It feels like it was only yesterday that I walked out of the theater, absolutely dumbfounded by how amazing the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was. The film was clearly lightning in a bottle. Who’d have thought one could take a theme park attraction and craft an engaging story around it? I sure didn’t.
2003's The Curse of the Black Pearl, the kicking-off point in the film series, had very few flaws, a tremendous story, great characters, and thrilling action set pieces. It introduced us to Captain Jack Sparrow, played by the quirky Johnny Depp, and charming villain Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
The film proved that you can take a core concept of a theme-park attraction and turn it into a major motion picture event. The success sparked its own movie universe, with two sequels immediately greenlit. Though 2011's On Stranger Tides performed well enough at the box office to warrant another sequel, it was a major disappointment, especially when Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), two key characters from the original trilogy, were removed from the cast.
With Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales blasting into theaters on May 26 on a massive $250 million budget, it remains to be seen how prosperous this film will be. While the marketing has been impressive thus far, there are a few ways this franchise can turn around its recent misfortune, and it all starts with going back to the basics.
1. A Simpler Story
Take the first film as a prime example. The story focused on Will Turner searching for his lost lineage as a former pirate. It also introduced us to supporting character Captain Jack Sparrow. The film also brought about the curse of the Black Pearl and told us why this pirate ship filled with undead pirates is looking to become human again. They kidnap a girl, thinking it’s her blood they need, but realize it is in fact Will Turner’s blood they're after. Obviously there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s pretty much the gist of it.
The following sequels became far more convoluted. The story became so complex that many fans (myself included) bickered over the confusing plots. There was an excursion to Davy Jones's Locker, a vindictive goddess who eventually turned into a thousand crabs, a giant Kraken, and even a trip to Singapore. Too many characters and too many plot points were introduced in the following two sequels, making the films far less enjoyable. If Dead Men Tell No Tales can get back to the basics of tight storytelling, then we could have a win on our hands.
2. Johnny Depp Back In A Supporting Role
One of the greatest standouts in the original film was of course #JohnnyDepp’s portrayal of the zany Captain Jack. But why was he so beloved? His comedic, selfish behavior certainly stood out, but it wasn’t even just about the actor. It was mostly the storytelling.
The Curse of the Black Pearl focused heavily on Will Turner’s secret bloodline and the importance of his being related to a hated pirate. While Jack Sparrow was clearly the standout, he wasn’t the main character the script fixated on.
Unfortunately, the following three sequels shifted focus to Jack Sparrow and he slowly became more a nuisance than tightly written comedic levity. This new film in the franchise could help right the ship and give Sparrow less to do, while still being involved with the narrative.
3. Javier Bardem’s Villainous Role
One thing that the #PiratesoftheCaribbean franchise has done extremely well is give its fans memorable villains. From Captain Barbossa to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), the movies have brought us Big Bads we could get attached to. Heck, even Ian McShane did a serviceable job as the cunning Blackbeard in On Stranger Tides. Javier Bardem’s undead character of Capitán Armando Salazar is the newest to add to the list.
The story is pretty intriguing. Salazar was a captain in the Spanish Navy who hunted pirates across the Seven Seas. One day, long before the events of Dead Men Tell No Tales take place, he encountered a younger Jack Sparrow, who led him down to the Devil’s Triangle where his ship was destroyed and he and his entire crew were cursed to live an eternity as undead ghosts. The events of this film pick up with Salazar and his ghostly crew escaping from the Devil's Triangle to seek revenge on Sparrow. Exciting stuff.
4. Undead Pirates And Ghost Sharks
Though it may seem like familiar fare, Jack Sparrow along with a few newer characters will have to deal with a crew of undead pirates once again. This formula may sound like well-trodden ground, but that might not be such a bad thing. Continuing with this winning formula, bringing back something undead but told in a new way could prove refreshing for this franchise.
And let me be honest for a moment. Adding ghost sharks to the mix is a huge bonus to any film, especially for a Pirates movie. They also look really cool in the trailers and will be a difficult adversary for Jack and company to take on.
5. The Visuals And Swashbuckling Action!
One major aspect this franchise never falters on is the visual aesthetics. Whether the stories and characters prove successful or not, watching these movies on a large theater screen is an arresting experience.
From the sea battles to the action on land, these pirate films are never short on action. An incredible job has been done in choreographing all the fight scenes and it looks as though #DeadMenTellNoTales will not falter in this department.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales releases to cinemas on May 26. What do you think this franchise needs to do to get back on solid ground? Sound off in the comments section below.