By Lorna Baker
It’s finally here, episode four of the Battle of the Sequels!
This time around, I take on a franchise that has been around for nearly 15, yes 15, years. In anticipation of the fifth film in the long-running series Pirates of the Caribbean; I’ve decided to rank the previous four in quality.
So, it’s time for a dive into the swashbuckling antics of a certain pirate: Captain Jack Sparrow! (Played by the brilliant Johnny Depp).
4th Place – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Languishing in last place is the fourth film in the series: On Stranger Tides. I doubt that many reading this will be unduly surprised by this, as unfortunately this film just didn’t have the same charm as the original film. After a break of four years from At World’s End, the time came to reignite the series with Rob Marshall (Director of the Academy Award winning Chicago) in the director’s chair. Whilst a new artistic input might have cut through the mess of the two sequels, this didn’t turn out well. It lacked the humour and swagger of the original three.
On paper it sounds interesting, bringing legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) into the action on the hunt of the fountain of life, but despite early promise, he just doesn’t cut the dramatic figure. Alongside Penelope Cruz as Angelica, they didn’t add much interest into a story that felt far too long. New characters always have the potential to add fresh life to a series, but the characters that stood out here were once again Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who featured prominently in the original trilogy. A disappointing film overall, and to be honest, quite forgettable.
Joint 2nd Place – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and At World’s End (2007)
I spent a while trying to decide which out of the two original sequels should come second and third respectively, but as the story arc spans both films, I realised that you can’t separate them so easily – but here lies the problem with the films! Director Gore Verbinski returns for both films, and whilst the core cast all return too, there feels something is lacking.
One of the praises for the initial film was Captain Jack Sparrow being a flawed hero; you never know his true allegiances, but in this film, they’re all like it! It becomes increasingly difficult to remember who’s done a deal with whom, and which side they are on, which in turn makes the film a bit tedious. The whole plot feels a bit convoluted as on the one hand the crew are fighting against the East India Trading Company’s ever reaching grip, but then also battling against fearsome baddie Davy Jones (Played by the godly Bill Nighy). Whilst the two plots are interwoven throughout both films, it just feels too heavy and distracts away from the thing that made the first film so great: the characters.
There are many positives that can be gained from these films though, as the fight choreography and the special effects are once again excellent. The sword fights are nuanced and interesting; the highlight being the spectacular fight on the beach. But sadly, this isn’t enough to raise it to the heights of Curse of the Black Pearl.
1st Place – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
On a list of iconic characters, Captain Jack Sparrow must be among the best of them. It was in this film he made his impressive character debut. Johnny Depp has become one the most popular character actors of his generation, earning him a new legion of fans with this film.
Awarding this movie first place was an incredibly easy decision, as the sequels just didn’t match the spark, humour and vision of the first film. Gore Verbinski did a fantastic job bringing us into this world, with little to no set up. He lets the characters grow throughout the film, ending up quite different to how they started.
Major plaudits of course need to go to Johnny Depp. He creates this character that feels so real. He’s technically a bad guy, but also omits warmth - a loveable rogue if you will. Captain Jack Sparrow is a multi-faceted character; you never truly know whose side he’s on (apart from his own!).
Geoffrey Rush also does a great turn in this, as the creepy cursed Captain of the Black Pearl. Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann) and Orlando Bloom (Will Turner) anchor this first outing impressively too, showing that they’re not just the side show, but swashbuckling heroes in their own right. The CGI in this film is fantastic, making the somewhat outlandish story seem very believable. This film contains moments of hilarity, drama, action and horror, and it left us wanting more!
On the horizon…
So, what does the future hold for Captain Jack and co? Can it return to its swashbuckling roots, and start afresh? Well, the early signs of Salazar’s Revenge are good. It brings back some of our beloved characters such as Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley (A surprise until a Korean trailer leaked a shot of her return to the franchise). Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, it adds Javier Bardem to its impressive cast list. There are also rumours of more films, but for now it’s safe to say – Captain Jack is back!
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (Known as ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ in the US and Japan), is due for release on the 26th May.