Thor: Ragnarok and The Avengers visual effects artist Jake Morrison says Dwayne Johnson's upcoming Jungle Cruise movie has a similar feel to that other theme-park-ride-inspired Disney film series, Pirates of the Caribbean. Jungle Book VFX supervisor J.D. Schwalm will head up the effects crew for Jungle Cruise, with The Shallows director Jaume Collet-Serra taking on helming duties. (Johnson originally expressed interest in getting Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins to take the job, but to no avail.)
Jungle Cruise is based on an attraction featured at several Disney parks, including Disneyland, that takes riders on a simulated journey down various exotic world rivers where animatronic animals are encountered. Dwayne Johnson has already revealed that, like the ride it's based on, the movie will be set in the 1920s, long before explorers had GPS, satellite phones, and other gadgets to help them get out of danger. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Focus) are handling scripting duties.
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Speaking exclusively to Screen Rant, visual effects artist Jake Morrison talks about reading the Ficarra and Requa script for Jungle Cruise and coming away with a very Pirates of the Caribbean-like vibe (which no doubt is exactly what Disney is going for):
When I read the script, it's a bit like how I felt when I first watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean. It's got that kind of really fun, really cool, you know Mr. Dwayne Johnson's going to deliver the goods - he's reliably charismatic, and we're going to be doing a lot of practical stuff. It's really exciting.
Many scoffed when Disney adapted their Pirates of the Caribbean ride into a movie franchise in the 2003, proclaiming the venture to be absurd folly. Disney got the last laugh when Pirates, with Johnny Depp delivering an Oscar-nominated performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, destroyed all expectations to become a blockbuster. The studio has kept on laughing all the way to the bank over the course of fifteen years and four more movies, watching the franchise rack up a total of $4.5 billion in worldwide grosses.
With the Pirates formula firmly established, but the actual movies beginning to show diminishing returns and Depp beginning to wear out his welcome, Disney is perhaps thinking it's time to shift focus onto a different franchise that delivers Pirates-style old-school swashbuckling adventure in a shiny high-tech package with a charismatic major star at the fore. Bringing all those elements together as successfully as the original Pirates of the Caribbean was able to do will be a tall order, but it sounds like things are off to a good start if the script truly does capture the high-spiritedness of the first Pirates film.
What Disney surely doesn't want from Jungle Cruise is a movie that captures the spirit of one of the later Pirates films, after the movies had gotten bogged down in convoluted plotting, CGI self-indulgence and villain-of-the-week predictability. They're also hoping that Johnson, who has no fewer than 9 announced projects upcoming (and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle set to open in theaters this year) hasn't begun wearing out his box office welcome when Jungle Cruise finally sets sail.