Terry Rossio

Ahoy! Yeah, I know that’s a lame way to start. Especially when you consider this week’s Commentary Commentary, our third, goes from essential classics like The Thing and Die Hard to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. We’re not scraping the bottom of the barrel just yet, and even though Curse of the Black Pearl is by no means a bad movie, it just hasn’t reached a level of beloved nostalgia like our first two. Okay. Enough preamble. This DVD offers three separate commentaries featuring various members of the cast and crew, but rather than hear the insight Jack Davenport had to offer – we love you, Jack – it’s probably best to hear from the film’s director and star. So here, without any further waggery or warm-up, is what was learned from their commentary.

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After the nadir that was Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, it was clear that the most lucrative movie franchise of the new millennium needed some freshening up. So, out (reportedly by their own choosing) went director Gore Verbinski and co-stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. In their stead, new helmer Rob Marshall is relied upon for his eye for grandiose theatrical imagery and staging, while Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane are meant to add spice and character to the proceedings. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is, well, Captain Jack. Yet On Stranger Tides, the fourth Pirates flick, proves an age-old maxim: the more things change, the more they stay the same. However much the franchise has cosmetically shifted, the new picture is rooted in the familiar: Supernatural-tinged storytelling, murkily-shot battles fought against pristine backdrops, colonial-era costumes and the admittedly unforgettable protagonist, who has become an icon thanks to Depp’s epicene, offbeat take. It is by now a tired formula, rendered in such a way that emotional investment is muted and the more adventuresome aspects are diluted by their adherence to this static aesthetic. Character and atmosphere are sacrificed to spectacle, and the spectacle — sprightly chases, dull sword fights and sweeping, zooming shots of the lush Caribbean sea/countryside — has worn down.

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So, what did you think of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides? Do you think it was good enough to keep the series going despite the loss of Gore Verbinski in the director’s chair and Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom in starring roles? Oh wait… you didn’t even see it yet? It hasn’t come out? Well, that’s not stopping Disney from getting the wheels in motion for a fifth one. They’ve got visions of that 3D money dancing in their heads. However, all of the pieces are yet to be in place to make a fifth film official. What has already happened is producers have a first draft of the script in their hands. Terry Rossio has once again handled the chores of coming up with more mystical pirate adventures, but for the first time he’s done the work without collaborator Ted Elliott. Now that there’s a story in place, the next step will be for the moneymen to try and get the star and a director in place. Overtures have already been made toward On Stranger Tides director Rob Marshall to keep this train a rolling, but nothing is official on that front.

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Depp isn’t getting $50 million. Russell Brand isn’t co-starring. The Earth is still round.

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