Deep down, I’m a huge, huge, fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It’s unapologetically farcical, imminently quotable (“We named the monkey Jack,” anyone?), and has Johnny Depp acting ... well, Johnny Depp-ish, but with dreadlocks and a lot more guyliner.
When Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl came out in 2003, I wasn’t all that interested. Pirates? Please, who watches pirate movies, right? But it was either I go and watch it with my friends, or risk becoming a social pariah forever – boy, secondary school is rough – so I begrudgingly went with them to watch it.
And I was hooked.
Pirates! Terrible, filthy, malicious people who only ever looked out for their own interests and who got themselves into awful, hideous situations – and that was just the good guys. The bad pirates were cursed to an eternity of hunger, of being driven to near-insanity by their own unappeased wants and desires, of turning into the stuff of nightmares when the moonlight shone on them.
This, I quickly decided, was the Best. Movie. Ever. So much so, that I ended up watching it at the cinemas a further two times, bought the biggest movie poster ever (which stayed on my bedroom wall for ... far longer than I care to admit), and listened to the official soundtrack album on a loop on my MP3 player. (Google it.)
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I even liked the two sequels, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, though they never managed to quite encapsulate the fizzy sort of fangirly joy I had found with The Curse of the Black Pearl.
And by the time On Stranger Tides came out in 2011, things had changed. Sure, it made well over US$1 billion for the House of Mouse, and it still starred Depp (who I really quite fancied at the time), but there was just so much wrong with it. Too many of the characters I had fallen in love with were gone. Commodore Norrington was dead, Will Turner had up and turned himself into the captain of the Flying Dutchman, and Elizabeth Swann had been left to ... er, raise a son on her own as she waited for Will to return. Hmm. #FeminismFail
The reviews that followed On Stranger Tides’ release were not that good, basically. Ah well, I thought, it had a good run, but I was over it now.
So imagine my surprise I heard a fifth Pirates film was on the way. Really? Was Depp even a bankable star anymore? Can Jack Sparrow (sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow) carry another film on his own? He’s great and all, but there’s only so much of the bad captain landing in hot water and somehow miraculously getting himself out of it that a girl can watch and enjoy.
I was pretty sceptical, even after Orlando Bloom confirmed he’d be returning as Will. That was that, I figured, I was finally utterly and completely pirate-free, and not even the promise of Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Skyfall) could convince me I’d be a fan again.
And then I watched the first trailer for Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Pirates!! With the same creeptastic feel, whimsical charm and humour that had been sort-of missing in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, and entirely non-existent in On Stranger Tides! Geoffrey Rush sporting the most fanciest looking beard I’ve ever seen! It’s like I’d never been away from the POTC fan-life. I haven’t been this excited for a film since I heard they were adapting The Hobbit (which, though well-cast, could have been smushed down into a single film and would have been better for it).
There seems to be so much to love about the new Pirates film. Jack seems to be funny again, rather than tiresome. Hector Barbossa has, I feel like I have to add again, a golden mane worthy of a Loreal advert. Jack – the monkey Jack – is back. The new additions to the merry band of pirate affiliates seem, from the trailers at least, wonderful additions. The music ... well, the music has always been great, even when the plot wasn’t all that. Javier Bardem looks deliciously off-kilter in a way that screams ‘wrong’ to your brain – you almost can’t quite fully look at him on screen. Well, I couldn’t in the trailers anyway. But maybe that’s just me.
I remember leaving the cinema after my first ever full watch of The Curse of the Black Pearl completely blown away – and only like 20 per cent of that was because I thought Johnny Depp was, like, the best thing ever. This was the movie that convinced me of the power of film, and what a good story ought to contain. There are probably things that are wrong with the film, but if there are ... well, I can’t find them. And even though now, 14 years later, I’m hopefully a little more critical and judgemental of the stuff I watch, I find myself really, really hoping that Dead Men Tell No Tales will be just as good as the trailers are making it out to be – because if it is, it might be just as good as The Curse of the Black Pearl.
In which case – surprise, Pirates fandom, I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me.