Pirates of the Caribbean came out in 2003, and it was an immediate smash. A swashbuckling adventure with a pitch-perfect balance of action, comedy, and fantasy, and now — in addition to the four Pirates sequels — another film is looking to follow the Pirates formula to a T, and not just because it’s also based on a decades-old Disneyland attraction.
Jungle Cruise stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose 2020 fame rivals that of Johnny Depp in 2003, as the captain of a ship on a fantastical, mystical voyage. Along for the ride is Emily Blunt as a buttoned-up British scientist with some spunk, a performance not unlike Keira Knightley’s turn as Elizabeth Swan, a buttoned-up British debutante. The two even have the same kind of screwball Hawksian repartee that Depp and Knightley shared.
We’re making these judgments based on the trailer for the long-awaited film, which hit the internet this morning. And beyond the similarities in source material and lead actors, it’s hard to come up with a descriptor that applies to Jungle Cruise that you couldn’t also apply to the Pirates franchise.
Even the music sounds similar, a string-heavy, major-key score that throbs along with the action. And though its CGI is 17 years newer, shots like Édgar Ramírez having a snake slither through his face are deeply reminiscent of Geoffrey Rush turning into a skeleton the moment he steps into the moonlight.
Jungle Cruise is about an expedition to find not Aztec gold but the Tree of Life, which according to Amazonian legend can “heal all,” whatever that means.
“You’re searching for something that can’t be found,” the captain, who’s spent his life searching for the tree, tells the scientist.
“But you’ve never had the key,” she replies, holding up the pendant on her necklace.
Zany adventures through exotic locales—winding rivers, underwater shipwrecks, plenty of aggressive wildlife—ensue. The bad guys show up, including Jesse Plemons as a turn of the century German and Ramírez as, presumably, a more magical kind of evil. They even have a submarine, and the most dramatic moment of the trailer shows the ship trying to outrun one of the sub’s torpedoes.
None of it feels particularly fresh, but it makes up for it by being almost comforting. The Pirates films are crowd-pleasing cinema — funny and exciting yet still family-friendly. If Jungle Cruise can replicate even part of the fun of that franchise, and the trailer suggests it can, then it will be a more than worthy successor to the Pirates crown.