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

CBM’s & the Death of Film Criticism

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The latest comic book film under fire with criticism and controversy before its release is Sony’s “Venom”.

The review embargo lifted Tuesday and as usual, all eyes were on Twitter as #Venom was filled with negative reviews. Let’s be honest here, we all had very low expectations for this movie considering that Sony was at the helm.

However, the excuses for this film being bad are not focused on the film whatsoever. Most of the reviews compare Tom Hardy’s performance to other actors and just throw away the rest of the review by saying “it’s more of the marvel formula”. It’s annoying to me that these critics NEVER focus on the film itself and discuss the good and the bad, they always compare to other films or other performances.

Exhibit A: Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

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Why would you start off the review comparing a brilliant actor like Tom Hardy, who has had no sexual assault allegations made against him and has treated his colleagues with the utmost respect to Harvey Weinstein? Why would you assume that a film would even be made about this horrible human being, let alone imply that Hardy would even take that role? What does this piece have to do with his character Eddie Brock and Venom? I read the rest of the review and again it draws comparisons to the entire MCU, which has a different foundation entirely. People need to stop comparing comic book films to the MCU films, especially if they have a different tone or universe.

Exhibit B: Owen Gleiberman, Variety

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Owen Gleiberman decided to use the first 3 paragraphs of his review expressing his distaste for Tom Hardy’s method acting, comparing Eddie Brock to his other performances, and AGAIN to other well known method actors.

comparison 2Gleiberman compared him to 3 different actors for a role that is not supposed to be taken this seriously. Again, it’s a comic book movie and we all know that Tom Hardy can work magic with any kind of script. Why compare to other method actors and why degrade his work based on a FILM you didn’t happen to enjoy. Let’s not forget that Mr. Tom Hardy has been nominated for an Oscar, let alone be in many Best Picture nominees. Why not plug his next project “Fonzo” instead of dragging him and saying he’s the “eager grandson”. Why are you degrading his acting capabilities based on one film?

We all know Tom Hardy is a very versatile actor and he has given us so many great performances. Everyone is so quick to blame the actor because they’re the face of this whole collaboration but the writer and director are also ones to blame. I haven’t seen the film but I can already tell that Tom Hardy, along with Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed kind of save the material with their acting abilities. Many actors have had that problematic film but at the same time you can’t drag them in this way.

I truly blame the Internet for the way film criticism has turned out. Everyone awaits the Rotten Tomatoes score and what Twitter has to say. Other than this randomized general consensus, I doubt any of you have at least one credible critic that you trust. There is no Roger Ebert giving in depth reviews and actually giving readers a balanced criticism. Critics today, either rip a film apart or praise every inch of it, there’s no in between anymore.

Audiences base their interest on a film on what social media says or the score on Rotten Tomatoes. If either one expresses their disgust for whatever film, they avoid it and the film suffers. Audiences are not getting fair reviews and it sometimes hurts the box office numbers. I guarantee Venom won’t have an issue racking up the numbers because it already broke pre-sale records for October, but it still puts a damper on the movie going experience. The Internet has ruined the way people discuss films because I’ve noticed it’s never a healthy discussion, especially online.

The most unsettling reason why the Internet has ruined Film Criticism is the “Fandom Mentality”.

Exhibit C: Fandom Wars on Social Media 

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As I personally scrolled through the #Venom tag I saw similar block of reviews that were tweeted by six different accounts, all saying that Venom is a horrible movie and that they would rather watch A Star is Born this upcoming weekend. This happened last year when people thought Harry Styles would attend the Oscars because he had a couple of lines in Dunkirk. I get that this is huge for Gaga, but her fans went a bit too far with this one. If you want to support your favourite person then go on and do so, there’s no reason to create this controversy… how much time do you have on your hands?

Also, these are two very different films that are going to draw two EXTREMELY different crowds, so why even compare. I know for a fact Venom has absolutely no Oscar buzz, so why treat it as such? This is also why I plan on documenting this upcoming Oscar season because every year there is so much madness on social media for absolutely no reason. If you love a movie, feel free to love that film but please do not bash everything else for the hell of it, it gets frustrating.

At the end of the day, I implore you all to find a critic that you trust because basing what you watch from a Rotten Tomatoes score or privileged writers on social media are not the ones who are credible. Most of the time those who have a blue checkmark don’t know what they’re talking about.

Venom and A Star is Born are both being released this weekend, feel free to go to the cinema and have a good time! Also, to my Canadian family, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

The End of the X-Men

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In light of the new Dark Phoenix trailer that dropped Thursday at midnight, I wanted to reflect on the X-Men franchise as a whole.

The original trilogy that was released in the early 2000s was something special for 20th Century Fox because Marvel Entertainment had sold them the rights to the X-Men characters, as well as Elektra, Daredevil and Fantastic Four. During the same period, Marvel also sold the rights of Spider-Man to Sony.

Marvel’s debut feature was Blade (1998), starring Wesley Snipes, who was a vampire hunter. It grossed $70 million and was a solid comic book debut for the company. Shortly after, the world of the X-Men was brought to audiences with the help of Bryan Singer. X-Men (2000) grossed $158,000,000 in the U.S. & Canada and almost $300,000,000 worldwide. The X-Men trilogy eventually made over $1.1 billion worldwide.

