Warning: Spoilers ahead for Dead Men Tell No Tales
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, is the fifth installment of Disney’s multi-billion-dollar franchise. Johnny Depp once again returns as the ubiquitous Captain Jack Sparrow, with Geoffrey Rush as Hector Barbossa. There’s newcomers to the franchise, too: Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner, Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth, and Javier Bardem as Salazar.
The Pirates movies remain hugely popular, but it is undeniable that each installment has gotten progressively weaker; the reviews for the fourth movie, On Stranger Tides, were almost all negative - despite that fact, the movie grossed over $1 billion at the box office. With that in mind, Dead Men Tell No Tales has a lot to prove. Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, the movie aims to recapture the essence of the first Pirates movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, by returning to its ghostly origins. It was originally assumed that Dead Men Tell No Tales would be the final Pirates movie; after all, it seemed foolish to assume the franchise could limp along much longer, but instead of finishing the story, Dead Men Tell No Tales starts it over again, with Jerry Bruckheimer saying that there’s always more stories to be told.
Nothing has been confirmed as yet, but the movie itself clearly sets up Henry and Carina as the future Will and Elizabeth of the franchise, who happen to be Henry’s parents, of course. After watching the Turner family reunite, Jack Sparrow sails away, once again at the helm of his beloved Black Pearl. But he's not sailing into the sunset. He says he has an appointment to keep far beyond the horizon, hinting at another adventure to come. The question is: should Pirates bow out now, or can it continue in perpetuity?
Dead Men Tell No Tales is currently on course for a $230 million opening weekend, globally. Against a budget of $230 million, that’s certainly enough to ensure that a further installment would be considered. Reviews may be mixed to negative, but the public pays little attention to that when it's a return to such a hugely popular franchise. The movie has been widely touted as a soft reboot of the franchise, and that certainly seems the case while watching. While Rush takes his final bow as Barbossa, Carina takes up his mantle as his long-lost daughter. Henry is the son of Will (who makes a return to the franchise) grandson of Bootstrap Bill Turner, and Jack… is just Jack. As Bruckheimer has rightly stated, the franchise could not continue without Depp’s presence.
Speaking to Screen Rant, Thwaites agreed that Dead Men Tell No Tales is a new beginning, and with the theme of family prevalent throughout, he feels there is opportunity for that to be further explored:
“I think it’s a new beginning. I think it’s tying a lot of loose ends together and also providing an opportunity to continue the story and to continue the journey. There’s a bunch of new characters in this film, so in this one we sort of, you know, playing in their own moments and continuing their own stories, but there is definitely room to explore their backstories and their relationships in the next one if there is another one.”
Meanwhile, Scodelario says she’d like to see Carina’s scientific knowledge explored more, and how that can marry into the world of pirates and the supernatural. She too feels like it is a new beginning for Pirates:
“I think it’s a new beginning. I think these two characters - Carina and Henry - are very much their own characters in this saga. It would be great to see what they could do next.”
As for the directors, Sandberg was more cryptic in his answer: “Maybe it’s the beginning of the ending, we’ll see.” It is perhaps that comment that could be the convincing argument to make one more Pirates movie; to really see how it all pans out. While the family vibe has been done a lot, it has already been present throughout all the Pirates films, so it would still fit. And the idea of Carina teaching the Pirates a thing or two about science, and how astronomy can marry up with the tides, definitely has mileage. Sandberg and Ronning are both huge fans, and it shows. It would be a wise choice to keep them on board for a Pirates 6, if there is to be one, since they seem to pay attention to the story being told, rather than just ramming silly jokes in wherever they can.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to there not being any more Pirates of the Caribbean, is that a lot of the plotlines have been done, and there seems to be only so much more left to say. We’ve seen Henry and Carina’s story played out with Elizabeth and Will, Barbossa isn’t around to rile Jack Sparrow anymore, we’ve met Davy Jones, Blackbeard, Jack’s dad, his uncle, and several different incarnations of essentially the same crew. He’s lost ships and taken command of ships. He’s drunk an awful lot of rum, leered at an awful lot of women, and caused an awful lot of trouble for the Naval officers. How many more times can we see Jack somehow escaping death at the hands of some vengeful character or another?
The answer is that the Pirates franchise will most likely continue until there really is no appetite for any more. The basic fact is, these movies are fun. Dead Men Tell No Tales has pulled back on the silliness a little and delivered better jokes that actually work. Jack Sparrow is drunker than ever, but he’s also back to being a smart pirate, somehow. It works. Barbossa is in fine form, with Rush cementing himself as the strongest performer in the franchise, but even without him going forward, the storyline to Dead Men Tell No Tales can (and most likely will) be extended into a sixth movie. Everyone likes different movies for different reasons, but at the end of the day, everyone wants to be entertained. Pirates of the Caribbean might not be for everyone, but it still provides that entertainment factor, which is ultimately what matters.