Pirate movie success, why now?

Cutthroat1.jpgDid they ever think that the first movie “The Pirates of the Caribbean; The Curse of the Black Pearl” would be the success it was? Or that the second movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Man’s Chest” would break all these records? What where they thinking in the first place making a pirate movie… How did they ever come to the idea that a pirate movie, even if taken from a very popular attraction at the Disney Resorts worldwide, would become the biggest movies of all time (or at least is going into the right direction to become the biggest movie ever)?

Looking at the history of Pirate movies how could they have been sure it would work? Why this questions? Well I just finished watching “Cutthroat Island” and was wondering how this movie from 1995 never became the success Carolco Pictures had hoped for (Because of this movie they even had to file for bankruptcy).

This big Hollywood production had every ingredient that can be found back in Pirates of the Caribbean. There were (good) pirates and people hunting for pirates, there was a treasure in a cave surrounded by water (I even seen a skull in the rock, but that could have been my imagination), there was a whole lot of swashbuckling and skeletons (although these skeletons where not walking around, these where really dead) and even some of the text was recognizable;

Shaw: Dead men tell no tales (Cutthroat Island)

No, no… I am not saying the stole the idea of that movie, or any other pirate movie, I am just wondering what brings on the success of one movie and not the other even if showing the same (but in a different way). Maybe the world wasn’t ready for a pirate movie in 1995? Or is there another reason? More directors have tried. Just look at Polanski’s “Pirates”. He tried and failed to bring the pirates to live in this 1986’s comedy pirate movie as again the world didn’t care and it plunged down the box office.

Why did it work now and not with “Cutthroat Island” or “Pirates”. Cutthroat Island had a female captain played by Geena Davis, a big budget and even an OK story (My opinion, don’t flame me for it). But it didn’t work…

Is the Disney production so different from those other pirate movies? It must be as people loved the first Pirates of the Caribbean, and love the second one even more. Is Johnny Depp the reason for the success of the 2 movies? Is it the writers’ team that turned a successful attraction into the movies? A solid story filled with fantasy that brings the people to the edge of their seat? Or is it the name Disney that is attached to the project, together with a good strategy to promote their movie, which made the difference? I believe it is the combination of all of the above that makes the success of the 2 (first) parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean. It is that little extra magic that is not found back in “Cutthroat Island” (Although I do like Geena Davis as an actress).

I know, it is not a real answer to the question. I guess people just want to see a great movie with some great actors and a solid story telling, and that is exactly what Pirates of the Caribbean is.

I admit that I enjoyed watching “Cutthroat Island” (again), but it could never compete with Pirates of the Caribbean. Back then the world might not have been ready for a pirate movie, but now we just recognize a good movie when we get to see one, and it just happens to be a pirate movie… What are you’re thoughts? Do you see the success coming from another reason?..

Oh, and before I forget, while watching the movie “Cutthroat Island”, during every commercial break, you could enter a Pirates of the Caribbean contest to win a Volvo car…

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3 Responses to “Pirate movie success, why now?”

  1. Simon Veness Says:

    Nice observations, Andy. I’m sure the people behind Carolco are still scratching their heads and thinking, ‘Why weren’t OUR pirates a success?’

    However, you do make some points which Carolco certainly missed. Geena Davis and Matthew Modine are no Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom; and Johnny Depp is probably the coolest actor on the planet in the last 4-5 years. So the Gore Verbinski/Jerry Bruckheimer combination had a lot more acting potential to work with.

    They also realised very early on, I believe, that a cinema audience will respond positively to the more old-fashioned style of film-making that just engages you in a good story and doesn’t try to get too complicated with the characters (unlike the truly appalling The Hulk of a few years back). The first time I saw Pirates, I was struck very much by Orlando Bloom’s character being straight out of the Errol Flynn mould (and anyone who doesn’t know who I’m talking about should definitely sit down with a good book about films of the 1930s and 40s). There was also a strong resemblance in plot structure to both Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and the first Star Wars film, which reached back to the B-movie era and turned them into a modern movie art form.

    So Disney’s Pirates team had a much clearer idea of what they were doing, I believe. They also had far more imaginative writers than any previous pirate movie, with the idea of making a skeleton pirate crew a real master-stroke. And the fact it was based on such a well-loved theme park attraction was another (small) factor in their favour. I’m sure millions of people went to see it initially just because they enjoy the ride so much.

    Whether they quite realised they had a real franchise movie series in their hands is the question I would most like to ask them. Certainly, they had all the ingredients, but then many other films must have thought that in the past. Verbinski was not the obvious director for this – his biggest previous hit, The Ring, was a distinctly dark, if stylish, horror movie; while Jerry Bruckheimer has been involved with some serious blockbusters in the past (Flashdance, Beverly Hill Cops, Top Gun, Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon to name just six) but has also had a few less-than-spectacular moments (Coyote Ugly, Pearl Harbor, Kangaroo Jack and King Arthur). But neither one was a guaranteed success.

    Disney certainly know how to market a good film, and that has been another key (although I’m not sure how much credit they can claim for the initial bringing together of all the talent). Their timing has been good in both cases so far, with both films being released at a time when the market was ready for a real hit blockbuster movie.

    Hopefully, they won’t do what George Lucas did with his Star Wars franchise and bury the plot and characters in too much special effect-laden detail. Keep things simple, stylish and moving swiftly along, and I’m sure the audience will continue to lap it up.

    Roll on 2007…………….!

  2. Stefan Tiesing Says:

    Just a quick note from a soundtrack fan: Nor the Soundtrack can’t be the reason for Cutthroat Islands failure, because in my opinion it’s one of the best scores in films history (by John Debney).

  3. Andy De Maertelaere Says:

    Simon, great follow up, but (I am sorry I have to react :-) ).. Hulk appalling? In my opinion The Hulk is still the best comic movie out there. I am a comic collector with over 9000 comics and thought that The Hulk is the closest to the comic experience. In my opinion misunderstood by people who do not read comics…. (like I said, my opinion)… I know, this was a little of (Disney) Track…

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