By Humra Laeeq
Thirteen years ago, Disney enthusiasts were on edge when they first saw the trailer for the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The movie is based on a ride in Disneyland that tells the story of piracy exploits. Directors Gregor Verbinski and Jerome Bruckheimer along with Disney introduced the world to Captain Jack Sparrow and nothing remained the same.
Captain Sparrow, with all his vices, was loved by the audience and was considered a hero. The franchise is the first one to have more than one of its films grossing $1 billion worldwide. In May 2017, the movie series launched its fifth production titled Dead Men Tell No Tales, a successor to the fourth instalment, On Stranger Tides that was released in 2011.
The tale of Dead Men Tell No Tales
The movie tries to invigorate the franchise by mimicking its first hit. Johnny Depp reprises his role of Captain Sparrow, a down-on-luck, drunken pirate with a signature comic streak. This time he finds himself in the company of new generation pirates. Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and love interest Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) echo the love story of Henry’s parents, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom).
The mission is to hunt down the Trident of Poseidon that has the power to free curses. As usual, Captain Sparrow is being chased by a foul, monstrous villain, this time Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).
The movie runs two sub-plots, namely the search and the chase. However, the movie attempts to jam-pack a lot of information in its running time of a little more than two hours. The fast-paced movie almost reduces the impact that each frame could have had. Yet, for the more ardent fans, it has the movie’s usual charm of thrill and adventure.
Although Captain Sparrow retains his usual comic self and Salazar is the apt, ghastly villain we crave, the romantic focus on the new couple fails to get much praise. Arguably, Henry and Carina replace Will and Elizabeth’s romance in mimicking the Curse of the Black Pearl. Carina, modelled similar to the swashbuckling Elizabeth Swann, fights her way through. While she does try to fit into the latter’s shoes, fans are once again disappointed.
Carina, however, does not promise a Swann-like character with her swords and an unabashed courage to save Turner. With Carina in, the much beloved Swann is diluted to the point of ignorance. Similarly, Henry does not live up to the valour that Will Turner once showed. New characters have merely replaced the ones we have loved for long, and aren’t loved themselves.
What worked for the film
The new location of the Devil’s Triangle in the Atlantic Ocean, where the undead and ghastly Captain Salazar’s army wreaks havoc is as intriguing as the real-life mysteries surrounding Bermuda Triangle. New directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have successfully pandered to the audience’s taste of gruesome bloodletting and macabre portrayals of the walking dead.
Fans are also crazy about Captain Sparrow, a salt-soaked pirate who sports blousy shirts, leather boots, eye patches and the occasional parrot on the shoulder. This is why, despite having receiving mixed reviews, the film is the fourth highest-grossing film this year. In essence, what fans have loved is the figure of a historical criminal glorified under fantasy.
Why are pirates loved?
The answer to this lies in the 17th century, which is considered the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’. The desire to explore land bloomed; monies and riches started flowing into the hands of the lower strata. Pirates were sailors left unemployed after the Spanish Succession War. They were flamboyant and raffish free spirits that led to their popular perception as romantic archetypes. Emerging from an era of strict legislation and low social mobility, the image of a pirate served as a cathartic means to an internal desire of breaking rules.
Today, the association remains relevant. A piratical life is unattainable for the urban youth. It embodies ideals of ruggedness, freedom, and exploration that were earlier the roots of free will. The life outside our urban atmosphere is accessed through realistic fantasy, and our innate desires get satisfied when we see a reflection of ourselves in it. Captain Sparrow swaggers, lives life drunk on rum, rolls those kohl-heavy eyes, is comically honest and people love him for that.
The storyline or minor characters remain less relevant, as long as the Captain gives them a regular dosage of the thrill of breaking the law which they cannot otherwise do. One key factor for the success of Sparrow since the 2000s was the way he exemplified Johnny Depp’s early reputation as Hollywood’s beloved iconoclast. For the audience, Captain Sparrow is as real as Depp. They indulge in his idiosyncrasies, within which they find a key to finding themselves.
Featured Image Source: Taringa
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