During the finale of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead Sunday night, Disney dropped the first teaser trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the upcoming fifth installment in the franchise. While many of you are probably saying “Wait, they made ANOTHER one?,” I’m here to alleviate any potential concerns about the film. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is a very successful financial property, grossing 3.7 billion dollars at the global box office. Dollars can speak louder than critical ratings. While Disney’s motive for a fifth film may be rooted in finances, they are taking care to make sure this film reinvigorates the franchise and can proudly stand among the ranks of other later franchise installments, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Below are just some of the ways Disney worked to make this film and franchise better than ever.
For the film, Disney and Bruckheimer Films decided to go a new direction with the Norwegian directing duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. The pair have only directed three feature-length films, two of which were foreign productions. Their most notable work is the 2012 film, Kon-Tiki, which received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’. Coincidentally, the film involves a lot of time spent at sea. Additionally, they directed the first two episodes of the hit Netflix show, Marco Polo. Although they may not have much experience in Hollywood, this gives the franchise a new perspective outside the scope of American cinema. They may have to build on the history of the franchise, but they also get to guide it into the future. And the accolades they received for Kon-Tiki definitely don’t hurt their qualifications.
Dead Men Tell No Tales is the first installment of the franchise not to be be written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. In 2013, it was announced that Catch Me If You Can writer Jeff Nathanson would pen the film. While Elliot and Rossio have worked on the films since the beginning, ideas can run dry. Although I as a fan of the film enjoy them all, critically speaking, each film received lower and lower ratings. Like with new directors, a new writer allows for new creative ideas. Nathanson is able to bring a different take on characters both old and new. Captain Jack and company may not necessarily be “his” characters, but he can steer them in a new direction without the weight of trying to outdo himself from a previous installment. Every writer has a different style, and hopefully Nathanson’s will bring new life to the nearly 14-year-old characters audiences have grown to love.
Disney had originally dated Dead Men Tell No Tales for the summer of 2015. However, after the failure of another Depp/Disney/Bruckheimer production, The Lone Ranger, Pirates was taken off Disney’s release calendar to work on the script. Instead of chugging along and churning out what could be a sub-par installment, they decided to make sure they could do better. Other studios don’t have the same care, like Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate and the Divergent series, which rushed to put out films banking on the success of the similar property, The Hunger Games. Disney could have gone with the brand recognition of both the franchise and Johnny Depp, but they chose a more intelligent route, which will hopefully pay off when the film is released next year. Viewers will also have had a six-year wait since the last installment On Stranger Tides was released in 2011, which will hopefully eliminate any sense of franchise oversaturation.
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise got lucky when Hans Zimmer boarded the first film (although his protégé Klaus Badlet received the main credit). Zimmer shares an ability with John Williams to create melody or motif that completely defines an entire franchise. He’s A Pirate is instantly recognizable to many as Pirates of the Caribbean, just as Hedwig’s Theme is to Harry Potter. This was vital to the beginning of the franchise, but Zimmer’s score for the fourth film was a lot of rehash of previous cues and themes. He did collaborate with the talented Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, but not much of their work made the film. Dead Men Tell No Tales instead will feature another Zimmer protégé, Geoff Zanelli, who assisted in creating some of the better themes of the previous films (see Lift Off). Zanelli now has space to excel at his art without answering to another composer. As with new directors and a new writer, a new composer will help facilitate a brand new experience for viewers (and listeners).
One of the many reasons why I believe the first film was so iconic was that Captain Jack Sparrow was not the main character. Johnny Depp may have been the lead, but Jack was the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings and tipping the scales. Viewers truly do not know whose side he’s on until the end of the film. His mysterious aura is captivating and enthralling. Without him, there probably would not have been a franchise. I view him as the spice saffron, powerful in flavor but potentially ruining if you overuse it. Despite the trailer being just shy of two minutes, Jack is nowhere to be scene. Hopefully, this is a sign that our beloved captain will return to a role more suited for the way his character was designed.
The production team also wants to bring the franchise back to its roots. In a 2015 interview, star Kaya Scodelario spoke about the film, saying how the team “want[s] to take it back to the beginning again”. Given what we know from Disney’s official synopsis and trailer, we’ll be getting just that: young male and female leads (Brenton Thwaites as Henry and Scodelario as Carina Smyth, respectively), reminiscent of (and rumored to be related to) Will and Elizabeth, and a ghostly villain (Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar) with a cursed crew going out after Jack, reminiscent of Captain Barbossa in the first film.
I have faith these elements will harmonize to create a film that is not only on the same level as Curse of the Black Pearl, but can also successfully rejuvenate the franchise for future installments.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales stars Johnny Depp, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom, and opens in theaters May 26, 2017.