Pirates of the Caribbean Movie Connections

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.)

Who would have thought we’d be on the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie? Consensus when the first installment was announced held that basing a giant budget feature off a dark ride with animatronic rum fans wasn’t such a hot idea. It’s not like The Country Bears or Tower of Terror were smash successes, and we were still years away from a major studio successfully adapting colored bricks into a beloved blockbuster.

Obviously, Curse of the Black Pearl was less an adaptation of a theme park ride and more a resurrection of an insanely popular genre from the Hollywood Golden Age, which went a long way toward why it worked.

After the standard diminishing returns of a franchise, here we are, with Johnny Depp stumbling through another adventure where treasure gets sought and swash gets buckled. Let’s make some connections.

Kon-Tiki

After three installments, Gore Verbinski left the series, Rob Marshall directed On Stranger Tides, and now Roenberg (aka Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg) are at the helm. It’s likely that their Oscar nominated Kon-Tiki earned them the gig. Based on the real-life sailing expedition from experimental ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl, the film is a stirring, intense adventure with imagery of sea life that borders on the fantastical. Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen) risks his life and sanity to prove a theory about who settled Polynesia by sailing a balsawood raft 4,300 miles through the unforgiving Pacific. As an application for Pirates duty, it’s a perfect storm: a human tale on a massive scale (the most expensive film in Norwegian history) set on the briny deep.

Before Night Falls

With Dead Men Tell No Tales, Javier Bardem continues his streak as America’s favorite villain, playing the vengeful undead pirate hunter Armando Salazar. Back in 2000 (three years before the first Pirates came out!), Bardem exploded onto the scene with an Oscar nomination for his work as gay Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas. Before Night Falls is a beautiful, challenging film that reveals destructive attitudes toward homosexuality while examining one man’s relationships and understanding of himself. Bardem is a powder keg in it, and, for an added Pirates connectionJohnny Depp co-stars as a cross-dressing army lieutenant.

Captain Blood

The ultimate pirate movie. It wasn’t nearly the first, and it wasn’t the last, but Errol Flynn’s portrayal as the dashing, good-hearted buccaneer created much of the language we still look for in our high seas thrills. Flynn played Peter Blood, a doctor convicted of treason for tending to a rebel lord’s wounds and sold into slavery in Port Royal. He helps his fellow slaves escape, they steal a Spanish ship, and their life of piracy begins. Naturally he has a tumultuously sexy romance with the niece of the local governor (played with wit and charm by Olivia de Havilland). He also gets to kill people in duels, hang out with Basil Rathbone, and swing from ropes in large-scale battles. All with a cocky grin on his face. This movie is the best.

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