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Warning: spoilers for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales are discussed freely throughout this article. If you haven't seen the film yet, sail away to another piece of coverage, and return to port once you're current.
Folks, we're coming off of what should be a Memorial Day weekend high at the box office. Instead though, we're kind of bummed out, as this year's take was pretty slim. Not to mention, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales brought in a series low of a domestic opening, failing to even meet the $80 million estimate that was predicted for the four day weekend. Between the box office performance, and the pieces in play in the film itself, one course of action is pretty clear: Captain Jack Sparrow's adventures must come to an end with one last film.
You could even see Disney bracing themselves to do so in the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, as the film touted the fact that the "final adventure" was beginning. If you're advertising your film with such bold claims, you're keeping an eye on the door while you're having fun at the party. And to its credit, Disney is smart to do so, as a lot of revenue is still tied up in making and releasing these films, with the returns diminishing regularly. On the financial end, Disney would be total fools to not think of ending on the next film's tides.
In memory of the high adventure that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise used to be, Disney really needs to put themselves to work and make the sixth film the biggest, best adventure that Captain Jack, Will, and Elizabeth will ever face. The stakes will have to be higher, the adventure more exhilarating, and the closure final and resolved. With the money dedicated to preserving the Pirates brand being freed up, some of that could be dedicated to pursuing some of Disney's other IP that have been left to the side. In other words, Disney could be spending this money on the Tron franchise, instead of fueling Johnny Depp's cotton ball habit.
Thematically, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales supports such a desire, as the franchise has brought back both Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann into the fold. Whether Disney is realizing that a Pirates franchise with just Jack Sparrow at the center might not completely work, or felt it had to make a peace offering with fans let down by the massive failure that was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, playing the "reuniting with old friends" card is a good way of signaling you're ready to end a series once and for all.
Disney's fairly lucky that the series didn't collapse inward even quicker when it decided to undo a pretty definitive ending to the series in At World's End, just to squeeze out a sub-par adventure in Stranger Tides. This explains why the studio might be planning ahead. Why else would you bring back Henry Turner's parents, or for that matter, tease the return of Davy Jones in the post-credits sequence for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales? If you're going to go back to the well with such a big reveal, it's clearly to deliver the end all / be all final adventure of the Pirates series, while at the same time apologizing to die-hard fans for the big mistake that was made previously. And if that's not the approach, then it damned well should be, because after this latest Pirates of the Caribbean film, the series is really starting to show its age.
Granted, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is still a big upgrade from the dreck that was the fourth installment of the series. Yes, that's an easy feat to accomplish. But the film that accomplished it is still a bit bloated and dragging. The series has lost its aim, without the clean, crisp throughline the first three films had. And even with the goodwill this latest film might have won back, it's too little and too late to push this ship much further.
Disney should be embracing the end, and trying to deliver one last showstopper of a finale to the Pirates of the Caribbean series, before retiring it to a bottle on a shelf in the halls of their offices. There's no shame in ending a franchise when its time has come, and Hollywood needs to learn this. Being a leader of the movie business community, Disney can provide an example of leadership and innovation, by retiring the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Though don't think we're picking on Disney exclusively, because there's another film that might deserve a similar dressing down, depending on what this summer's contenders bring us.