May 17, 2010

Movie Monday: the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (plus One)


During the early 1990s, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio conceived of writing a film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Disney had Jay Wolpert write a script based on the ride, which producer Jerry Bruckheimer rejected, feeling it was, "a straight pirate movie." Stuart Beattie was brought in to rewrite the script in March 2002, due to his knowledge of piracy, and later that month Elliott and Rossio were brought in. Elliott and Rossio were inspired by the opening narration of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride, and decided to give the film a supernatural edge. As the budget rose, Michael Eisner and Robert Iger threatened to cancel the film, though Bruckheimer changed their minds when he showed them concept art.

In May 2002 Gore Verbinski signed on to direct Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush signed on the following month to star. Verbinski was attracted to the idea of using modern technology to resurrect a genre that had disappeared after the Golden Age of Hollywood, and recalled his childhood memories of the ride, feeling the film was an opportunity to pay tribute to the "scary and funny" tone of it. Depp was attracted to the story as he found it quirky: rather than trying to find treasure, the crew of the Black Pearl were trying to return it in order to lift their curse; also, the traditional mutiny had already taken place. Verbinski approached Rush for the role of Barbossa, as he knew he would not play it with attempts at complexity, but with a simple villainy that would suit the story's tone. Orlando Bloom read the script after Rush. Keira Knightley came as a surprise to Verbinski. Tom Wilkinson was negotiated with to play Governor Swann, but the role went to Jonathan Pryce, whom Depp idolized.

Shooting for The Curse of the Black Pearl began on October 9, 2002 and wrapped by March 2003. Before its release, many had expected the film to be a flop, as the pirate genre had not been successful for years, the film was based on a theme park ride, and Johnny Depp rarely made a big film. However The Curse of the Black Pearl became both a critical and commercial success.


Seeing the film's performance, the cast and crew signed on for two more sequels to be shot back-to-back, a practical decision on Disney's part to allow more time with the same cast and crew. Writer Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio knew that with an ensemble cast, they weren't free to invent totally different situations and characters, and so had to retroactively turn The Curse of the Black Pearl into the first of a trilogy. They wanted to explore the reality of what would happen after Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann's embrace at the end of the first film, and initially considered the Fountain of Youth as the plot device. They settled on introducing Davy Jones, the Flying Dutchman and the Kraken, a mythology only mentioned twice in the first film. They also introduced the historical East India Trading Company, who for them represented a counterpoint to the themes of personal freedom represented by pirates.

Filming for the sequels began on February 28, 2005, with Dead Man's Chest finishing on March 1, 2006, and At World's End on January 10, 2007.There is currently a sequel, On Stranger Tides, with previous cast members Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush set to return, and filming is set to begin on June 14, 2010.

Released on July 9, 2003, the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl was released. In the film, Elizabeth Swann, daughter of the Governor of Port Royal, is kidnapped by the crew of the Black Pearl, led by Captain Hector Barbossa, in order to release a curse placed on them after stealing Aztec gold. Blacksmith Will Turner, a childhood friend and secret admirer of Elizabeth, persuades pirate captain Jack Sparrow to help him in the rescue.


The second film of the trilogy, Dead Man’s Chest, was released three years later on July 7, 2006. Lord Cutler Beckett, a powerful and ruthless East India Trading Company agent, arrests Will and Elizabeth for aiding Jack Sparrow's escape in the previous movie. Beckett however offers clemency if Will agrees to search for Sparrow and his magical compass. At the same time, Sparrow tries to release himself from an old debt with villainous Davy Jones.

The third and final film in the trilogy, At World’s End, was released on May 25, 2007. In the film, Lord Cutler Beckett gains power over Davy Jones, and with the help of Jones' ship, The Flying Dutchman, is now executing his plans to extinguish piracy forever. To combat the East India Trading Company, Will Turner, and the crew of the Black Pearl goes rescuing Jack Sparrow from Davy Jones' Locker, because he is one of the nine pirate lords needed to summon an ancient goddess.


The fourth film, On Stranger Tides, is set to open in May 2011. Author Tim Powers revealed that Disney bought the film rights to the 1988 pirate novel "On Stranger Tides", upon which the fourth film will be loosely based. Pirates writer, Terry Rossio, revealed that they will use elements from the novel, but the film will not be based on it.

In the film, Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Hector Barbossa go on an adventure to find the Fountain of Youth. Cast of the previous films, Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, have signed on to reprise their roles respectively after wanting to return as their characters. New cast members include Ian McShane, confirmed to play the notorious pirate and new nemesis Blackbeard, and Penélope Cruz, confirmed to play Blackbeard's daughter and Sparrow's love interest in the film. Stephen Graham has been confirmed to play as a new pirate character, "Scram". On April 14, 2010, French actress Astrid Bergès-Frisbey has been confirmed to play a mermaid named "Syrena". On April 16, 2010, Sam Claflin has been confirmed to play a missionary named "Philip". Keith Richards is set to reprise his role as Captain Teague, and he and Depp are trying to persuade Mick Jagger to appear as a pirate elder.

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