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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 22

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Men Tell No Tales


Starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Angus Barnett, Martin Klebba, Adam Brown, Giles New, Paul McCartney, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.

Screenplay by Jeff Nathanson.

Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 129 minutes. Rated PG-13.

“Ye come seekin’ adventure and salty ol’ pirates, eh? Sure, ye come to the proper place. But keep a weather eye open, mates, and hold on tight…. There be squalls ahead, and Davy Jones waiting for them what don’t obey…. Mark well me words, mateys: dead men tell no tales!”

Back in 2003, there was little reason to believe that a film loosely based upon the beloved Disneyland ride “Pirates of the Caribbean” – from which the above quotes are an intro and a warning from a talking Jolly Roger skull – would find much of an audience.

Surprisingly, the film turned out to be something of a smash hit, a popular and even critical favorite. (Remember, Depp even got a supporting actor Oscar nomination for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow.) It was fun and frisky, had interesting characters and cool special effects.

In the past 14 years, the Disney people have been trying to catch lightning in a bottle again, releasing three more films (now four) to steadily diminishing returns. The first two sequels were sunk by an overly intricate mythology and insanely long run times. Also, the films forgot the fact that Depp’s character worked best as seasoning, more and more Captain Sparrow took over the saga in which he was originally a supporting character.

The fourth Pirates film completely jettisoned the two main characters of the original saga – Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) – and gave in to the Captain Sparrow mutiny. Disney also promised to simplify the mythology – which it did – but the story they told was no great winner.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is now the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and while it was a little bit better than the last two, is there really any reason (other than money) to continue this franchise?

Captain Jack is back to the sidelines, which makes sense, a little Captain Jack goes a long way. The series also continues the simplification of the storyline, which also works. This was the shortest of the films, which is also a positive thing.

They also bring back the co-stars of the original trilogy – Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley – for auld lang syne. However, these roles are barely cameos, Knightley doesn’t even get a line of dialogue.

The main character here turns out to be the son of Swann and Turner, Henry Turner (played by Brendon Thwaites). Henry is determined to save his father from the watery curse that keeps him living below the water on a dead ship, gathering barnacles as he toils through an eternity in Davy Jones’ locker.

Henry is determined to find the trident of Poseidon, the God of the Sea. In searching for it, he runs across one of those renaissance women who never really existed in that time, Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). Carina is as smart as any man, independent, a scientist, plucky, brave, and looks fetching in a petticoat. She also turns out to be the daughter of one of the franchise’s recurring characters, though I will not spoil the surprise.

The two enter a tenuous treaty with Captain Jack to search for the Devil’s triangle and find the trident. As they cross the high seas to get their plunder, they must fight off rival pirates (including Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa), the queen’s government and a ghost ship.

Cue lots of action scenes and cannon fights on the sea. There is also a kinda silly but kinda funny chase scene where a group of pirates rush through a city dragging a large building. And one of the main characters in the saga is killed off.

The one thing the film really did right was hiring Javier Bardem as the ghost pirate. Bardem brings a brute force and chilling anger that is as close to real emotion as this rehashed material gets.

Also, despite the fact that there has been some buzz going around that this will be the final chapter of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga (as has been suggested for the last two films), the filmmakers just can’t help themselves. There is a hint towards yet another potential sequel in a short post-end-credits sequence.

So, again, is there any real reason for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales? Probably not, but it could have been a lot worse. Still, the only movie in the franchise really worth embracing is the original.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: May 26, 2017.


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