After fifth installment Dead Men Tell No Tales disappointed at the box office – though it must be pointed out that the franchise had become so universally popular that a $795 million global total was viewed as an under-performance – Pirates of the Caribbean went back to the drawing board. Even though the series peaked creatively with the very first movie, and each of the subsequent sequels fared worse with critics, Disney’s desire to monopolize the entire entertainment industry means that they were never going to let a $4.5 billion brand simply come to an end.
Sure enough, a reboot was announced in 2018, with Deadpool and Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on scripting duties, although the duo soon moved on to be replaced by franchise stalwart Ted Elliott and Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin. Not a lot has been heard about the prospective Pirates of the Caribbean relaunch since then, apart from the studio’s controversial decision to publicly announce that Johnny Depp’s iconic Captain Jack Sparrow would not be returning.
Many speculated that Depp was dropped due to his highly-publicized divorce battle, as well as a cost-cutting measure given that the actor is estimated to have earned $90 million from Dead Men Tell No Tales alone, which is a huge chunk of change given that each of the last four Pirates movies cost a minimum of $225 million to produce.
However, it can be argued that as the franchise’s most recognizable face and one of cinema’s most popular characters of the 21st Century, a Pirates of the Caribbean movie without the 56 year-old won’t fare anywhere near as well from both an audience and commercial perspective. And as is always the case when these kind of things happen, a petition was launched with the aim of reinstating Depp’s Captain Jack, which has now passed 50,000 signatures.
Obviously, online petitions started by fans are always completely ignored by Hollywood, otherwise Brie Larson would have been replaced as Captain Marvel a long time ago, but there’s obviously a backlash against Disney for replacing the lead of one of the their most bankable franchises, and the studio will eventually need to decide whether to continue making Pirates of the Caribbean movies without Johnny Depp, bring him back into the fold, or simply give up on the series altogether.