Why the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Franchise Should Not Be Touched


By: Amanda Guarragi 

After nearly a decade, since Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was released in 2003, there has been confirmation from Disney that there will be, not one reboot, but TWO reboots, of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. One is a stand-alone film in the Pirates franchise and it is not considered a sequel, reboot or spin-off. Margot Robbie is set to star and Birds of Prey screenwriter Christina Hodson, is set to write the screenplay. The other film, is in fact, a spin-off, which was rumoured as a Disney+ series. It has a $100 million budget and is headed by Chernobyl creator, Craig Mazin and Ted Elliot (who wrote for the previous Pirate franchise), in order to take it in a fresh direction.

Here is the thing, Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most solid, live action, Disney adventure films, that they have in their library. The women in the franchise, have always elevated the story, especially Pirate King Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). The others that come to mind, are Anamaria (Zoe Saldana), Tia Dalma or Calypso (Naomie Harris), Angelica (Penélope Cruz) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). They have all made their mark on screen, there have been women at the forefront, in each of the Pirates films, so to make two spin-offs, that are female led, discredits the work these women put into their roles.

It is a franchise that cannot function without Captain Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth Swann or Will Turner and I will stand by that. After having a marathon of the five films myself. I can honestly say, that whatever Disney attempts to do with these female led reboots, they will never come close to what they had almost 20 years ago. The way Disney makes their films now, is completely different than how they made them 20 years ago and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Their storytelling has changed and it seems that they cannot create a darker atmosphere for their films anymore. It is always light hearted fun and the characterizations are at surface value.

While watching The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), I felt an instant wave of nostalgia and I was surprised, that I watched this as a young child because the film is scary. It has this dark, eerie, ghost story feel to it, from the very beginning. Verbinski managed to hook you within the very first scene and make you want to learn all about Pirate mythology. The story is pretty haunting for a young child to watch, as the curse makes Pirates, who are aboard the Black Pearl, change into skeletons when there is a full moon. The special effects were so well done, it still blows my mind to this day, that everything was smoothly rendered. It was not a film for young children, whatsoever, but it is still in the Disney library.

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Courtesy of Disney, (left) Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom 

Dead Man’s Chest (2006) is my favourite out of the entire saga. It takes all we have learned from the first instalment and amplified it by 100. The action sequences, side deals and manipulation, made a great impression on so many people. The CGI for Davy Jones was exceptional and Bill Nighy gave a solid performance. Jones and his whole crew, were horrific sea creatures and it was so well done. Each movement that was rendered, felt so lifelike and authentic, that it still gives me nightmares. The battles between ships were also elevated and the design for ‘The Flying Dutchman’ was perfect. Not only was this a perfect sequel, but it had one of the best cliffhangers of the decade.

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Courtesy of Disney, (left) David Bailie, Mackenzie Crook, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley

It bumped the stakes going into the third instalment At World’s End (2007) and kept us waiting for an entire year. The score is probably Hans Zimmer’s best Pirate score to date because of the heart thumping undertones, that he used throughout for Davy Jones’ theme. It was really effective and it did not overpower the classic Pirates theme. Heading into the third one, Captain Jack Sparrow is in the depths of Davy Jones’ locker. While Will, Elizabeth and the rest of the crew head to Tia Dalma’s, to find out Commodore Barbossa is still alive. Everyone wants to save Jack and bring him back, but they need to travel to the ends of the world to go save him.

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Courtesy of Disney, (left) Geoffrey Rush, Keira Knightley, Johnny Depp 

At World’s End is such an exciting final instalment to the trilogy because it explores all the Pirate Lords, who hold one of the nine pieces. The Pirate mythology is so well thought out and presented in Singapore. Everyone is pretty much a Pirate in this film, including former Commodore James Norrington. Lord Cutler Beckett also became a fantastic villain with the East India Trading Company because he wanted to abolish piracy forever. We are also introduced to the Brethren Court in Singapore with Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), who is the Pirate Lord of the South China Sea. There were so many big players and moving pieces in this, which made for one of the most exhilarating third acts for a third instalment.

Gore Verbinski’s trilogy was so well written because they had a clear plan from the start. You could see the foreshadowing and where the story was going to go after each film. That is how you set up a trilogy. There was always anticipation for the next film because of how invested you became in these characters. The most impressive character arc, in this whole trilogy is Elizabeth Swann’s, she broke free from her role as Governor’s daughter, learned how to deal with pirates and the high seas, leading her to eventually become a Pirate Lord! Talk about amazing character development. If you really look at this trilogy, the focus may have been on Captain Jack Sparrow, but the underdog in all this, that truly stole the spotlight was Elizabeth Swann because you do grow to love her.

