Once upon a time, Johnny Depp was a reasonably sane actor with only a few zany hats in his personal collection. Once upon a time, the name “Pirates of the Caribbean” conjured up animatronic seafarers, skeletons guarding plastic treasure and that skipping track playing “yo-ho yo-ho” over and over in a dark tunnel until it was time to leave and get a delicious churro. That all changed in 2003 when Disney realized turning their park rides into movies was a valid business venture (thanks for the Haunted Mansion memories, Eddie Murphy), and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was born.
Four movies – and Depp staggering around doing his best Keith Richards impression (and an actual Keith Richards eventually too) – later we can now look forward to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It’s certainly about time that they used that phrase, isn’t it? It’s the first warning you get while taking your dingy down the river into the tunnels of Disney’s most treacherous ride, and it’s definitely worth heeding. And now, the person likely to be putting that motto into practice for Captain Jack Sparrow in Depp’s fifth go-round as the drunkest, cunningest commander of the high seas, is noted portrayer of villains, Javier Bardem.
Though details are scarce, Bardem would portray a dreaded ghost pirate who haunts the seas and does battle with Sparrow. Yes, he’s a ghost, but do remember that there was a villain who had tentacles for a face so this actually doesn’t have to make too much sense. Would we prefer him to focus on more challenging and entertaining films? Sure, but the positive here is that while Bardem is a phenomenal actor in general he positively shines when playing the bad guy.
He’s proved that time and again in the past, and he’ll bring that to this odd, wonderful role. Think back to his parts in Skyfall or No Country for Old Men. Bardem has the ability to transform himself into something unnerving, something terrifying and strange when the role calls for it, and he does it with ease. It’s not just his physical appearance that changes (and it often changes dramatically, as it likely will as whatever Disney’s version of a pirate ghost may be), but his entire persona shifts as well. Facing Depp, someone known for similar abilities, should be an interesting endeavor.
It’s more than that, though. It’s a smart move on Disney to add him into the mix. Five films into the franchise, they now need more than Depp’s wacky antics to keep audiences interested because viewers have already seen what crazy things Captain Jack Sparrow will say and do. Bardem’s involvement adds a little intrigue, and a revered and interesting actor – who’s also the real-life husband to one of the franchise’s stars (Penelope Cruz, Angelica in On Stranger Tides) – can draw people back into the film. A pirate’s life for everyone?