When the allegedly “final” installment in your needlessly convoluted film franchise (based on a theme park ride) falls $39 million short of $1 billion worldwide, you’re going to think long and hard about prolonging the adventure – even if the general consensus holds that said blockbuster was overlong, dreary and an unsatisfying wrap-up of the seventy-two plot threads introduced in the second movie.

Audience satisfaction be damned, Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer have every reason to press forward with a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie; after all, if audiences were so lukewarm on the finale, how come they bought the shit out of the DVD?  So it’s your fault, thoughtless consumer, that Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush might have to squander their considerable talents on yet another one of these bloated and joyless f/x extravaganzas.  And it would likely be just those two because, as we’ve heard numerous times since the release of At World’s End, the plan would be to jettison Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann in order to train the narrative focus exclusively on Jack Sparrow and Barbossa as they search for the Fountain of Youth. 

While this would address the issue of excess story, there could be another, bigger complication: finding a new director.  As MTV’s Multiplayer Blog reports, Verbinski has no interest in hitting the high seas without a finished screenplay again.  Quoth the Gore, “The process of having release dates and no script is not something I’m dying to go through again. I would have to pull the gun out of my mouth [first].”

Though Verbinski also says he looks forward to reading the script for Pirates 4, the chances of such a film entering production with an honest-to-Mamet finished screenplay ain’t that great.  For a variety of reasons, scripts on big budget summer tentpoles are almost always fluid; this is what happens when you’re slapping together product instead of crafting a film.  Automatons like Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio never lack for uninspired fixes to their mechanical plotting.

I can’t blame Verbinski for being reticent to subject himself to this nonsense again.  There was a time when I thought Verbinski might develop into an interesting filmmaker (The Mexican and The Ring both showed a great deal of promise); I’d like to see him pull back and try to be an artist again – even if he stumbles with another The Weather Man (an interesting failure, if nothing else). 

But when turn up at his house with three truckloads of cash, I’ve a feeling Verbinski might forgive and forget and taste the Pirates pain yet again.