The fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise opens nationwide this Friday, May 20. The previous three films, which star Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, have been major commercial successes.
U of M expert explains why we love pirates
May 16, 2011
The fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise opens nationwide this Friday, May 20. The previous three films, which star Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, have had tremendous success across the globe. A University of Minnesota film studies expert who can provide insight on pirates in film, Johnny Depp and movie studios is:
Megan Lewis, assistant professor, Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, College of Liberal Arts
Lewis says the pirate is a metaphoric figure of rebellion. “He – or she, but mostly he – plays by his own rules, resists being owned or controlled by the state and blatantly challenges authority,” Lewis says. “As such, the pirate plays into that American myth of the frontiersman, the cowboy, who is really a pirate on land and on a horse, and the rebel – our founding fathers were rebels and pirates resisting English dominion.”
South African by birth, Megan Lewis is an assistant professor of theater and film.
Casting Johnny Depp as the lead makes perfect sense, Lewis says. “We gobble up the idea of the rebel and Johnny Depp is a Hollywood rebel. He has fashioned himself as a broody outsider who also happens to be very successful at what he does.”
Interestingly, pirate movies do not necessarily equal commercial success. Historically, pirate movies have bankrupted studios, Lewis says. She points to the 1995 movie “Cutthroat Island,” starring Geena Davis and directed by Davis’ then-husband Renny Harlin. The film is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest box office flop of all time and bankrupted Carolco Pictures.
Lewis notes that while Pirates of the Caribbean is about renegades and rebels, the medium this story comes packaged in, the sequel, is the most unoriginal form of commercial art-making. “It is a franchise – in other words, a money-making venture front and center. It’s all about conforming, not rebellion.”
As such, Lewis says movies have become like TV: serialized and episodic and viewers see them to stay abreast of the latest developments in "whiz-bang computer graphic work," not for their artistic value. “Sequels as a rule lack the kind of the nuanced storytelling and artistry of one-off films.”
To interview Lewis, contact Jeff Falk at (612) 626-1720 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Kelly O’Brien at (612) 624-4109 or email@example.com.
Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit www.umn.edu/news. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.