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Courtesy of Disney, (front) Keira Knightley 

The trilogy is perfect on it’s own. So when Disney pressed for a fourth instalment with On Stranger Tides (2011), nearly five years later, directed by Rob Marshall, it felt like it was an afterthought. At the end of the third one, they did allude to the fountain of youth and that Captain Jack wanted to travel there. They did leave it open ended but the only flaw in this film, was that Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann did not return with Jack. Instead we are introduced to Angelica (Penélope Cruz), who felt like a mirror of Jack, which was very fun to play with. It was also a Blow (2001) reunion for Cruz and Depp.

Courtesy of Disney, (left) Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz

In this journey, Captain Jack Sparrow loses his first mate Gibbs and has a run in with King George the Second, who insists that he should guide him on an expedition to the fountain of youth. We then see that Commodore Barbossa has joined the British navy and will join Jack. His old flame Angelica, has been impersonating him this whole time and Jack finds out that she is the daughter, of the infamous Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane) who uses voodoo magic and wields the ‘Mythical Sword of Triton’ to control his ship, the ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’.

It was a fun movie and they did want to see, if they could make a side journey, without Will and Elizabeth but it just seemed empty without them. It is always great to explore different characters like Syrena (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey), who was the first mermaid that we had seen in the franchise and to see various Pirates from mythology. It wasn’t the strongest Pirates film but we did get to know Jack a bit more, even though the writing for him in this one was weaker than the previous instalments.

The final and fifth instalment in the Pirates trilogy, was Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, which takes place six years after the fourth film. Will and Elizabeth return to save the franchise. It is now thirteen years after At World’s End and their son, Henry Turner is now aboard ‘The Flying Dutchman’ with his father. Apparently he knows of a way, to break the curse, that binds his father to the ship and needs to seek out Captain Jack Sparrow for help. In order to help his father, he needs the ‘Trident of Poseidon’ and ventures to ‘The Devil’s Triangle’.

Courtesy of Disney, (left) Kaya Scodelario, Johnny Depp and Brenton Thwaites

All the big players come back and we are introduced to yet, another Pirate, Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who is the undead Captain of the ‘Silent Mary’. Henry somehow joins the British Navy, in order to find the Devil’s Triangle and runs into Salazar. He then has a message for Jack Sparrow, that he is, in fact, going after him. Carina is on trial for being a witch, but is simply a young astronomer and horologist, who makes a quick escape and runs into Jack. It is a bit convoluted but the one thing the Pirates franchise does well, is develop their characters enough to make you like them.

Loose ends are definitely tied up, as the Turner family is reunited, Barbossa finds his long lost daughter and Jack is reunited with his crew, his ship and his love for adventure on the high seas. It was possibly the only way to end this franchise on a high note, while still leaving a little bit of mystery in the post credit scene, with the connection that Davy Jones and Will Turner share.

Courtesy of Disney, (left) Orlando Bloom and Lewis McGowan

The Pirates franchise as a whole, is a fantastic adventure franchise, when you see how they handle their characters. The original trilogy is done so well, that it definitely can make you forget the final two instalments. It is such a great franchise and I think a reboot, spin-off or even a sequel is not the greatest idea because the momentum is gone. It will always be treasured and I think developing new, original, adventure films with women at the forefront is the better way to go. We all know that everyone will be comparing these reboots to its predecessor and that’s harmful for female led films.

Disney has changed drastically and has only been focusing on remaking the films they already have in their library. Yes, you can perceive it as making content for a new generation but I was raised on their older classics and I loved them just as much. Like many other films that shouldn’t be touched, this is one of them because I personally think it is too soon to flip this script and not have the original cast present because they are the ones that made it iconic. I highly recommend giving these films a rewatch because they do hold up years later.

Courtesy of Disney, Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow

Artemis Fowl Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Artemis Fowl is the title of a book series written by Eoin Colfer. This film adaptation has been completely altered to make it kid friendly. The book series was initially intended for children. There is nothing good to say about this film because it was difficult to understand the second it started. The special effects were terrible, script was very messy and the editing, was not fluid enough to make a cohesive narrative. The worst part, is that this film had so much potential to be great, it is not right to change the source material to the point of the story being unrecognizable.

The film is an Irish tale, filled with lore and mythical creatures that were never fully explained. Majority of the time it was hard to understand what was happening in the film, or even care, where the story was going because of how overstuffed it was. Artemis (Ferdia Shaw) used to believe in all this lore that his father, Artemis Fowl Sr. (Colin Farrell) instilled in him at a very young age. Once his father is captured by an unknown villain (because they’re probably planning for a sequel), Artemis must decode his father’s journal of these fantasy creatures. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, the script would say otherwise.

