The new trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales features some onscreen text that feels like a threat to Disney shareholders and a promise to everyone who wishes Johnny Depp would just go way. “The final adventure begins” the trailer declares in-between shots of Captain Jack Sparrow prancing across dangerous ground and Javier Bardem doing…whatever the hell Javier Bardem is doing in this movie (and whatever it is, I think I dig it).
So, it’s time to ask the big question: is Disney actually planning to cap off the Pirates of the Caribbean series with the fifth movie? Are they doing this, for the lack of a more eloquent term, for realsies?
First of all, CinemaBlend has already brought this question to Joachim Rønning, who directed the film alongside Espen Sandberg. Rønning may be a relative Hollywood newcomer, but his answer suggests that he has a long and fruitful career in this business:
It’s difficult to ever know. I think that there’s always…this is the beginning of the finale. [laughs] It depends on how you look at it. But I never take anything for granted, and I love the franchise. These kinds of movies, they remind me of the kind of movies I grew up with, those kind of adventure movies that made me want to become a filmmaker. So for me to be able to be a part of this and direct a Pirates of the Caribbean is a dream come true. But I don’t know if it’s the last one, or if they’ll make another ten of them – I don’t know! But I hope so!
I say this without snark or condescension: it takes a lot of skill to say that much without saying anything all, to create the illusion of an answer without providing a real answer. My hat is off to you, Mr. Rønning.
Honestly, this wouldn’t be the first time a marketing campaign has been built around a grand finale, only for another sequel to materialize afterward. It’s especially common in horror movies, where titles like The Final Chapter, Freddy’s Dead, and The Final Destination were all proven to be lies soon enough. It’s why no one completely believes Hugh Jackman when he says he’s done playing Wolverine after Logan. Would he still say no if Fox filled his swimming pool with golden coins and built him a throne out of Lamborghini parts?
And because we don’t have a clear answer on this Pirates of the Caribbean matter, let’s consider the fork in the road for moment.
The Future Where There Are No More Movies
Welcome to timeline number one, where Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the final movie in the series. It felt like a safe bet after the fourth movie underperformed in the United States. It also felt like a safe bet because audiences really do seem like they’ve had it up to here with Johnny Depp as both an actor and as a human being.
In this timeline, Disney is able to cap off the series and work on preserving its legacy rather than totally driving it into the ground. They can work on reminding people how much they loved the first one (because it’s still very good!), leaning on that warm nostalgia for future theme park endeavors and the like. In this timeline, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are, for better or for worse, the story of Captain Jack Sparrow, whose tale has a definitive beginning, middle, and end. With a little bit of a luck and elbow grease, audiences reward the film as a grand finale, making it a hit. Who knows? Maybe it’ll actually be a good movie! There’s some pretty nifty stuff in the trailer.
The Future Where Things Keep on Rolling
Welcome to timeline number two, where Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is not the final movie in the series. And from here, this timeline splits into two additional branching paths.
In Path A, Disney continues to make Pirates of the Caribbean movies starring Johnny Depp. They do this until Depp dies or until he goes to prison for killing someone. This is the future where we have to live with Jack Sparrow until 2030 or so. This is the darkest timeline.
But look to Path B and find something intriguing. Note how the teaser trailer for Dead Men Tell No Tales deliberately kept Johnny Depp offscreen. Note how the Super Bowl spot barely featured Jack Sparrow at all. Ponder how that new trailer emphasizes grand, supernatural spectacle just as much as it does the antics of its leading man. This is the path where Disney keeps the Pirates series alive, but decides to let Jack Sparrow sail into the sunset, taking Depp’s increasingly tired performance and personal baggage with him. This is the the path where the Pirates series continues to exist and tell stories of horror and adventure on the high seas, but with new actors who aren’t Johnny Depp. After all, the world on display in these movies offers limitless possibilities. Maybe it’s time to drop Jack Sparrow on a desert island for good and focus on the fact that people would enjoy watching someone else battle undead pirates for a change.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opens on May 26, 2017. It may or may not be the last movie in the series. Who knows?
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