Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – Review


By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Disney, Disney, Disney…if Disney isn’t the modern day Midas, I’m not sure who, or what, is. You look at their recent films – from the Marvel cinematic universe, to the Star Wars franchise, and animated films – and they simply produce cash cows.

Think back to 2003, when a little film titled Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl made its way to theaters. How could a film be made based on an amusement park attraction and be successful? It had failed before with the Eddie Murphy film Haunted Mansion, so what hope did it have? It ended up making $305 million in the United States alone, and a beloved character was born in Jack Sparrow. Now, 14 years later, the fifth installment to the series arrives on high tides with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), is on a mission. After locating his father nine years prior aboard the Flying Dutchmen, he’s found a way to free him from the curse of the seas: Poseidon’s trident. The myth says that he who controls the trident controls the seas and can break the curse. After meeting an astronomer and horologist named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), who has access to the map to find the trident, they now need to find Jack Sparrow to enlist his help. They have other motives, too: to warn him that Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), an undead pirate captain, is coming for him. Unfortunately for Jack, he traded away the compass he’s held so dear for so long for…wait for it…a bottle of rum. Unfortunately, that compass was what kept Salazar locked In the Devil’s Triangle. Now he’s free, giving Jack more incentive to find the trident himself. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is also searching for Jack, to save his own skin, and, as a pirate, wants the trident for himself. So it’s a race to find the trident on an island that doesn’t exist on a map that cannot be read by any man, before Salazar kills them all. Pirates’ life…

While the first three films were all fun in their own right, the fourth was a major let down. The main problem is that it took place on land, away from all that is pirate-y. There was also the fact that Will and Elizabeth were nowhere to be found, and we saw the importance those two characters played in the dynamic of the story and character interactions. And while the characters are back to some degree, there’s a sense of resurgence in this film. The open action sequence with the literal robbery of a bank is plenty of fun to watch, reminding us of the wheel-through-the-jungle scene in the third film. But what helps the film more than anything is the return to the water. Back to what made Pirates so much fun, back to the feeling of the ride so many have experienced. There are also plenty of actions sequences, and the film actually has the shortest run time of the series to date; however, much of the middle exposition feels overly drawn out, almost as if not much is happening. Yet, when you have Captain Jack on the screen, is that so bad?

Speaking of Captain Jack, while Johnny Depp is back in his familiar pirate attire, the act feels worn out. And, to be quite honest, Depp looks like he’s almost going through the motions with the character in a few scenes. He still has a few one-liners here and there, yet it isn’t the Jack Sparrow we came to know and love back in 2003. And, with it being six years since the last film, we expected a fresh emergence for the character. Unfortunately, that isn’t what we received. Geoffrey Rush is always amazing, and he’s given some new background material to play with, displaying a new side to the once-feared Captain Barbossa. Javier Bardem, such a phenomenal actor, is given a character that is very one-dimensional, with few levels or areas of character growth. Not to say his character is poorly played, it’s just that it is written so flat that he becomes unmemorable in the end. Newcomers Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario add some freshness and youth to the series, but, again, it’s nothing overly memorable.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a better film than the fourth installment, and has plenty of fun moments throughout to be sure. There are some great action sequences, funny character interactions and, of course, Jack Sparrow (oh, did I mention we learn how he got the name “Sparrow?”). However, we tend to long for that delight we received when watching the original film, the fun that we had, the freshness of the story, and characters and the laughter from all of the shenanigans. And that’s the thing with sequels: they rarely reach the level of magic from the first installment. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales could be our big blockbuster intro to the summer season, or it could fizzle out after the opening weekend. While it isn’t the best of the series, it’s still fun in its own right.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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