Yesterday it was zombies, today we turn our attention to pirates. Because you know that old rule in Hollywood: all movies are either zombie movies or pirate movies. Or, in the case of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, both!
Spielberg + Crichton + Pirates
Steven Spielberg has gotten the rights to adapt Michael Crichton's final novel, Pirate Latitudes, due to be published posthumously this November. It seems it is about pirates. Specifically pirates in Port Royal, Jamaica in 1665. It's not clear yet if Spielberg would direct–it makes a catchier news story to say he will, but as we know, The Beard always has a lot of projects in development and obviously he doesn't end up directing them all.
And while the part of me that loves Jaws and Raiders would die to see a rollicking Spielberg pirate movie, there's another part of me that remembers Hook. (Though to be fair, the pirate parts of Hook worked fine–it was the gang of Flashdance-attired Lost Boys that sunk that ship.) Spielberg has, of course, adapted Crichton books before: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park: The Lost World. And right now David Koepp is set to write the Pirate Latitudes screenplay–Koepp, as you may know, is a pretty big hitter: his resume includes JP I, Spider-Man I, War of the Worlds, Indy 4, and Angels & Demons.
A New Director for POTC 4?
Meanwhile, over on that other pirate franchise, Rob Marshall, director of the musicals Chicago and the upcoming Nine, is in talks to direct Pirates of the Caribbean 4. As we've mentioned before, the new Pirates will still star Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow, but is unlikely to include Orlando Bloom or the Sexiest Tomboy Beanpole on the planet, Keira Knightley. The plot is rumored to revolve around Jack's search for the Fountain of Youth, as suggested at the close of POTC 3.
Now, offhand Marshall might seem an odd choice for Pirates, but I'm on board with the idea. We've learned in the past decade that some of the best big, fun action movies come from directors who you'd normally not connect to the genre. Peter Jackson had done zombies and ghosts, but nothing to suggest he knew how to make a big fantasy adventure film. Christopher Nolan was best known for psychological thrillers, not superhero flicks. And the Harry Potter films have been very nicely handled by directors much more attune to human dramas than wizard battles.
Even Gore Verbinski, director of the first Pirates trilogy, didn't have anything on his resume to suggest he could conduct such a sprawling, funny action-adventure romp. (Okay, maybe there was an inkling of his knack for kinetic slapstick humor in Mousehunt.)
Especially with an established franchise, all the special effects and stunt work and how they are directed is pretty much running on automatic. A good action director might be able to inject some fresh ideas, but sometimes a non-actioner comes at things with an even more innovative eye. It's not a matter of knowing how to do all that stuff–you have a huge crew of people who've done three of these films. You tell them what you want and they'll make it happen for you.
Instead of an action hack, it's often best to bring in someone who is more about tone and style. For example, Verbinski allowed Depp to run with his mad, slurring Kieth Richards impersonation and defended it even when Disney very much wanted to scrap the footage and reshoot all of Capt. Jack's scenes. Likewise, I'd hope that Marshall would bring something of a theatrical, musical vibe to a new POTC film–after all, in some ways the lilting, lyrical, listing Capt. Jack is a creature of the broad musical-theater tradition.
Space Pirates!? Say No More!
Finally, the Spierig Brothers Peter and Michael, the directing team responsible for the next year's vampire film Daybreakers (Willem DaFoe and Ethan Hawke) have been tagged by Warner Brothers to make a new version of Captain Blood. In space.
Based on Rafael Sabatini's 1922 novel, the famous 1935 film version starred Errol Flynn as a British doctor who is wrongly accused of treason and sent into slavery in Port Royal. He escapes, takes over a Spanish galleon and becomes-da-ta-da!–the dread pirate Captain Blood!
Sure, talk of an outer-space pirate movie conjures up snark about Disney's 2002 animated Treasure Planet, or, worse, 1984's Ice Pirates. But again I'm more than okay with this notion. We know I love me the sailing ship movies, and I love the big, epic spaceship flicks. So if Ice Pirates and Treasure Planet had their faults, I blame that on their execution, not the premise. As much as I like "hard" SF that tries to take a realistic, science-based look at the future, as a Star Wars baby I also go ga-ga for big, fun adventure sci-fi. Pirates and pirate-ship battles in space; that's peanut butter and chocolate–space chocolate–to me.