The entire film seemed rushed, the pacing was all terrible and scenes were cut short for some strange reason. Everything that was shared between characters, ended abruptly and nothing was added to the story. The fight scenes were poorly executed and it seemed that there was no clear direction for this film whatsoever. It is also extremely frustrating seeing actors like Colin Farrell and Judi Dench waste their talents on a film like this. Yes, it’s a children’s movie, but what happens when children, do not even want to sit through a film like this?

This is why changing source material, to make it more kid friendly, for their brand is very problematic. The story was perfectly fine the way it was. It blurred the lines between good and evil. This has been a theme used for a very long time and it is evident in other Disney films. This film had so much potential and it was wasted because they did not want to dive deeper into the mind of a 12 year old criminal mastermind. If the books were so well received, then why change it now? It is very hard to understand the logic behind the change.

Artemis Fowl is a film that has mediocre production value and a convoluted story. It is a messy, special effects ridden Disney channel movie that should have stuck to the source material. I am very disappointed in the way they handled this film and the cast deserved better than what they had to work with. The worst aspect is walking away from a completed project and knowing it could have been better.

 

Female Led ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ “Reboot” Moving Forward At Disney


BY: Amanda Guarragi 

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been a staple in the Disney library since Curse of the Black Pearl was released in 2003. Audiences were introduced to the fearless Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), the blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and the drunken pirate himself, CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) all three actors were at their peak and brought their characters to life. The franchise was financially successful at the box office, the five films in the saga have grossed over $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office.

The Pirates of the Caribbean films were nothing short of iconic. CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow gained Johnny Depp his first Oscar nomination in 2004, proving that he will forever be defined as that character. The love story between Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann is more than just Disney pirate lore, it’s a story that will be remembered by all forever because of how fun and adventurous their journey was. Orlando Bloom solidified his action adventure status with Pirates of the Caribbean and Keira Knightley truly outshined them all as Elizabeth Swann sailed towards her destiny as Pirate King.

These films ruled the high seas of the box office in the early 2000s and it’s one of Disney’s greatest franchises. So, here’s the question we’re all asking… “Why are you giving a beloved classic a reboot?” It doesn’t really make sense, since the last film Dead Men Tell No Tales fizzled with the storyline, even though it made $794.1 million at the box office. The original trilogy had a full story arc and they knew they story they wanted to tell. A Pirates of the Caribbean film without CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth Swann or Will Turner is just not the same movie.

Earlier today it was reported by Disnsider that there would be a full on reboot with a female lead. Sources say that Karen Gillan is eyed to be the lead, but they are also looking for women of colour to be at the forefront in the film. According to Daniel Richtman, the story could possibly be centred around the Disney Parks attraction character, Redd, who is a meet-and-greet character. Jerry Bruckheimer is also set to return as producer on the project and Ted Elliot is as well to write the screenplay. The budget of the film, according to Disnsider, is $100 million and is being made for  theatrical release, instead of heading to Disney+ as a series.

Here’s the thing, Disney needs more original content involving a female lead that isn’t a princess. Their library is getting stale and making these reboots of their earlier films is just playing it safe at the box office. Instead of rebooting or remaking beloved classics that people grew up with, why not create an entirely new story with a female lead that could add to the Disney library? That’s the issue with reboots or remakes, there’s always going to be a predecessor that it will be compared to, even if it is a spinoff.

The time of CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow has come and gone. Everyone knows there’s no Pirates of the Caribbean franchise without him, and it’s extremely obvious that he won’t be involved in the reboot. So for the sake of clarifying what “reboot” actually means in this specific situation, it doesn’t actually mean a reboot, but a spin-off with an entirely new characters. I also don’t think a theatrical release would be beneficial to the pirate world, a series for this theme park character, would add some more family friendly content to the Disney+ streaming service.

The Skywalker Saga Rant


BY: Amanda Guarragi 

May the Fourth be with you all on Star Wars Day.

After four decades of Star Wars content, the Skywalker saga finally came to an end last year, with The Rise of Skywalker. Today Disney Plus released the final instalment on their streaming, two months ahead of schedule and the series finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was also released to celebrate today. Disney really had the right idea in mind to have a Star Wars party on the day that is treasured by so many fans worldwide. The Skywalker Saga is truly something special, so I thought I would do a breakdown, of what I think of the series as a whole.

