Pirates of the Caribbean Remains a Consolation Prize for Star Wars Fans

By  · Published on January 21st, 2016

Buena Vista Pictures

Buena Vista Pictures

You’ve no doubt heard that Star Wars: Episode VIII has moved from a May 2017 release date to a much later December 2017 release date. What you may have missed in the commotion is that Disney tossed Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tails into the former slot of the Star Wars sequel. I’ve seen some say this was the studio’s plan all along, to keep Memorial Day weekend free so everyone will be forced to just go see the latest adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). That already didn’t work, if so, because Paramount moved Baywatch to May 26, 2017, as well.

The funny thing about a Pirates of the Caribbean movie being the substitute for a Star Wars movie is that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has always been a poor substitute for the Star Wars franchise. The first three installments of the former parallel the first three installments of the latter enough that the comparison – or ripoff, if you must – has been addressed by many a site through the years. And if we disregard the Star Wars prequels (I know many of you are happy to do so), Dead Men Tell No Tails and Star Wars: Episode VIII line up, sequel-wise. Perhaps the Pirates movie will even be a kind of tease of the Star Wars.

Here’s a quick summary of how the movies line up so far:

Both Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl involve a smuggling captain and lowly orphan who must save a daughter of privilege (princess/governor’s daughter) from the clutches of an evil boss. There are even two comic relief characters in the latter who take on the former’s C-3PO and RD-D2 dynamic.

Both The Empire Strikes Back and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest have the lowly orphan learning the horrible truth about his father, while the smuggling captain is sought for repayment of a debt.

Both The Return of the Jedi and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End see the orphan, the daughter of privilege and others on a mission to rescue the smuggling captain.

Both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides focus on some new characters, with the orphan nowhere to be seen but the smuggling captain still having a leading role. Everyone is also after a map. If the latter had been made after the former, there surely would have been more connections.

There definitely isn’t a fandom attached to the Pirates movies the way there is with Star Wars, nor the merchandise craze. The Pirates episodes are just entertaining adventures, which is really all Star Wars should be, too, but there’s more history and significance in the latter. I don’t get why nobody is at least looking forward to, if not super excited about, another tale of Jack Sparrow other than it’s more popular to hate everything Johnny Depp does these days. Dead Men Tell No Tales has a new writer (Catch Me if You Can’s Jeff Nathanson), new directors (Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki helmers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg) and a new nemesis played by Javier Bardem, who is always a fun villain.

Everyone else can complain about Star Wars being pushed back seven months, but I’m truly looking forward to the consolation prize of having a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie in its place while I wait. I know I can’t be totally alone in that, given how lucrative the franchise has been.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.