There was a piece of news via AP Video regarding Disney doing a prequel to their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as a video game.
Putting aside the whole using a video game as a prequel to a set of movies based on an amusement park ride rant, which could get very grating as tails get chased ad nauseam over the same ground until some wildcatters put a derrick over it, there’s other reasons to get worked up.
Namely, the need for magical pirates.
What surprises me is, that there’s enough about the normal travails pirates faced that make for an interesting story. The rigors of seamanship, the need to keep a few steps ahead of the law, having to forge and maintain relationships in the original cutthroat business, all of these are great elements as they stand and can drive a story perfectly well on their own.
So why did the people behind this feel they needed to throw in ghosts and mythic beings among the buccaneers? Did they not trust the material? Or their ability to handle it?
Seriously, was there even a single meeting in the planning stage where mystical elements weren’t part of the discussion? Did anyone at those confabs have a copy of Treasure Island or Kidnapped handy to give some guidance on how to tell such a tale? For that matter, had either book actually been read by anyone at those meeting? Or did they just throw a few keywords in the 5-Minute-Pitch-O-Matic™ and hope for the best?
As a brief exercise, I tried to imagine a few genres that have pretty set track records as is to see if they needed or were enhanced when they got the “PotC Treatment” (for lack of a better descriptive), and with a little thought came up with the following snap judgments:
- Mobsters – A few ghosts might be needed if you were doing a La Costa Nostra version of Hamlet, maybe, but otherwise, fuggedaboutid
- Westerns – I thought there was an episode of Bonanza that had some, though I’m having trouble recalling it; with fourteen seasons of the series produced, that’s a lot of legwork called for to recall something half-forgotten, and frankly I didn’t think that much of that one
- Crime Procedurals – Before any of you throw Medium in my face, I’m going to ask if anyone has any other programs or properties
- Detectives – This one has a few that have proven it can be done, like Ghost Whisperer and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), but then again detectives are like Type AB blood in that they can take in a lot of additions and still work with it, as the large number of AltHis works being presented with characters solving a mystery can attest to
- SF – Your Jedi mind tricks won’t work on me…
And as an aside, if you want your pirates to be something other than the usual Brethren of the Coast, what’s wrong with taking them as they are, tropes intact, to a new environment? It’s already been pointed out that pirate tales like Cobra – the Space Pirate and Captain Harlock are great examples of pirates who would not be out of their element were they sailing here on Earth on wooden ships, in environments where you can introduce something unusual without losing much. These work because at their core they are pirates, upholding ideals and behaviors that are universal regardless of the environment, as opposed to freebooters whose environment has been compromised by the PotC Treatment; big difference that needs to be kept in mind here!
So, am I full of it? Are there examples you know of in any of the categories above, or in places that I hadn’t looked at, where adding mystical elements worked? Please, school me; I have no problem being proven wrong, and would love to see something where this actually worked…