A Pirates of the Caribbean Reboot Should Move Past The Turners (And Their Formula)
Originally, the first Pirates of the Caribbean film was supposed to be the Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann show, a launching pad for two rising young actors with major movie-star potential. It’s Will and Elizabeth who get the story’s true emotional and character arcs, not Jack Sparrow. Yet Depp’s unexpectedly genius performance, which subverted all the hero expectations, stole the show and soon the franchise became completely focused on him. Yet once the Turners left the franchise in At World’s End, attempts to replicate their dynamic failed miserably in On Stranger Tides. Will was brought back for Dead Men Tell No Tales, only now he had a young son who could help create a soft relaunch of the franchise that returned the action back to the Turners.
Yet that plan hasn’t been especially fruitful either. Just as focusing an entire franchise on Jack Sparrow has become limiting, so has the necessity for every character from the first film to remain a key part of the narrative several movies in, long after their stories have come to their natural conclusion. Audiences didn’t care about the blatant wannabe Will and Elizabeth from On Stranger Tides, and they weren’t especially excited by Will’s son or Barbossa’s daughter in Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Pirates of the Caribbean's Reboot Should Focus On The Magic
Originally, Pirates of the Caribbean wasn’t supposed to have any supernatural elements since the ride doesn’t have them. It wasn’t until producer Jerry Bruckheimer asked screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to include one that The Curse of the Black Pearl became something truly special. The story of the first movie is also pretty simple, with an easy to follow logic and just enough world-building to be expanded for future stories. The issue with the many Pirates sequels is that, in an attempt to increase the narrative’s epic nature, the mythology became bloated and over-complicated. The blending of multiple culture’s mythologies was strange enough - Caribbean culture plus Greek mythology plus voodoo plus gothic storytelling - but it also exposed how overstuffed the films had become. It didn’t help that the later films so wasted their fascinating mythologies, such as the way Dead Men Tell No Tales used the trident of Poseidon.
The magic element should stay but these stories also need to be seriously scaled back. From a purely budgetary point-of-view, that would be smart, but it would also help the franchise stand out. Every blockbuster series has to up the ante with every film, but there’s something to be said for a more stand-alone approach that zeroes in on one story and does over-complicate matters. Why not return to what made Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl so exciting and make an old-school pirate adventure movie with a supernatural twist? The last thing this franchise needs is to be more portentous.
Disney are good at old-fashioned fun that appeals to all ages, but they seem less interested in making that kind of live-action movies themselves since they’re miles ahead of the competition with their acquisitions and remakes. It’s a missed opportunity to appeal to an audience that is still crying out for Summer blockbuster fun that isn’t weighed down by the complexities of an expanded universe. Pirates of the Caribbean 6 could be the way forward if they scale things back, change focus and remember why people loved that first film so much.