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May 26 17 9:36 PM
May 28 17 12:58 PM
May 28, 2017
Josh Spiegel (Warning: May contain spoilers if you haven't seen the movie yet.)
Nick Fury may have invented the Avengers, but he didn't invent teasing a sequel after a movie ends.
The summer movie season kicked off with the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
While the James Gunn film is largely different from the traditional MCU
entry, it followed in line with one of Marvel’s most common tropes:
post-credits scenes, of which there were five this time around. A few
were funny sight gags, and others teased where the series might go in
future entries. Post-credits scenes are fairly synonymous with Marvel,
but this weekend heralds the return of a franchise that truly began the
post-credits wave in modern films: Pirates of the Caribbean.
Five years before Iron Man's Nick Fury stepped out of the shadows to invite Tony Stark into the Avengers Initiative, there was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,
the wild and surprising Gore Verbinski swashbuckler that turned Johnny
Depp into an A-list movie star. In 2003, even the shortest scene being
hidden after all of a movie’s end credits wasn’t terribly common; some
prior examples are comedies with a handful of outtakes or other jokes
throughout the end credits, priming the audience to expect something
after the final credit is shown. (Think of the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with Matthew Broderick exhorting the audience to go home, but only after the protracted gag with Jeffrey Jones’ principal sitting at the back of a school bus.)
In the summer of 2003, there were much fewer comic-book
movies, and even fewer examples of superhero films teasing what might
come next. Earlier that year, Ben Affleck's Daredevil featured a post-credits scene in which Colin Farrell’s Bullseye reveals he’s still got his deadly aim even when in a full-body cast. But among more successful blockbusters, it wasn’t until the end of the first Pirates of the Caribbean that the notion became more common.
The last scene is fairly straightforward: Jack the monkey,
the pet of the nefarious Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), swims through
a treasure-laden cave, grabbing a cursed gold coin and turning itself
into a walking, screaming skeleton. Dead Man’s Chest, the 2006
sequel, has a winking post-credits gang in place of a cliffhanger: we
see a tribe of cannibals that previously worshiped Captain Jack Sparrow
chase a dog straight out of the theme-park attraction to worship
At World’s End, originally seen as the close of a
trilogy, goes further with its post-credits scene. Will Turner (Orlando
Bloom) returns for a brief moment to dry land to reunite with his wife
Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and his nearly 10-year old son Henry before
he lives out his curse as the captain of the Flying Dutchman. The 2011 entry On Stranger Tides
has something far less substantial after its credits: Penelope Cruz’s
pirate, stranded on a desert island, receives an ominous gift in the
form of a Jack Sparrow voodoo doll, which she can use for her delight.
(Considering that Cruz isn’t in the new film, it’s not surprising that
no voodoo harm comes to Jack.)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
continues the streak of post-credits scenes, though considering the
quality of the movie before those end credits roll, you may be forgiven
for rushing out of the theater. The end is a tease for a potential sixth
film: now that the curse imprisoning Will on the Flying Dutchman
is removed, he’s returned to dry land and dreams that he’s visited by a
hulking figure who may be the ship’s previous captain, Davy Jones. But
the final shot of the scene, where we see a pair of octopus-like suckers
on Will’s bedroom floor, suggests it was no dream, even if it also
suggests that the Dutchman’s curse has...apparently not been fully
lifted by the mythical Trident of Poseidon.
The significance here is obvious: without the post-credits scene, you could argue that Dead Men Tell No Tales (in spite of not being very good) closes the door on the franchise. Jack has regained the Black Pearl
and his crew, Will and Elizabeth have reunited for good, and the adult
Henry (Brenton Thwaites) has a father again as well as a true love of
his own. It might as well end with “The End.” Now, though, depending on
the success of the new film, there may be a sixth story on the way,
regurgitating the Davy Jones character (even though he seemed to be very
dead by the close of At World’s End), and once again uniting Jack with Will and Elizabeth, if not Will and his son.
In 2017, a big-budget blockbuster with a post-credits scene
portending an unexpected future for its lead characters is more standard
than surprising. In that respect, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
isn’t breaking the mold. But whatever else can be said of the fifth
film or its final tag, it’s worth remembering this. Whatever ground the
Marvel movies have broken over the last decade, they didn’t start
Hollywood’s repeated interest in cliffhanger-esque post-credits scenes. Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t following in Marvel’s footsteps; Marvel, in its own way, follows in the footsteps of the first Pirates of the Caribbean.
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