Pirates of the Caribbean Sets Sail With Margot Robbie

Pirates of the Caribbean will set sail again, in two different projects that hope to return the franchise to the pop culture discussion and move past Jack Sparrow. But do audiences want that?

Pirates of the Caribbean nostalgia is sweeping the nation. Yes, it is hard to believe it has now been 17 years since audiences first meet Jack Sparrow and company in Curse of the Black Pearl. So many people have spent their quarantine revisiting the Pirates films, namely the original trilogy (we even did a retrospective here). The original trilogy was a phenomenon, but by 2011 when On Stranger Tides came out it felt like it was a relic of the past, and 2017’s Dead Men Tell No Tales was a reminder of how far the movie landscape had moved beyond this series. Was there a place for this franchise in the hearts of audiences, and where was its place now that it isn’t the top Disney live-action IP?

It appears Disney is not ready to give up on the brand (and why would they; the films have grossed a combined total of $4.5 billion worldwide). Disney has announced they are developing a new Pirates of the Caribbean with Margot Robbie in the lead role, which is separate from the already in-development reboot of the franchise by original Pirates writer Ted Elliot and Chernobyl‘s Craig Mazin.

The interesting part of the announcement is that the film isn’t a spin-off, but an original tale with the Pirates of the Caribbean moniker. Meaning that (for now), they don’t see this crossing over with the characters or story developments from the original series. The brand’s being used more as an anthology banner, with different stand-alone pirate tales. They don’t seem to be interested in creating a Pirates of the Caribbean cinematic universe with interconnected stories. This isn’t a bad call, given that the original film was so self-contained Disney easily could have done that from the beginning.

Christina Hodson, who wrote Robbie’s Birds of Prey, is boarding the project as the screenwriter. Hodson has been one of the most in-demand screenwriters in Hollywood for the past couple of years. She helped reboot the Transformers franchise with Bumblebee, and has been an active participant in the DCEU, not only having written Birds of Prey but also currently writing The Flash and Batgirl. Now it appears Disney wants to get in on the hype.

The other Pirates of the Caribbean film planned is more in line with a reboot of the franchise, and rumor had it that Karen Gillian (Avengers: Endgame, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) was being eyed for the lead role, rumored to be Red, the female pirate added to the ride in the auction segment. It makes a great deal of sense given that the character just screams movie star potential. Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced all five Pirates films, is producing both projects.

The presence or lack of Captain Jack Sparrow has raised the eyebrows of many fans of the series, given that for so many fans and even a general audience, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise IS Jack Sparrow. Jack Sparrow, originally written as a supporting player, became the breakout star and was moved forward as the main character in the following sequels. When Will and Elizabeth left the franchise, Jack carried it, but it appeared audiences were not interested. Sticking to Jack Sparrow put them in a narrative rut following At World’s End, and now is the time to wipe the slate clean and broaden the horizon of what Pirates of the Caribbean can be. Where it isn’t so much sold on one specific character, but an idea. Bring it back to the roots of the first film, a classic adventure tale with a supernatural twist. Make new characters to appeal to new fans, and continue the idea for generations to come.

“The blank spaces on the map are shrinking; Jack Sparrow must find his place in the new world or perish,” – is said by Cutler Beckett in Dead Man’s Chest, a very meta line when it comes to the Pirates franchise. The franchise went from being one of the biggest event series at the dawn of the 21st century to a relic of a blockbuster past that seems very different from now. At Worlds End came out the year before the landmark shift of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, and by the time On Stranger Tides came out it was a year till The Avengers. Pirates can choose to try and stay relevant and reinvent themselves for a modern generation and film-going public, or accept that maybe their time has come and that is an OK thing. Not every franchise needs to continue. Some can have their moment and hold fond nostalgic memories. Regardless of the new films, I’m sure generations will still continue to watch Curse of the Black Pearl as a modern classic. As Jack Sparrow said, “some things have a way of coming back.”

Let us know what you think: are you excited for a new Pirates of the Caribbean film? Do you want to see Captain Jack return? Which spin-off excites you more? Let us know in the comments below.