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Yesterday we received an unexpected piece of news regarding the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. While there had been rumblings of a possible sixth movie in the series, the word is that Disney is engaged in early talks with the writing team behind the Deadpool movies to reboot Pirates entirely. While it's still unclear exactly what this reboot could entail, I think it's exactly what the franchise needs.
Full disclosure first. I love Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It's one of my favorite movies. I'm not saying it's the best movie ever, simply that it's one of those movies I can watch endlessly. The humor and the drama are mixed perfectly. The action is top notch, and the story is tight and smart. The Will Turner vs. Jack Sparrow sword fight is one of the finest choreographed fight sequences ever. Hans Zimmer's theme for the franchise instantly gets me ready for adventure.
Having said that, I, like a lot of people, have been less than thrilled by every succeeding sequel. I've gone into the theater each time hoping to have an experience like the one I clearly remember watching Curse of the Black Pearl. I have been disappointed every single time. At World's End is a slog. On Stranger Tides is directionless. Dead Men Tell No Tales was... fine? I actually loved the first act of that movie and got my hopes up even more before the rest of the film let me down.
The rise and fall of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise all comes back to the same place, Captain Jack Sparrow. When Johnny Depp first introduced the character he was a breath of fresh air. He was utterly unique and unexpected. Johnny Depp got an Oscar nomination for playing a pirate. That doesn't usually happen. However, with each movie that followed Jack became more familiar, and thus more tired. He's just not interesting anymore. Add to that the simple fact that Johnny Depp himself isn't winning many new fans and the answer seems clear. Jack Sparrow needs to hang up his hat, but the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise can go on.
We don't need to erase the five previous films. We can "reboot" the franchise in the sense that we start over with new lead characters and a new story, but within the existing world that's already been created. Side characters like Joshamee Gibbs could return if we want to set the new film concurrent to the existing films. Heck, the post-credits scene of the last movie implied that Davy Jones may be back from the dead. Perhaps he is. Certainly, we're led to believe that Davy Jones made many more deals with many other people than Jack Sparrow. Perhaps one of them is the new hero of the movie.
Although, if we did want to make the new films work alongside the originals, I do have a suggestion. Zoe Saldana had a small role as a member of Jack Sparrow's crew in the first movie and I always wondered what happened to her.
Alternatively, the previous films have set up a lot of interesting lore that could make for fodder for a new movie. The end of On Stranger Tides left us with missionary Philip Swift on death's door and seemingly being rescued by a mermaid by taking him deep underwater. It also ended with an unresolved post-credits sequence in which we saw Penelope's Cruz's Angelica stranded on an island with a voodoo doll of Jack Sparrow. Even if she decides not to use, we don't know what happened to her.
There's also a lot of unexplored pirate history regarding the Brethren court and the Pirate Lords. A new film set before Black Pearl could focus on how the court came to be or really any other potential obstacle they had to overcome.
The thing that doing an "in-universe" reboot allows you to do is keep a new movie a Pirates of the Caribbean movie without having to tie it back into the actual theme park ride again. If, however, the plan for Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is to start fresh with something entirely new, there's a good option for that too.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was the film that most took elements of the original Disneyland theme park ride and turned them into aspects of the film. In some cases, it was smaller easter egg like moments, such as the dog holding the key to the jail cell, or, in the case of the skeleton pirates, the main plot of the film itself. Therefore, a brand new Pirates of the Caribbean movie could use the newest part of the ride itself, Redd
Both of the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World have seen recent renovations which changed a popular segment of the ride. Previously, a group of pirates were auctioning off the women of a recently plundered town, with most of the pirates' attention being given to a shapely redhead. Now, that redhead has been transformed and she's actually one of the pirates.
Since this portion of the ride is new, it's the most obvious part that a new movie could borrow from, as it wasn't used previously. Redd could be the new movie's main character. The film could even use both parts of the character's in-ride history, by making Redd the victim of a group of pillaging pirates at the beginning of the film, seeing her slowly evolve into becoming a pirate herself by the end, ready for new adventures, and new sequels, from there. Or skip that and just make her an awesome red-haired pirate.
It's understandable if most people feel like they're done with Pirates of the Caribbean but what most are probably truly done with is the franchise as it currently exists. If somebody can find a fresh take on the material that can make it feel as new and unique as The Curse of the Black Pearl once was, then there may still be life left in such a franchise.
Pirates of the Caribbean attraction image courtesy WDWNews.com/Disney