This economy is hard on everyone, even pirates. Despite three wildly successful films, a glut of merchandise, and a Johnny Depp-driven boost to Disneyland, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is having to trim its budget. According to The LA Times, Rich Ross, Disney's new executive, is forcing Jerry Bruckheimer to rein in his excessive effects. Bruckheimer, Rob Marshall, and writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are now scrambling to rework and trim down the film to meet Ross' budget specifications. They're going line by line through the script, deciding what can stay, what can go, and what can be altered.

From the outside, this seems to be good sense. Hey guys, rein yourselves in! Movies aren't all about explosions and CGI. But Ross may just be teetering on the ridiculous since one of the new rules is that Jack Sparrow has to spend more time on land, because shooting at sea is really expensive. Call me crazy, but when filming a movie based around a water ride, about characters who make their living by pillaging the seven seas, the first thing you might want to allow in the budget is the Black Pearl itself.

Even the locations appear to be dictating the script. As I suspected from the filming locations, Sparrow will be running around London in POTC 4, but it may be less to do with the story, and more to do with tax credits. Disney eschewed filming in the Caribbean this time, and will be filming in Hawaii and London for budgetary reasons.

But even that means they can't go wild. Scenes involving a fair on the frozen Thames have been cut, and Sparrow only gets four to six days to dodge British soldiers through the streets of Olde London. "The hard thing is you have to make painful decisions that cut into some very entertaining sequences," Bruckheimer said. "You have to figure out how to keep the movie very entertaining and give the audience more than what they expect and yet be cost-effective about it."

Again, I'm all in favor of a tighter, cleaner film. Dead Man's Chest teetered on the line, and At World's End was a bizarre mess. Gore Verbinski clashed with then-Disney president Dick Cook when he ran over budget for At World's End, and one might be tempted to see the slashes in that script. Who calls up massive English and pirate fleets only to have two ships fight over a whirlpool? What about those wonky effects on Calypso? It honestly feels like that film hits a point of "Sorry, you just spent your last doubloon!" and they just patched it together.

Could On Stranger Tides meet a similar fate? I hope not. An effort to make a tighter movie may lead to a better story, and Hollywood is littered with JAWS-like tales of films that achieved greatness because of their budgetary restraints. I hope On Stranger Tides rises to that challenge, but landlocking your titular pirates doesn't seem like a promising way to start.

categories Movies, Cinematical