Shortly after the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial began, my mother-in-law was seated on the sofa, watching the television screen intently as attorneys grilled whoever was blessed with a seat on the stand to the right of Judge Penney Azcarate at that particular moment in the televised “event.”
She’s been a fan of Johnny Depp for years, but she wasn’t well-versed in the relationship history between him and Amber Heard. Nor had she ever watched a single Pirates of the Caribbean film. Heck, she had never experienced the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disney World until just 3 years ago. But the weekend after Johnny Depp’s televised trial began, we spent a Saturday bingeing on Pirates films while we discussed the atrocities we felt Depp had endured over the course of his life because of various circumstances and more recently because of his ex-wife Amber Heard.
To be honest, I fell asleep before Pirates 5 was over, so I never saw the apparently prolific ending that was, at the time of its release, probably not revered as so prolific.
But because my mother-in-law was already a fan of Depp and hadn’t seen the films–be they scurvy or swashbuckling–until this particular juxtaposition in Depp’s life, his words, his actions, and his pensive scenes took on added meaning for her.
Pirates 5 was, of course, the final film we had watched that Saturday, and by the time the fifth helping of Johnny Depp channeling his inner Sparrow debuted on our at-home cinema binge line-up, it was eveningtime, and before the end, I simply was–as Amber Heard described the phenomenon from the stand several times–“on the nod.”
But the next day, while I was standing at the mirror, readying myself for the day, my mother-in-law–who, mind you, stands only about 59 1/2 inches tall, peered at me from around the corner of the hallway door and said, “Perfect; just perfect.”
I only had put my concealer on, so I knew she wasn’t referring to me. So I just looked at her, puzzled.
But I traded my blending brush for my thinking cap, and that’s when it hit me. She was opining about the final film from the night before, through which she clearly realized I had snoozed.
“It was perfect,” she reiterated. “Just the most perfect ending there could have been.”
“You liked it, did you?” I asked her. “That good, huh?”
And she began to describe to me the tears that had found their way into her tiny little eyes as she watched the last five or six minutes of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. She said the outcome here forward with Disney and the Pirates franchise really didn’t matter, save for the lasting impact that outcome would have on Mr. Depp’s good name, his reputation, and on his children.
“He ended it so well,” she said. “It can stand just the way it is, and it’s perfect.”
I had to see this for myself. I finished the task at hand and turned on the Apple TV console and clickety-clicked my way to Disney+. But alas, before I could follow through on watching the last scene from Johnny Depp’s final performance as Captain Jack Sparrow–at least for now–a higher responsibility called, and I never watched it.
Until this weekend.
I came across a post at ScreenRant.com, and the title not only made me stop scrolling and click; it also made me laugh out loud, as it brought back those conversations from several weeks ago about Johnny Depp’s so-called “perfection” in Pirates 5.
“Johnny Depp’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’ Ending is Already Perfect,” the title read.
This I had to see. Or read, as it were: exactly how many similarities would there be between that writer’s feelings about Depp, his final scene in Pirates 5, and the symbolism that could easily be drawn from the lines, as they are heard (no pun intended) now, post-trial, post-verdict, as we fans watch Mr. Depp continue to pursue happiness and excellence–this time from the British concert stage as he kicks it with a dear friend and sings his heart out? (I hear they’re about to drop an album, by the way.)
But I digress.
The post offers that the ending of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is already so perfect, it “negates the need for Pirates 6 to wrap up [Depp’s] arc,” though the actor admittedly had different plans for a Captain Jack Sparrow wrap-up.
In the final scene, there are less than three minutes about which this writer intends to opine here, but in those fewer-than-180 seconds, so many things take place in both the storyline and in the realm of meaningful symbolism–as we watch it now, post-trial.
So much is there, in fact, that while Disney was wrong to cut ties with Depp before due process of law had its place and he was found guilty of the egregious acts of which Ms. Heard accused him (which, by the way, did not happen), I almost wonder if having Depp step back into the franchise is necessary. I even wonder if it might sully the brilliance that’s already there in the final moments of Pirates 5.