Marvel knew that comic book films were in demand and with the reception the X-Men got from audiences, they knew they were about to explore so many other options. The X-Men trilogy was left in the hands of 20th Century Fox and I am so grateful that we were able to get the X-Men in all their glory, for the most part. The X-Men franchise may have had some issues, but they corrected themselves along the way.Image result for x-men movie stills

Looking back at the cast of the X-Men, you had some pretty remarkable actors who created their own versions of these characters. We look back at this cast and we find it hard to believe that they were all together in this franchise. We had legends like; Sir Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, Ian McKellan as Magneto, Halle Berry as Storm and Hugh Jackman as Logan aka Wolverine. All of them took this seriously, they took a chance with a comic book film and they were all dedicated to these characters.

The reason why the first X-Men trilogy was awesome, was because of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. People loved him so much that they even gave him an Origins trilogy. Unfortunately, they weren’t very good but it didn’t matter because everyone loved Wolverine. It was a bonus because it lead them to make Logan, which is still one of the best cbm’s in history. It was also a perfect sign off for Hugh Jackman after 14 years. That’s the issue with these sequels, sometimes the company gets greedy and they create spinoffs that were not needed in the slightest. Wolverine Origins also gave us the most inaccurate depiction of Deadpool, but thankfully Ryan Reynolds was adamant about fixing Wade.

I enjoyed the X-Men trilogy. The first two were pretty solid and then The Last Stand happened. No one I know enjoyed the events that unfolded in the final instalment of the trilogy because of how they handled Jean Grey. Famke Jansen’s portrayal of Jean has always been spot on and I personally feel they did not do her justice. Jean Grey has immeasurable power, she is literally the most powerful mutant and they just threw her storyline away. After The Last Stand they focused on Wolverine because of how well he was doing, but no one, NO ONE, forgot what happened in The Last Stand, go ahead and ask the comic book fans around you, they will tell you exactly how they feel about it.

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20th Century Fox wanted to correct  their mistake with The Last Stand, the backlash was ridiculous for a pre-twitter environment. People never forgave them for it.

Until they came up with an idea.

Why not make a prequel?

Why not show a young Charles and Erik?

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This was the best idea they could have ever come up with because they cast two of the most brilliant actors of our generation. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender took these two roles so seriously, they would study Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s mannerisms and accents in order to get the younger version of their characters right.

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The prequel trilogy of First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse were films that explained each characters backstory and also fixed many issues the original trilogy faced. The main issue is the timeline from X-Men: The Last Stand. Something that Days of Future Past did right, is correct the timeline and it completely worked in their favour. The prequel trilogy is possibly better than the original trilogy and most comic fans are okay with how it worked out because we have 4 dedicated actors covering the most powerful beings in Marvel history. Even if you didn’t enjoy the franchise, you have to admit that Fassbender, McAvoy, McKellen and Stewart did not disappoint and definitely delivered.

The other reason why many people identify with the X-Men and feel so connected to their world, is because they are accepting of everyone and don’t exclude those who are different. Instead, the X-Men and Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters celebrates these differences.

Yes, it’s fictional.

Yes, they are all mutants.

I know it may sound odd, but everyone who has felt like an outcast their whole life, can identify with feeling that way, and the one thing the X-Men celebrate, is being different. Whether you read the comics or watched the films, the X-Men will always be unified because of their differences and I think that’s something lovely to share with the world.

X-Men: Days of Future Past does not get the credit it deserves. It is the best film out of the prequel trilogy because it parallels the society we live in. People are so terrified of those who are different, that society tends to send them away instead of accepting them or try to understand their way of life. People exile them, treat them so poorly and they continue to strive, resisting society’s social constructs and having their voices heard. This film showed that and maintained to correct the timeline.

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The X-Men franchise explains issues in society by using the mutants storyline, they are different and society avoids listening to those who are different. It’s pretty simple and it makes a solid connection to the human condition. The X-Men may have been shafted because of that other team, but really look back at this franchise and take notice of what they did.

Dark Phoenix is coming out February 14th, 2019 and I’m very excited to see Sophie Turner’s version of Jean Grey shine. Her standalone has been long overdue and the trailer is really giving me hope! Since this is the end of the X-Men franchise (under to 20th Century Fox), I plan on doing a full marathon leading up to Dark Phoenix, because it truly is the end of an era. After almost 16 years, Fox has to say goodbye to the X-Men and so do we.

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Black Canary & Huntress Officially Cast for DC’s “Birds of Prey”

Cathy Yan and Margot Robbie have found their Black Canary and Huntress.



Jurnee Smollet – Bell will play Dinah Lance aka Black Canary. Dinah Lance is often portrayed as an expert in hand to hand combat. In addition to her martial arts skills, she is equipped with her sonic Canary cry (which will be shot in glorious IMAX) and a damn good investigator.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead will play Helena Bertinelli aka Huntress. Helena Bertinelli is a former mafia princess who was devastated at a young age when her family was killed in a mob hit, turning her into a vigilante.

 

Birds of Prey is set to be released on February 7th, 2020 with Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn. We are still awaiting the casting of Cassandra Cain’s BatGirl!