Madness of George III was the play from which the movie was adapted.

    Shoot. Another perfectly serviceable myth busted. On the other hand, a majority of us don’t think evolution is real, so I don’t know that I’m going to substantially revise my opinion of my fellow Americans.

  45. kaleberg says

    Movie titling is weird. For some reason they took the “Mars” out of “John Carter of Mars”. It was a pretty good movie too, but only a handful of us fans recognized the name John Carter. Everyone else probably thought it was about Jimmy Carter and got totally confused by the trailer.

  46. martinhafner says

    The German title is even worse:

    Die Piraten – Ein Haufen merkwürdiger Typen

    Still, I really enjoyed the movie.

  47. svetogorsk says


    Too bad that in cases like this they don’t (AFAIK) sell DVDs with both the US and UK version of the movie.

    As far as I’m aware, the US and UK versions are identical besides the title. What petercockerell@45 was highlighting was that substantial changes were made when the book was adapted in the first place (even though Gideon Defoe is credited with the screenplay).

    I saw the UK version, and I don’t remember the Bishop of Oxford at all – if he was in the film, he was definitely a very minor character.

    Oh, and what everyone else said regarding the entertainment value – it’s off the scale.

  48. says

    I’m in the middle of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”, where he mentions the game of Cluedo/Clue. In the non-North American versions, a character is Rev. Green, but in the version we in North America got, it was Mr. Green.

    I suspect the thumpers would have gone all atwitter if somebody thought a Rev. might possibly be a murderer.
    (I wonder how they might have reacted if Clue was about raping children instead of murder.)

  49. edmundog says

    @kaleberg: Actually, the title of the work it’s based on was “Princess of Mars”, but they were worried men would see the muscly man fighting giant alien monsters in the desert and assume it was a girly movie because it says “princess”.

  50. jand says

    (why o why do I feel compelled to say this)

    If the trailer is anything to go by, this movie sucks bigtime…

    /ducks runs

  51. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Trailers are not always good reflections of films. I enjoyed the movie immensely. If you actually see it and still think it is not to your taste that is fine. But if you still want to say it sucks then provide reasons. I have not read the books so the disconnect in plot did not bother me. I am fairly used to movies not matching source material exactly.

    The only issue I did have was the non passing of the Bechdel-Wallace test, but there were strong female characters, they just were rarely in the same room to have a conversation.

  52. scottlesch says

    I agree with “stonyground” The movie is fun AND needs several viewings of all the gags and jokes on the walls and in the background. The Darwin character is “redeemed” by the end of the film. Fun!

    I notice the tennis mermaid as well.