A Pirate’s Promise

Did you know that Johnny Depp had to convince Disney that his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow was the way to go, as the studio was initially unhappy with the style of his performance? Can you believe that they thought Depp’s portrayal was too odd and off-putting to carry the film? Thank goodness for Depp’s strength and conviction – he convinced them of his vision, and subsequently created one of the most memorable characters of his career.

Depp has done some convincing again – in his new feature interview in Entertainment Weekly, he has convinced me to go see the 4th installment of the “Pirates” franchise, when I was summarily against the whole idea.

It has been several years since the original trilogy of films (and it’s $2.6 billion box office take) has sailed and I just did not want to see it back at shore. While the original film was brilliant and merited the spawning of a franchise, both sequels fell quite short for me – the films were way too long and the plots totally convoluted. By the last film, even the smartest of viewers found themselves puzzled at the twists and turns devised to justify a trilogy series.

In typically honest and disarming Depp fashion, even he admits to the disappointing confusion of the franchise. That’s where I was instantly intrigued. Depp says that both him and director Gore Verbinski found themselves questioning who was what and where and why, but just turned on the camera and shot anyway. Depp realizes the mistake – and chose to get involved in the script writing this time, to ensure a shorter film with a simple plot and lots of pirate action.

When I saw the absence of mainstays Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightely), I immediately assumed that they had passed on the project due to a lousy script or a desire to disassociate from the franchise. When I heard that the franchise’s director Gore Verbinski was also not involved, I wrote the film off. In my experience, when a franchise re-boots several years later and can’t secure the majority of it’s stars and director, it’s a sign of the quality of the script and the potential embarrassment of bringing something back from the dead that should be left buried at sea.

But in the interview, Depp assures me (and you, I hope) that this is all for the good of the franchise. The original young lovers had a completed end to their tale in the last film, and bringing them back would have instigated the same plot complications they tried to avoid. And as the franchise’s new director, Rob Marshall (“Chicago”, “Nine”) insists he only wanted to get involved in a fresh take on the story and a new cast of characters.

Gone are the father / lover / enemy / friend issues that plagued two long and confusing films. The film brings only Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush’s Barbosa back for the ride. A new villian is born in Ian McShane’s Blackbeard, along with the exotic Penelope Cruz as his daughter. Johnny promises “something fun and irreverant. Hoops of fire and whatnot.”

With a running time 30 minutes shorter than the last film and Depp’s promise to “eliminate as many complications as possible”, I think I’m ready for another ride. Depp has convinced me to get on board, and something tells me that it may be another golden treasure of pirate’s booty at the box office. I hope I’m not fooled by a pirate’s trickery, but I’m getting on this ship for Captain Jack Sparrow adventure’s “On Stranger Tides”.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” opens in theaters worldwide on May 20, 2011.