The film opened at the Cannes Film Festival last week. Arguably the biggest film market in the world, the film festival also beckons reviewers who mostly love low-budget and often depressing films. But the producers of big budget films also want to show their films at the event. The visibility of the big stars on the red carpet and the ensuing worldwide coverage far outweighs negative or indifferent reviews.
Reports from the festival say that the new Pirates film did not get a standing ovation (no surprise there) but there were no boos either. By now it has been proved that the faithful fan base for the series is steady and even if most of the reviews are mixed or critical, the film could still do huge business.
Directed by Rob Marshall, who is new to the series, captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) searches for the fountain of youth, joined by Angelica (Penelope Cruz) and he is on to new adventures, including a confrontation with Blackbeard (Ian McShane) looming.
This is the first Pirates film to be released in 3D.
By the end of its first week, the film which cost over $200 million, is expected to gross $300 million globally. In two weeks, it would have nearly recovered its cost (but not the over $100 million in promotion costs). This is not a small feat. Most hit movies from Hollywood wait for at least two months before the recovery is made
Reporting from Cannes, the Los Angeles Times wrote that some analysts predict that the new adventure film may struggle to match the impressive tallies of previous outings, even in the 3D format. The last film in the series grossed about $1 billion, a rare feat. But even if the new film makes significantly less money, analysts believe it will gross at least $750 million, making it yet another big hit of 2011. The biggest hit so far this year, Fast Five, is headed for at least $550 million worldwide.
Depp said in Cannes, the Times added, that there would be more Pirate projects ahead if the films remained popular: 'If the people get tired of it or something, that's when
it stops, I think," he told a news conference. "If people want it, I'm there.'
Though the last film in the series was a great success, some fans complained that it was not very coherent.
Before the new film opened at Cannes, producer Jerry Bruckheimer admitted at CinemaCon, the movie theatre owners' convention in Las Vegas, that the last voyage of the franchise "was a little difficult to follow.'
'I always like clear storytelling,' Bruckheimer, a legend and one of the most successful producers ever, said pointedly. The new film will play more like a stand-alone story and the next Pirates installment will also play as a self-contained tale, he added.
How did the choreographer and director Marshall, who made a great movie musical hit Chicago and stumbled with a subsequent musical Nine, handle a film with high voltage action scenes?
Marshall who came aboard when Gore Verbinski left to direct Rango (which has become a critically acclaimed hit) after making the first three films, also said he worked with scriptwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to give the new project coherency.
'All the action is dance,' Marshall said in Cannes. Collaborating with stunt coordinator George Ruge was like teaming up with a choreographer, he added. 'I think he felt happy to work with somebody who speaks my language.'
Yet many reviewers faulted the film for its been-there, seen-there feel.
'At two hours and 16 minutes, the fourth film in the ridiculously successful Disney franchise is the shortest in the series,' wrote the widely syndicated critic Christy Lemire. 'But it still feels overlong and overstuffed: needlessly convoluted yet, at the same time, phoned-in.'
And yet Lemire also conceded there were some fine thrills indeed.
'That's not to say this summer behemoth doesn't have its thrilling moments,' the review added. Marshall's 'knack for choreography comes shining through in individual set pieces.
'An early chase sequence, in which Johnny Depp as the randy Capt. Jack Sparrow escapes the clutches of the puffy, bloviating King George II (Richard Griffiths), is expertly staged '
In the final reckoning, as in the case of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which divided the critics, it is the audiences who will decide the ultimate fate of a film. Alice, which like Pirates 4 is a Disney film, ended up with $1 billion at the world market. If the new Pirates ends up three fourth of that amount, it would be considered a solid hit and lead to green-lighting of a sequence.