Pirates of the Caribbean isn’t a comic book (unless they’ve put out supplemental comic books as part of a marketing blitz (which seems likely)), but the film franchise is now another official example of the new model being looked to by movie studios. First, it was Warners pointing their Batman to the bleachers with the news of rebooting the character before Nolan even rolls cameras on the next adventure. Now, the installments of Pirates that we knew we were getting are now officially going to be stand-alone stories.
That may seem like a harmless announcement – or at least as harmless as more Rum-drunk Johnny Depp in mascara can be – but at the root of it is the promise of positioning the franchise to become another Batman who’s just become another Bond.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer claimed that test audiences loved the “freshness” of the new movie because it wasn’t really tethered to the previous installments. Thus, that same situation will carry over into the next films – ostensibly giving directors and writers the freedom to do whatever they want with what will become a stock character placed into zany new quests every few years.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that this means that the next two stand-alone movies will also be the last. The real sign of the neverending story will come when they eventually recast Johnny Depp with some other big name star that’s risen.
However, this is a subtle move that frees the franchise from the anchors of franchise-ness. Each production will be free to use the character as they want, and that can be a good thing, but it also creates the freedom to continue making Captain Jack Sparrow movies through 2030 (or beyond) without the headache of needing to reboot at all.
Whereas even Batman might be hampered by a full trilogy following The Dark Knight Rises, the Pirates franchise is effectively becoming a serial (like some comic books, and like James Bond) where previous adventures don’t really matter or play into the story of the next installment.
Of course there are examples of this in movies already, mostly in detective stories (like Depp’s beloved Thin Man series). Still, it will be interesting to see whether this new formula leads to an endless amount of of Pirates coming down the plank. We might be writing about Pirates 23 in forty years, the same way we’re still trying to write about Bond 23.
This move ultimately shows that Disney is confident enough that Jack Sparrow is the franchise, and he doesn’t need story continuity or a cliff-hanger ending to keep audiences coming back for more. They’re probably right, and this might be an interesting move on their part.
Plus, it makes way for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dawn of the Dinosaurs when the idea barrel runs low.