It hasn’t been a great week for Johnny Depp. By now you’ve probably heard about his Trump assassination joke that’s garnered mounds of controversy. And while that story, and the actor’s apology, have gotten the most attention in the media, that’s not the only development in Depp news.
Is Johnny Depp somehow Johnny Depp-proof? With the early receipts for the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise now promising another blockbuster in the bag, it would appear that the actor’s somehow invulnerable to his own noxious public profile. Though the revelation that he had physically abused longtime partner Amber Heard came to light last year, it apparently hasn’t diminished his earning potential, and frustrating as that may be, it means we’re in for a whole lot more Depp. And if producer Jerry Bruckheimer has anything to say about, more Jack Sparrow in specific.
Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most popular franchises of all time, and yet only one out of its four movies are remembered in a positive light. Gore Verbinski’s The Curse of the Black Pearl was a throwback to old school popcorn blockbusters, a family-friendly adventure full of expertly choreographed action, led by a rebellious hero with some romance. The original hit led to three sequels that broke multiple box office records for the Disney property, yet the Pirates franchise only soured in the mouths of critics.
When last we saw Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow he was, I don’t know, doing pirate stuff probably? After the first Pirates of the Caribbean, 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl, all these movies began to blend together. Some sword fights, a mystical MacGuffin, an all-powerful bad guy, a couple battles at sea, blather, mince, repeat. Even though the latest, Dead Men Tell No Tales, comes from a new pair of directors (Kon-Tiki’s Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg), it’s basically indistinguishable from the three previous sequels, except that it’s even worse than they were.
Johnny Depp needs some public image rehabilitation, and badly. When it came out last year that he had physically abused former spouse Amber Heard, a dark and sickly pallor was cast over the heretofore beloved actor’s profile. It isn’t helping that he hasn’t been in a good movie since 2011 (Rango, though Verbinski’s follow-up The Lone Ranger has its supporters), and hasn’t been in a really profitable one since 2014’s Into the Woods. The guy has to save a little face if he wants to secure his future in this business, and what better way to do that than to play to the only demographic unaware of his unsavory personal life: the youth!
A certain branch of criticism against the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie back when it came out in 2011 focused on the fact that this was the first one with barely a trace of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, two characters we’d all grown to love through a trilogy of movies, and, arguably, who are the actual heart and soul of the series. Without them, On Stranger Tides felt adrift, unable to find an emotional focus despite introducing a new generation of generically attractive leads. The good news for those of us who have stuck with the series this far is, thanks to the new international trailer, we know Elizabeth is coming back too. Along with a few more of Captain Jack’s “friends.”