Walt Disney Pictures recognized early on that they had a lucrative franchise opportunity with Pirates of the Caribbean. After the success of the original film, it was determined that the second and third installments would be shot back-to-back for logistical reasons.

Screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio realized they had a choice to make regarding which direction to steer the sequels in – should they craft standalone adventures, or retroactively turn The Curse of the Black Pearl into the first chapter in a trilogy?

Since the studio was enthusiastic about having the majority of the ensemble cast return, Elliot & Rossio felt that it would be easier to create an interconnected mythology based on elements from the original Pirates of the Caribbean rather than branch the sequels off into uncharted waters. For many fans, the problems with Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End are largely tied to that decision.

The release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is now right around the corner and one aspect of the new film that’s continually being emphasized is the standalone nature of its narrative. The latest trailer seemed to confirm that this is a back-t0-basics approach that streamlines the cast, maintains a tighter focus, and has more in common with the overall tone of the original film.

According to USA Today, producer Jerry Bruckheimer has revealed that any future Pirates of the Caribbean sequels will employ the same strategy. He was at CinemaCon earlier this week showing footage from On Stranger Tides and discussing the film alongside director Rob Marshall. After their presentation, Bruckheimer indicated that breaking free from the muddled continuity of past entries has already been met with a positive response at test screenings:

“The audience told us what they loved about it is that it was fresh, it was new, it was a whole new story … So that will carry over into the next one, too, to give it something fresh and different. As long as the audience embraces this one, we’ll certainly try to make another one. It’s really up to Johnny [Depp]. He loves the character.”

Terry Rossio has already started working on the script for a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean and although it’s been suggested that On Stranger Tides is intended to kick off a new trilogy, it sounds like what we’ll really be seeing are the continuing adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow – an approach they probably should have taken from the get-go.

What’s interesting is that although Depp definitely stole the spotlight in The Curse of the Black Pearl, Sparrow was written more like the Han Solo to Will Turner’s Luke. I actually enjoyed him in that capacity and as much as I love the character, one of the things that bothered me most about the sequels was the way the whole universe started to revolve around Jack.

Many have expressed that they’ve had enough of Depp’s Sparrow-shtick, but the Indiana Jones and James Bond franchises have proven that even predominantly static main characters can still be engaging – I think it’s just a matter of dialing back a little bit on his theatrics. Sparrow was amusing in The Curse of the Black Pearl, but he wasn’t a cartoon.

Personally, I think On Stranger Tides looks like it could be the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel I’ve been waiting for ever since I saw the original film. I know there are still a few skeptics out there who believe it might be too little, too late – but I think the box office results will prove that audiences haven’t grown entirely weary of Captain Jack just yet.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opens in regular, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters on May 20, 2011.

Source: USA Today.