Every child growing up in the early 2000s likely has at least some faint knowledge of Pirates of the Caribbean, the franchise which singlehandedly revived cultural interest in the Golden Age of Piracy, albeit through a wildly inaccurate depiction of them in most cases. Taking place in a lawless Caribbean cornered by vast empires with glorious ambitions, Pirate Lords with ruthless attitudes and evil reputations, and ancient curses and mystical, supernatural elements lurking beneath the waters, Jack Sparrow forges a legend for himself as a happy go-lucky drunkard narrowly avoiding both his Piractical rivals and the many entities on the Sea which have vested interests in his death or capture. For me, the second two Pirates movies completely miss what the films are about. Their graphical updates and cinematography are stellar, their actors remain mostly the same with injections of new cast members, but there is no great adventure that links them together, no exciting continuity that incentives you to watch either film, that being On Stranger Tides or Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Instead, I believe Black Pearl, Dead Man's Chest, and World's End are the epitome of the franchise's content. They embody what it's trying to achieve by creating a fun adventure of growing stakes through the eyes of a motley crew of seafaring buccaneers. But among that, Johnny Depp, the trademark actor for Jack Sparrow who rose to uncontested stardom because of his performance as him in these three titanic movies, made these movies what they were. Yes, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Swann, Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa, Bill Nighy as Davy Jones (with the addition of some stunning CGI that still holds up today), Tom Hollander as the merciless Cutler Beckett, and the deluge of other characters in these films were by no small means, helping to create the most successful Pirate-based IP of all time. But even among them, without Jack Sparrow, it simply isn't Pirates. There's a Youtube series by a creator named Filmento who explains this rather well, and why while Depp and Sparrow are physically present in the next two films, that unmistakable aura of a morally grey scoundrel has been replaced by a soulless desire to farm this series for money. He can't really be blamed, given the low quality of the scripts and storylines by that point.
But Disney didn't approach this situation right. Let's omit the allegations against Johnny Depp which nearly sunk his career (a totally different situation alltogether), merely on his involvement in the franchise. From an objective lens, Jack Sparrow has been the flagship of these movies for over a decade now, fans have grown emotionally attached to this character, witnessing all the escapades and adventures he's embarked on, therefore they at least want a fitting conclusion to his story, or even a continuation of his ventures into the infinite expanses of the Caribbean. What Disney instead did, no doubt fueled by worries of PR after Depp's allegations levied against him, was totally removed Jack from the franchise. Now, a sixth movie is confirmed in the works, yet without Johnny Depp captaining the production (pun intended). Rather, a new female actress shall take up the reins, a new Pirate that begins a new chapter in this story. Now, I have nothing against this change. Jack Sparrow cannot lead this franchise forever for obvious reasons such as actor fatigue, or simply audience disinterest as his character traits are already quite predictable, that of a thief, scoundrel, negotiator, yet ultimately a man who cares deeply about those close to him when it comes down to it.
But audiences also deserve a definitive conclusion to his story. We've seen Jack defy death more times then we can count, battle against mystical forces of evil such as Davy Jones, his corrupted crew, and their pet Leviathan Kraken, against the British Empire and East India Trading Company, their fleets led by an ambitious and manipulative Chairman named Cutler Beckett. Counting the less glorious second two films, he's also faced off against the brutal Pirate Captain Blackbeard, mermaids, an undead ghost captain, etcetera. Leaving us all these adventures to witness but never granting us a proper conclusion, continuation, or even giving us a hint as to what became of Sparrow through all his trials and tribulations is cinematic betrayal of the audience's trust. I'm sure this new actor (whom Disney has seldom to announce yet) will continue Jack's legacy, or do her best to emulate that scandalous scoundrel while adding her own individuality into the character, or at least I hope. But you can't have a true Pirates film without Sparrow's inclusion. Throwing him into the sixth movie as a mere cameo or someone to be steamrolled to emphasize the greatness of this new character would be disrespectful. What audiences deserve is a true ending to his character, whether it be perishing by the hands of one of his enemies, sacrificing himself like his frenemy Barbossa did for someone else, or even retiring on a calm island sipping coconut juice. The choice is theirs, but from a storytelling and writing perspective, it's simply agonizing to see this character that forged a new path for Pirates to once again seize the interest and love of our modern culture's fate become murky and left up to corporate power-playing. For Johnny Depp's sake and ours, let's hope Disney makes the right choice here.
Then again, it really matters little considering Coronavirus is probably going to massacre the film industry's theater branches within a few months. It'll probably just be a release on the Disney+ Streaming Service by that point. But loyal readers, keep your heads up, more reviews and content beyond them is coming soon...