How Jungle Cruise Could Be the Next Pirates of the Caribbean
Adventure awaits in JUNGLE CRUISE, Disney’s big summertime epic. Thanks to the rollicking trailers and footage that was screened at last year’s D23 Expo, a kind of Comic-Con for all things Disney, we're eager to jump on board with the period action movie, which brings a new set of characters into the cinematic landscape.
While this movie is an original story, it does harken back to another beloved Disney property. That would be PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, a film series with five movies and a reboot in development right now. Read on to find out why we’re getting such strong PIRATES vibes from Disney's JUNGLE CRUISE.
It’s Based on a Famous Disney Attraction
Like PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, JUNGLE CRUISE has its origins in the Disney theme parks. The original ride opened along with the rest of Disneyland on July 15, 1955. The ride was first envisioned as a scripted tour through scenes featuring real animals — an idea that would finally come to fruition with the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida in 1998. Eventually, Walt Disney and his tireless Imagineers instead came up with the idea of a seemingly normal riverboat traverse entirely fictional tableaus, including a hippo attack and an encounter with headhunters.
As is evidenced in the trailer, the new movie doesn’t shy away from its Disney Parks origins. It actually leans into them, as our hero Frank takes unsuspecting tourists on a river cruise that he has shamelessly rigged with gags that are reminiscent of those on the attraction. There’s even a reference to “the backside of water,” one of the skippers’ most infamous jokes on the attraction. Chances are that even if you’re not intimately familiar with the theme park property, that you’ll at least recognize some of the moments from the attraction and have a blast just the same. Either way, it’ll be a hoot.
Just as Johnny Depp anchored the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise, JUNGLE CRUISE is putting a lot of weight behind its performers. Unlike PIRATES, which had Depp at the center of an ensemble that featured many wonderful actors who were not yet household names, like Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush, JUNGLE CRUISE feels like much more of a two-hander. Its star power is equally split down the middle.
On one side is Dwayne Johnson playing Frank, the huckster riverboat captain who agrees to take a mysterious stranger to parts unknown. On the other side is Lily, played by Emily Blunt, the aforementioned mysterious stranger who is also a scientist looking for an ancient cure deep in the jungle. Their chemistry is palpable in the trailer. Both actors play their roles big and bold, and seem to be having the time of their lives… just as Depp did with Captain Jack Sparrow.
Which isn't to say that this movie only features the two leads. The stellar supporting cast features Jesse Plemmons, Paul Giamatti, Jack Whitehall and Edgar Ramirez. While they're only seen briefly in the latest trailer, that's enough to whet our appetite for the movie.
A Supernatural Element
One thing that helped turn PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN into something more than a theme park attraction on the big screen was its emphasis on the supernatural. The first film had cursed pirates that turned into undead skeletons in the moonlight. Over the course of the sequels, we saw sea creatures (led by a tentacled Davy Jones), mermaids, ghosts, and ghouls. This embellishment also set it apart from other movies about pirates.
JUNGLE CRUISE appears to rely on a similar formula. It’s a high concept period adventure but the trailers also suggest spooky elements. Blunt’s character is after a tree in the Amazon that possesses mystical healing powers. Johnson growls, “If you believe in legends you should believe in curses too.” This is accompanied by footage of some very scary creatures, who seem to be made up of tree branches and other jungle ephemera. Brought to life by the wizards at visual effects house Industrial Light & Magic (also veterans of the PIRATES franchise), these creatures look good and scary, and scary good. The supernatural element will certainly help JUNGLE CRUISE stand out and will add some essential mystery and danger when it sails into theatres.
See JUNGLE CRUISE in theatres June 20, 2021!
All images courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.