Since its launch with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003, the Pirates franchise has grossed more than $4.5 billion worldwide in just five film titles. Inspired by the DisneyWorld ride of the same name, Pirates of the Caribbean has brought the raiding, pillaging and plundering outlaws firmly into the centre of popular culture, and in many ways its Johnny Depp’s pantomime pirate captain Jack Sparrow who we can thank for that. Questions surrounding the future of the property have begun to rise in recent years however, and in light of declining critical and financial success the series may need its main star to get things in shipshape now more than ever.
While its first trilogy, ending with At World’s End, roped in a whopping $2.7 billion, it was slowly becoming clear that audiences were feeling less and less entertained particularly as the movies were becoming ever-longer in runtime, and quantity is not the same thing as quality. Then in 2011, following a four year absence, Depp’s Captain Sparrow and his fellow crewmates (minus Orlando Bloom’s Will turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann) returned for a fourth instalment, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The film saw Ian McShane take on the infamous role of Blackbeard, but while On Stranger Tides boasted an iconic villain and more on-screen time for Jack Sparrow than its predecessor, to many it seemed like the studio was simply using the movie to test the waters in gauging public excitement for further Pirates titles, rather than focusing on making a quality film. The franchise’s latest outing, Dead Men Tell No Tales (Pirates 5), arrived last summer but unlike On Stranger Tides, which despite lacking depth and polish was financially very successful, it experienced a major decline in ticket sales with a final global plunder of $795 million against On Stranger Tides‘ $1.05 billion.
While Pirates 5 (Titled Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge in the UK) was not the billion dollar hit that Disney would have hoped for, the movie did set up a sequel indicating that the studio has plans for the series to continue on with newcomers Brendon Thwaites (Henry Turner) and Kaya Scodelario (Carina Smyth), along with Depp of course. Since Pirates 5 experienced a sizeable drop in box office gross, however, there were some that presumed the Mouse House would not be in any rush to make more. On the contrary, it looks as though the studio is keen to produce more swashbuckling adventures, with GWW reporting that Dead Men Tell No Tales writers Jeff Nathanson and Terry Rossio are currently working on a script for Pirates of the Caribbean 6, with Rossio’s frequent co-writer Ted Elliott also lending a hand. According to GWW‘s source, Pirates 5 co-director Joachim Rønning will be at the helm for Pirates 6 after finishing his work on the Maleficent sequel.
Roughly speaking, Rønning could make a start on Pirates 6 in about 4-5 years time, which while not be the longest gap between films in the series (there was six years between On Stranger Tides and Dead Men Tell No Tales) would mark yet another long wait between titles especially considering that the sixth movie will be somewhat of a continuation of its predecessor. That said, allowing more time could be exactly the kind of breathing space the franchise and audiences need.
Some other obstacles that Pirates 6 will have to overcome revolve around the captain himself. Depp’s recent behaviour, including allegations of domestic abuse from ex-wife Amber Heard and a growing number of problems on set, including last months lawsuit against the 55-year-old actor for allegedly assaulting a City of Lies location manager, are making him more of a liability for Disney; a company that just recently let Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn go for some old offensive tweets.
If Disney chooses to hang on to Depp, which seems more likely than not as for many Pirates of the Caribbean would not be the same without him, then presumably it will be carrying the story from Pirates 5 through, and if the post-credits scene for the 2017 film was any clue Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones will be making an appearance, although Nighy himself has not been contacted regarding this at all yet. If Jones is coming back then it may not be too much to suggest that Disney is setting up the end of the series, bringing back all surviving main characters into a final story potentially spanning two films, as was teased ahead of Dead Men Tell No Tales‘ release.
Pirates of the Caribbean 6 is yet to receive an official release date