Released: May 2017
Director/s: Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg
Run Time: 129 Minutes
Johnny Depp: Captain Jack Sparrow
Javier Bardem: Captain Salazar
Brenton Thwaites: Henry Turner
Geoffrey Rush: Captain Barbossa
Kaya Scodelario: Carina Smyth
Kevin McNally: Gibbs
David Wenham: Scarfield
Over the decades we’ve seen a lot of pirate movies come and go. We’ve had great ones like Treasure Island and bad ones like Cutthroat Island. 14 years ago, Disney entered the waters upon which pirates have sailed. 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was a smash hit with audiences world-wide. Based on the ride of the same name, the film featured an all-star cast which included Johnny Depp as the intrepid, yet drunk, Captain Jack Sparrow. While not necessarily an original film by an stretch, it was extremely well-made with interesting characters and a story that you could sink your teeth into. It also featured some of the most spectacular action sequences at the time. Curse of the Black Pearl remains one of my favorite movies of all time. It was so successful that it became a trilogy at one point, continuing with Dead Man’s Chest and concluding with At World’s End. While those two films were not as good, they were still very entertaining and visually spectacular. Sadly, On Stranger Tides, the fourth film in the series, proved that the franchise was on a downward spiral. So, how does Dead Men Tell No Tales fare?
As the film opens, we see a young Henry Turner tie himself to a net full of rocks and hurls himself from a rowboat. He sinks all the way to the Flying Dutchman, where his father, Will Turner, has remained for over a decade. It seems that Will Turner has been cursed to sail the seas as the captain of the Dutchman, while young Henry seeks to find a way to break that curse. 9 years later, Henry Turner is a sailor on a British ship that is trailing a pirate ship when they come across a mysterious cave. After the ship accidentally enters the cave, they awaken a ghostly crew of former pirate hunters led by Captain Salazar. Turner is left alive as he is to tell Jack Sparrow that Salazar is coming for him. Right off the bat, there are already a number of problems with the story. For one, the last we saw of Will Turner was in At World’s End, when he became the captain of the Flying Dutchman. When he became the captain of the ship, the physical issues with the crew disappeared as the ship had found a purpose again. That purpose being to ferry souls to the other side. So, Will Turner was not deformed as he was doing his job. So, why was he deformed here? There’s a lot of inconsistencies like that here and there that really stand out. Also, is it really difficult to have a Pirates of the Caribbean film without the supernatural? As bad as Cutthroat Island was, it was a simply treasure hunt and heist movie. Sadly, Dead Men is simply another yarn to try and keep poor Jack Sparrow out of trouble.
The writing is one of the biggest issues I have with this movie. As I said before, there’s a lot of inconsistencies that just don’t make any sense. For example: Sparrow’s compass? Apparently that thing has feelings and will get you into trouble if you betray it by giving it away. Here’s the problem, though. Jack gave it away a number of times over the past several movies, so what changed? It’s never explained. Also, for a guy that constantly says that “dead men tell no tales,” Salazar just doesn’t seem to shut up. There’s a lot of stuff here that just seems really half-baked. It’s like the directors never even saw the previous films. It seems to me that the people behind Pirates of the Caribbean are running out of ideas. The dialogue isn’t even as sharp or witty as the previous movies.
Let’s talk about the acting. It’s widely known that Johnny Depp is a huge fan of his character, Jack Sparrow. It’s evident that he’s having a lot of fun. It’s usually fun to watch him, but with Pirates 5, he comes across as annoying. It’s not a good thing when the lead character of your movie is one of its weakest points. He was never this irritating in On Stranger Tides. I don’t necessarily think that it’s a fault of Depp’s, but the way the character is written in this movie makes him very unlikable. Brenton Thwaites is fine as Henry, while Kaya Scodelario is fantastic as Carina. Geoffrey Rush is always fun to watch as Barbossa. But it’s far more entertaining when he was going up against Jack Sparrow. Javier Bardem is always amazing in whatever he does. He’s always made a great villain. While his character is not very well written, Bardem sells it, through and through. The rest of the cast is fine. David Wenham plays a secondary villain of British commander Scarfield.
If you’re coming to Pirates 5 for the action…well….it’s not that impressive. The first three movies had amazing action that included incredible fight choreography which was entwined with visual effects. It worked very well with a sense of humor. Here? The action is…bland. There is nothing here that people will remember after a day or two. The first film had that awesome final battle with Barbossa and Sparrow, which was nothing short of epic. Dead Man’s Chest had Norrington, Will Turner and Sparrow fighting inside a water wheel for the Dead Man’s Chest. At World’s End had a truly climactic battle scene with the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl in the middle of giant whirlpool. That was fucking awesome. Pirates 5 has nothing like that whatsoever. That being said, the action here isn’t awful, as it offers plenty of explosions and some pretty terrific CGI. That’s generally about it, though.
Here’s the funny thing: I knew going in that Pirates 5 was not necessarily going to be that good, and for the most part, I was entertained. It’s not going to win awards or break records, but it is dumb sea-faring fun. At just a hair over two hours long, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. So, that’s a good thing. I have to be honest here. This movie was still a mess and when you stack it up against the first four, it’s nowhere near as good. It seems like it may be time for the whole Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to be laid to rest. It’s obvious the series has run out of steam. So…what is my recommendation? It’s hard to say, with a movie like this. On the one hand, you have another movie about pirates, which is always a good thing, but on the other, it’s nowhere near as good as other movies that feature pirates. This is also not Johnny Depp’s best work as Captain Jack Sparrow. I’m sorry, he’s one of the weaker spots of the film. If you can catch it a local sticky-shoe theater, then by all means, check it out. For everybody else, though, wait until DVD/Blu-Ray.
Final Score: 7/10.