Features
Retrospective: "Pirates Of The Caribbean"


Date Posted: 21 May 2017


Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back in "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge".

This May, Johnny Depp a.k.a. Captain Jack Sparrow is back once again in his bid to rule the crowded summer movie season with the fifth instalment of the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" series subtitled "Salazar's Revenge".

In case you're confused with the subtitle, both "Salazar's Revenge" and "Dead Men Tell No Tales" are actually the same movie. The only difference is that "Dead Men Tell No Tales" is originally subtitled for US audiences. As six years already passed since 2011's "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides", does a pirate movie or even Captain Jack Sparrow himself remain relevant in today's age of lucrative superhero genre? Only time will tell when "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge" sails into our local cinemas this May 25th.

Now, ahead of the movie's release, here is a retrospective of the previous four "Pirates Of The Caribbean" movies since it set sail in 2003.

1. "Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl" (2003)

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) in a scene from
"Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl".

Long before Disney managed to rake a shipload of box-office gold from the "Pirates of The Caribbean" series, the pirate genre used to be categorised under "box office poison". Case in point includes Roman Polanski's 1986 big-budget fiasco of "Pirates" starring the late Walter Matthau and of course, Renny Harlin's notoriously troubled "Cutthroat Island" which was responsible for sinking the once-lucrative Carolco Pictures into bankruptcy.

But in 2003, Disney alongside uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski successfully overcame the odds by turning the then-most expensive pirate movie ever produced into an international box-office juggernaut. The mammoth success was totally unexpected, given the fact it was actually based on Disney's "Pirates Of The Caribbean" theme park attraction! And yet interestingly enough, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio of "Shrek" fame managed to craft a fascinating premise that combines the classic pirate genre, swashbuckling action-adventure and a dash of horror element into a slick blockbuster package. The story goes like this: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) teams up with blacksmith Will Smith (Orlando Bloom) to rescue his love, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) while battling against a gang of undead pirates, led by Jack's former second-in-command Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

Clocking in at more than two hours long, the movie was overplotted for its own good. Still, even with the choppy pace, "Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl" remains as a fun-filled popcorn fare. Most of the movie's success, of course, is greatly indebted to Johnny Depp as the main protagonist Captain Jack Sparrow. Played to flamboyant perfection complete with a slurred speech pattern, Depp is hilariously over-the-top as the rum-loving pirate. His character is so universally praised that Depp even landed a surprising Best Actor nomination at the 76th Academy Awards. The movie also helped establish both Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley's careers into Hollywood stardom.

2. "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006)

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and James Norrington (Jack Davenport)
engage in a three-way swordfight duel in "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest".

Shot back-to-back alongside "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End", the second instalment - subtitled "Dead Man's Chest" - is improved by leaps and bounds with dazzling action set-pieces and entertaining subplot.

This time, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is finding ways to save himself by retrieving a treasure chest buried somewhere on an island. Apparently, the chest contains the broken heart of the legendary half-man and half-octopus "Flying Dutchman" captain named Davy Jones (Bill Nighy).

Like the first movie, "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" still suffers from an overstuffed plot that could have used some serious trimming. But thankfully, the sequel is largely saved by the recurring cast alongside franchise newcomer Bill Nighy as the main antagonist, Davy Jones.

Kudos also go to the spectacular action set-pieces, which are particularly evident during the subplot set on the cannibal-infested island. That includes a hilarious bone cage sequence where Will and the imprisoned pirates try to swing back and forth across the cliff, a Rube Goldberg-like moment where Jack is falling off the cliff, and the acrobatic swordfighting duel between Jack, Will and James (Jack Davenport).

3. "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End" (2007)

(L-R) Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat), Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and
Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in a scene from "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End".

By the time "Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End" arrived a year later after the enormously entertaining second instalment, the third movie was already showing obvious signs of "franchise fatigue".

Picking up where "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" left off, the third and purportedly final chapter in the trilogy followed Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), newly-resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and voodoo priestess Tia Dalma (Naomi Harris) setting off to rescue Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). En route, they retrieve a special map from Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) in Singapore, before making their way to the netherworld of Davy Jones' Locker, in which Jack Sparrow is trapped inside.

Apparently, the word "restraint" hardly applies in the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" movies. The story is bloated as usual that is crammed with subplots and counter-plots to the point that they veer off course. Not to mention the movie is also strangely anticlimactic. Perhaps the level of creativity had already peaked in "Dead Man's Chest", cause what we had here was instead a series of the same old cannonball explosions and mediocre swordfights during the supposedly epic finale.

Still, not everything was dim in this third instalment. Johnny Depp remains a scene-stealer as Jack Sparrow, while his scene involving a "Being John Malkovich"-like surrealistic moment where Jack and a small army of his own selfs are talking to each other is comedy gold.

4. "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (2011)

(L-R) Angelica (Penelope Cruz), Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Blackbeard
(Ian McShane) in a scene from "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides".

"Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" may have been the least profitable movie of the franchise at the North American box office. But it was a different story altogether for the international box office. Believe it or not, the fourth instalment ended up becoming a top-grossing moneymaker that eclipsed the last three "Pirates Of The Caribbean" movies.

While it's no doubt "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" was financially successful, the same cannot be said to the overall movie's diminishing quality.

In this fourth instalment, we see Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) along with evil pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz) - who are all determined to get their hands on the elusive Fountain of Youth.

With Gore Verbinski sitting out for the fourth instalment this time around, "Chicago" director Rob Marshall seems like an interesting choice. But even his directing credibility isn't enough to prevent this movie from sinking into an all-time low. Despite given the big-budget price tag, the production values and action set-pieces are surprisingly average.

The only saving grace? Johnny Depp's iconic portrayal of Jack Sparrow.

Here's hoping that the upcoming "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge" brings back the glory of the franchise's earlier successes.

"Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge" opens in cinemas nationwide on 25 May 2017.

Writer: Casey Chong





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