I have a smallish confession to make.
I never had any faith in the original Pirates of the Caribbean being a good movie, when it was released a few years ago. I couldn’t see how you could base an entire movie around a walk through attraction that included a boat ride in Disney theme parks. Rides are based on films - right? Films aren’t based on rides.
So, with that admittedly short sighted and narrow view in mind, I never saw the original on the big screen, but my affection for the ride caused me to buy the DVD on the day of release.
As a family, we’ve been to Disney World in Florida twice, and Pirates was a classic attraction - in my estimation second only to the Haunted Mansion. Both times we’ve been to the Park we’ve marvelled at how we see different details on the attraction each time. You really do have to go through three or four times to soak it all up.
The movie was a delight, in short. Mixing elements of the ride, high seas adventure and a strong supernatural theme not present in the ride together into a spectacular visual treat that saw Johnny Depp become one of the iconic characters of modern cinema in Captain Jack Sparrow - also a character not present in the ride.
The second and third movies were a continuation in a trilogy, at the end of which - the story was told. So, here we are at the fourth film. Depp returns as inept and likeable pirate Sparrow, and a couple of other characters most notably Geoffrey Rush as Capt.Barbossa are back in action. No Kiera Knightly, no Orlando Bloom - but we DO get Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane as Blackbeard and his daughter. Rob Marshall takes over the directing reins from Gore Verbinski - so you have a largely different cast and a different feel from the original trilogy. None of which bodes well for continuity, and begs the question have the Pirates finally run into shallow water?
Critics again were harsh when the film was released, which is a recurring theme this summer. They don’t seem to like ANYTHING, yet audience figures suggest otherwise. The difference in this particular barometer being that one lot get paid to watch films and usually end up being insufferable snobs who refuse to give fair reviews unless their goodie bags have been filled to over flowing (you know it happens, I know it happens) and the other lot lay down their hard earned pounds and dollars for the privilege of sitting their asses down and watching the movie for an evening’s entertainment.
I have to go with the audience on this one. Rob Marshall does an admirable job of steering the film, and it’s obvious from the opening scenes involving an inept (but yet successful to a point) jailbreak with Sparrow and First Mate Gibbs.
Sparrow is on a quest to find the fountain of youth with Blackbeard’s crew - some of whom have been zombified to make them more compliant. Meanwhile, Barbossa is on the same quest, only on the side of King George. To get to the fountain, they must travel across the world, and eventually face the wrath of mermaids who although stunningly attractive and easily capable of luring a man to his death in the murky depths, are also semi vampiric in appearance when they bare their fangs and leap out of the water to grab unwary sailors from a rowing boat.
A strange thing happened to me about halfway through the film. Although I’ve seen all the originals and in fact watched them all again last summer with my daughter Tiffany, I realised that I was enjoying this one more than I had the last two. I don’t know whether it’s because this is a standalone and doesn’t end in a cliffhanger to be resolved in the next film, or whether it was a change of pace and direction that made the difference.
Speaking of the next film, if rumours are to be believed, Tim Burton and Sam Raimi are said to be in line for the director’s chair. Either way, things will get a lot darker and quirkier for our favourite pirate.