Disney’s fifth Pirates of the Caribbean adventure, after much delay, arrives six years after the fourth in May 2017. But when the film debuted its second teaser during Sunday night’s Super Bowl, Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was shown shockingly minimally. This comes after he was absent entirely from December’s first trailer. Both trailers have been met with praise and excitement: might this film’s marketing be better off without Depp?
Depp, a one-note clown I tired of soon after 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is currently at the lowest point in his three-decade career. The Rum Diary, Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, Transcendence, Mortdecai and Alice Through The Looking Glass– each film progressively worse than its predecessors- have failed critically and financially.
Depp literally hasn’t had a hit as star since Pirates 4 in 2011. Even Tim Burton (an equally tiresome fraud) has stopped employing him. Meanwhile, he’s faced domestic violence accusations from ex-wife Amber Heard and most recently claims from former associates that he spent $30,000 a month on wine.
In an ideal world, Depp would no longer be employed. He’s a Hollywood punchline, his inevitable decline being stretched out for years from his own desperation to remain relevant.
Yet some important people still have faith in Johnny Depp. David Yates and J.K. Rowling cast him as dark wizard/Dumbledore’s boyfriend Grindewald in their five-film Fantastic Beasts franchise: his brief appearance in the first film was a frustratingly silly moment in an otherwise excellent adventure. A decade ago, Depp’s involvement would have been beneficial to Beasts: now, it’s merely a source of confusion and irritation for Harry Potter fans.
Meanwhile, he’s completed shooting Murder on the Orient Express (as part of am impressive ensemble), is presently working on Tupac mystery LAbyrinth and will voice Sherlock Gnomes in the unfathomably overdue Gnomeo and Juliet: Sherlock Gnomes. That’s hardly an A-list project, but he’s surely being paid well.
So back to Pirates.
Captain Jack Sparrow is probably Depp’s finest role, where his clowning is suitable, scripted and under control. Yet my anticipation for May’s Dead Men Tell No Tales sinks every time I’m reminded Depp will be in it.
It’s just not necessary. Two trailers have given us a glimpse at a thrilling maritime blockbuster with Javier Bardem as a zombified villain, the return of Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa (the undeniable star of the fourth film). Plus Stephen Graham, Kevin McNally, David Wenham, Brenton Thwaites and… Paul McCartney!
Why do we need Jack Sparrow? We have our overacting caricature in Bardem, our handsome lead in Thwaites, our veteran seafarer in Captain Barbossa. It can only hurt this project to have Depp shoehorned in. Best case scenario: his screentime is as limited as the marketing suggests (and as it was in 2016’s Alice Through The Looking Glass, where his above-title billing didn’t guarantee a very large role).
It genuinely feels like very few people will see Pirates 5 because of Depp. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a whole new cast for this series, providing it with the longevity it deserves?
We can only hope that Sparrow is finally killed off this May, leaving the gate open for a new generation of Pirates to take control…