Shop Talk

Is the Pirates' booty ill-gotten?

By David Mumpower

May 25, 2011

He has a long...sword.

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In the wake of the record setting debut of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, this is the perfect opportunity to evaluate the perceived pointless sequel. Yes, I am aware of the fact that the more passionate Jack Sparrow fans among our readers will bristle at this. Before you grab your torches and pitchforks and storm my castle, keep in mind that that I place myself within your ranks. I consider the first two films to be among the most entertaining of the 2000s and while I believe the third one’s experiment in Sparrow Multiplicity is a misfire, I still enjoy that title as well. What I cannot dispute is that creative reasons were not the driving force behind the creation of this film. Even so, I am a bit mystified to see people slagging Disney for their clever business decision to go to the well once more, even if it proves to be once too often.

I refuse to damn Disney for this project like so many are doing right now. I understand all too well the logic behind the premature release of another title in the Pirates franchise. While so many of us spend our youth dreaming of making features that reveal our hopes, dreams and aspirations, the reality is that by the moment wherein anyone in the industry attains a position of decision making authority, all of their childlike sincerity has long since evaporated. Tentpole movies are a business run by massive multinational conglomerates and even the ones we like such as Pirates of the Caribbean are still prone to meddling by a numbers cruncher sitting in their office.

These people do their projections and quickly realize that unless a sequel is given the greenlight, there will be a bare spot on the film schedule for that period. Even worse, this means that the expected revenue for an accounting quarter/year is too low. That is the type of thought that endangers jobs, particularly those of the people making the projections. Business is business, even in the land of dreams brought into reality. The bosses there are even bigger jerks than the ones you work for and when they say, “Make me more money”, their wishes are honored independent of whether a project is ready to go into production.


Yes, this is a cynical evaluation of the industry, one that unfortunately has the ring of truth. How many people do you know that were actively rooting for a quick Pirates sequel? Do you know ANYBODY who was? Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End tied off the main story of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner in a manner that created questions to be answered at some point, but the expectation was that it would be a decade or so later when their child was old enough to ask questions about his father’s absence.

The short term futures of Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa were not much of a mystery. They are pirates; presumably, they will be off plundering somewhere else. The character of Jack Sparrow was always intended to be the comic relief, the scene stealer who would hop in and out of the story rather than be the focus of it. The mistake in At World’s End was giving the viewing audience too much Jack Sparrow and the results were predictable. Movie goers turned on him a bit, not a lot, mind you, but enough to damage the character some.

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