In those moments, the infamous Black Pearl is rightfully handed back to Captain Jack Sparrow. As the scene begins, it is announced, “Make way! Cap’n Jack Sparrow on deck!”
“Indeed,” the confident Sparrow replies.
As Captain Jack makes his way through the members of the Black Pearl crew, he has incidental exchanges with the crew, saying “Thank you,” “Thank you,” “Coming through,” “I remember you,” and “Thank you” again, as each member of his scurvy crew tips his hat at the rightful Captain of the Black Pearl.
Those seconds alone are reminiscent of Depp’s daily arrival to, and departure from, the Fairfax County Virginia Courthouse against a backdrop of hundreds upon hundreds of fans who gathered, just for the chance to catch a glimpse of their revered Depp every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday throughout the trial.
As Sparrow climbs the creaky wooden stairs of the massive pirate ship, his crew calls out, “The ship is yours, Cap’n,” and as he reaches to take the helm of the ship, a look of peace, of accomplishment, and of weariness worth it, infuses itself into his countenance.
And just at that moment in the film, the musical score reaches an emotional crescendo, just before the tiny monkey appears to hand Sparrow his old broken compass, and it’s almost as if Depp had been afforded the chance to re-film the scene post-trial. (And bonus points: the compass is working again, as if to symbolize Depp regaining his direction in his post-verdict life.)
“What’s our heading, Cap’n?” his crewmember calls out to him.
“We shall follow the stars,” Captain Jack replies, with a confidence he had seemingly lost until now. “I have a rendezvous beyond my beloved horizon.”
The score becomes bolder, and the final visage is one of Captain Jack and his crew sailing off into the sunset aboard the–now almost eerily magnificent–Black Pearl.
Even Captain Jack’s words about his “beloved horizon” at the end of Pirates 5 seem to bring the franchise full circle. In the first installment of the film franchise in 2003, Curse of the Black Pearl, Depp has a line that reads, “bring me that horizon,” and in his (so far) final part in the franchise, Sparrow says, “I have a rendezvous beyond my beloved horizon.”
Was he settling when he wanted only the horizon and nothing beyond it? And does he now realize there’s something more beyond that horizon that’s worth setting out toward? And in his personal life now, does he realize that he had settled for a partner that was cold and abusive toward him? And does he now realize that he doesn’t have to subject himself to abuse from another?
Hopefully that’s the case.
It cannot be overstated that Disney committed an egregious act against Depp in releasing him before he was deemed guilty of the allegations against him. Sometimes, though, there’s a sweetness in not having “the last word,” as it were. Disney has yet to make any formal announcement about plans to reinstate Johnny Depp in the Pirates franchise, and according to his testimony on the stand, he wouldn’t return to them–not even for “$300 million and 1 million alpacas.”
But this writer will go so far as to say that if the franchise continues–and without Depp–it will never see the success it has enjoyed and afforded Disney since 2003. Disney wasn’t overly thrilled about the franchise before the release of its first film, but they must have known that if anyone could resurrect an old pirate story and make it something worth telling and worth hearing, Johnny Depp could.
And he did more than that.
In addition to being the reason for the franchise’s growth into a nearly $5 billion enterprise, Johnny Depp literally became another version of himself in the person of Captain Jack Sparrow, and without Sparrow–and only Sparrow played by Depp–the franchise is nothing more than another succession of pirate movies with scripts that use words like scurvy, hoist, sail, and buccaneer far too often.
There’s really no story to Pirates of the Caribbean without the Depp-inspired Captain Jack Sparrow, and the puffed-up pride Disney execs undoubtedly possess–the pride that keeps them from issuing a public apology, mending broken pathways, and at least offering Depp another take of Pirates–or a different project altogether–is probably more egregious than their decision to disown him at the onset of Heard’s vicious allegations.
And it’s ugly.
But that ending–not ugly at all. It’s a reminder to Disney execs that the franchise will never be better than when Depp played Sparrow. It’ll never really be Pirates again. Try as they may to perseverate the franchise sans Depp, Disney will be running a fool’s errand.
Because after all, Depp’s off to something beyond his beloved horizon. A very fitting and deserving journey lies ahead of him now, and that is the perfect ending, indeed.