Even if you haven’t succumbed to the hardcore nature of the fanbase, everyone knows who Luke Skywalker is and his story. It’s a tale as old as time now, considering that A New Hope came out in 1977, its lore is now embedded in pop culture forever. For those who have invested so much time, love, and money in the Skywalker Saga, it’s fair to say that when any new age Star Wars film was released, the fans were extremely critical of what Disney was doing to these characters.

Some have said that The Force Awakens was a carbon copy of A New Hope and in many ways it was. However, I found that having some similarities while introducing it to a new generation, helped them appreciate the original saga and the journey they were about to embark on with the new ones. There are similar personality traits with certain characters and it was entertaining to watch them interact. The Force Awakens presented a new, more diverse cast and it all seemed promising. Disney also marketed the new Star Wars saga extremely well and that was the driving force of this new trilogy.

The Force Awakens was my first Star Wars film that I watched in theatres and I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I didn’t think I would feel emotional watching the opening titles the way I did, but it was such a huge moment. I always envied the people who were able to watch Star Wars on the big screen and when I eventually did, I finally understood how powerful the Star Wars films were. I had become heavily invested in the characters and couldn’t wait for more content, I was hooked.

I would be considered a freshman to the world of Star Wars. I enjoyed watching the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy but I have to admit that I was never a die hard fan. It’s a franchise that everyone should watch in their lifetime and that’s why I did it. As much as people hate the prequel trilogy, it was great to see how Anakin and Obi Wan started. It made Luke’s story so much richer and then his encounter with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back holds so much weight and it’s a very emotional moment. The new trilogy used nostalgia to pull on the heartstrings and that’s why the attachment to these new characters were different. The reason why we loved Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo was because they were somehow connected to previous characters, whether it was lineage or similar character traits.

I became attached to these characters and I really enjoyed the story arc of one of them in particular. Even though Rey was the lead and it was great to see a woman, at the forefront in a Star Wars film, Kylo Ren still had the most interesting story in the new trilogy. He is the son of a Solo and a Skywalker, he is apart of the golden lineage that has graced the screen for the past four decades. He is a descendent of Anakin Skywalker and struggles with both, light and dark, within him because of who his parents were. Ben Solo was THE BEST character in the trilogy and it is because he is a Skywalker.

There has been so much controversy surrounding the new trilogy and it was because a woman was at the forefront. People also complained that the nostalgia overpowered the content of the film and they never had a clear plan for this trilogy. When The Last Jedi was released, I was blown away by the stunning visuals and the story involving Luke Skywalker. Rian Johnson added so many layers to the world and the meaning of hope in one film, but sadly others felt that the magic of Star Wars was ruined. After The Last Jedi the discourse did not stop until we all caught a glimpse of The Rise of SkywalkerThey didn’t really show much and the trailer seemed promising because it was the final film in the Skywalker saga.

The months leading up to The Rise of Skywalker were quiet. There wasn’t the same hype as the previous instalments. Even the marketing seemed more tame. You could say there was a shift in the force. There was an entirely different feeling going into the final film and no, it wasn’t the same as heading into Avengers: Endgame or gearing up to watch the Game of Thrones finale. No, there was a different type of dread that I couldn’t  understand. People were genuinely worried with how they were going to wrap up four decades worth of a story. Everyone had a right to be worried because, like I said before, there was no plan for this trilogy.

We went from a sequel that restored hope in the galaxy, showing that anyone can become a jedi and harness that power, to a film that completely erased everything that came before it. The Rise of Skywalker was a complete mess the second we found out about Rey’s lineage. I loved the first half of that film because Poe was finally at the forefront and Finn also had a bit more to do. I was gearing up for Rey and Kylo to be the balance in the force and work together, while Kylo turns back to the light. How can you call something The Rise of Skywalker and then cut the lineage? That’s what was so frustrating. No one wanted Rey to be anyone. The fact that she was a nobody and she wanted to study the Jedi way, was what made her story unique. The fact that anybody could harness that power is what made her special.

If anyone should get their own trilogy it should be Ben Solo because of the injustice they served his character. I just couldn’t believe the journey they decided to take him on and then just destroy it in the most irresponsible way. A name is important, you don’t just give away a name to try and make sense of the title you gave your own film. Rey had no right to take up the Skywalker name, considering her lineage of being a Palpatine, which is also just lazy writing. How can you give a Palpatine, the Skywalker name after four decades worth of a story? It definitely leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, it sure did make me angry when I walked out of that theatre.

