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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales]
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 instead.
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