Whether you loved The Rise of Skywalker or hated it, the Skywalker saga has made a huge impact on pop culture and will always have a place in everyone’s hearts. In a way the ending of The Last Jedi could technically be used as the last film in the Skywalker story. It did end with Luke dying and restored hope to the galaxy. This debate will go on forever, but don’t worry Disney has more things planned for the Star Wars universe. They won’t let it fizzle out after one bust. So I hope everyone enjoys their mini Star Wars marathon today and may the force be with you always.

*click here to see where I ranked each Star Wars film*

 

 

The Hollywood Shift: What Does The Future Hold For Movie Theatres?


By: Amanda Guarragi

For the past couple of years the film industry has been gradually shifting and we know where it’s heading. Streaming content has finally become a major player in the industry,  whether the films are on; Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max or Disney Plus, these major streaming platforms have acquired films from major studios, produced their own or found independent films to distribute. Streaming platforms have been silently progressing and they have changed the moviegoing experience entirely.

News broke out earlier this week that the Oscars will consider films that didn’t play in theatres as a part of the new Academy rules. However, there are guidelines as to how this would play out for Oscar season, Marc Malkin for Variety breaks it down, “To be considered, the streamed film must have already had a planned theatrical release. The film must also be made available on the Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release.” This is a welcomed change for independent films that only have a limited theatre release and head straight to streaming.

That wasn’t the only discourse the made headlines though. It was a huge week for the film industry as Trolls World Tour released it’s PVOD earnings, it took in $100 million in premium DVD rentals in its first three weeks of play in North America. The film apparently made more on VOD than the first instalment, which had a five month run in theatres. This raised a lot of eyebrows because of the profit it made in one month on VOD vs a 5 month run in theatres. CEO of NBCUniversal, Jeff Shell made this statement following the success of the film, “The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD. As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.” The reason why this is such a huge deal for studios is that they can create a bridge between theatrical releases and accessibility through streaming internationally.

However, the excitement of that news, was overpowered by movie theatre chains disagreeing with Universal’s decision to release their films on both formats. It first upset AMC, which is the largest theatre chain in the United States (who is also on the verge of bankruptcy) because they obviously want content to exclusively play at their theatres. They were clearly upset, they countered Shell’s statement and said that they would no longer show any Universal Studios pictures at their theatre. Not only did they decide to boycott Universal, but so did Regal, Odeon and now Cineworld in the United Kingdom. These are all major theatre chains boycotting a studio that has No Time to Die, Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Fast & Furious 9 slated for a 2020/2021 release in theatres.

If you read the statement from Jeff Shell again, he did not say that there would be no theatrical release of the studios films. He just said, due to the success of Trolls World Tour on VOD, it would be a great business decision to do both. It’s a very simple statement that allows the rest of the studios to see how this formula could work moving forward. Warner Brothers is releasing Scoob! straight to VOD and Disney is moving Artemis Fowl to Disney Plus, are they also violating the code that AMC is apparently following? Why isn’t AMC going after them? What was so wrong in what Jeff Shell said?

I have been saying that we need to bridge theatrical and streaming together because it’s the future. The reason why people aren’t going to the theatres regularly is because the prices for tickets and concessions are way too high. Sure, it’s fine if you’re one person going to watch a movie, but the issue is that families are spending over $100 for one outing to the theatre. Majority of moviegoers only watch event/franchise films and those only come out once/twice a month. What Universal plans to do, will change the face of the industry and it has been a long time coming.

So, are movie theatres dying? The answer is no. The moviegoing experience will never die and it’s because people enjoy going out. Movie theatres will always be apart of the Entertainment experience. Whether it’s a date, a girls night, family movie night, alone time to catch that indie no one wants to watch with you or a massive event film that you want to experience in IMAX, movie theatres will never die, the studios just need to change their approach. If theatre chains don’t want to make their prices more affordable, then studios will create the accessibility to their films through VOD or streaming platforms.

This response from AMC and the rest of the theatre chains is just fear. It’s fear that the industry is changing and they feel like the entire experience will vanish. Were people scared to release talkies during the silent film era? Were people scared to switch over to Technicolour from black and white? Were people scared to film with IMAX cameras or in 3D? Were people scared to switch from film to digital? Were people scared to release their film on Netflix? The answer is yes, but look at how much the industry has accomplished. If the pioneers of cinema didn’t push the boundary, we wouldn’t have what we have now.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what movie theatres are going to go through during this period of time. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, there is no date as to when this will be over and movie theatres will be open. It could take as long as a year to come up with a vaccine and the most important thing is to keep everyone safe. Opening theatres prematurely because you want to make money is a very inconsiderate thing to do. If studios can give people new content as a form of escapism from their reality, I think it would help so many people because then they have a little something to look forward to.