Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales shows that while this series was about to walk the plank, that it might just have some life left in it.
Directors: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg/2017
Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean character, Capt. Jack Sparrow, we found out in an earlier sequel, is the son of a pirate portrayed by Keith Richards. Part of this was a tribute to how Depp originally conceived his character’s mannerisms and love of rum. By this 5th film, however, art is starting to imitate life, and Capt. Sparrow has fully embraced his inner Rolling Stone family member, spending much of the film slurring and stumbling his way through whatever mayhem commences. Fortunately, the rest of the film is better than Depp’s lackluster performance. Overall, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales brings back the fun of the original….at least in part. That makes it better than the last 2 films for sure.
Overall, Dead Men Tell No Tales draws in some of the fun that we remember from the original couple of films in the series, and tries to shed some of the baggage from the last two installments.
This 5th installment begins with the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley), named Henry, as a younger lad who has found a way to locate his father who was cursed to being the captain of the Flying Dutchman ship that sails below the sea for 10 years before he is allowed 1 day on land to see his family. Upon finding his father, he swears he will break the curse. Fast forward to when Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is in his early 20’s and he is apart of a British vessel who is seeking out pirates. Henry is also seeking out a pirate, none other than Capt. Jack Sparrow, who will help him get the map that leads to the legendary Trident of Poseidon, which will help break the curse on his father.
When the British vessel ignores Henry, who claims to know all of the myths and legends of the sea, to not enter through a deadly rock formation, they enter the realm of another curse where Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his men lie in wait in their ghost ship, seeking revenge on the one who put them there to die, yet remain in ghost-like state: also Capt. Jack Sparrow. They leave Henry as the only survivor and tell him to go and find Capt. Sparrow whose famed compass could lead to their release from that prison to sail the high seas again and enact their revenge.
When we finally catch up to Jack, he is with some of his old crew like Gibbs (Kevin McNally) and Marty (Martin Klebba), doing the same old same old. Some of their antics such as robbing a bank provide a lot of fun. While they are robbing a bank, a young science minded woman named Carina Smyth (Kara Scodelario), who has been accused of being a witch, has escaped her prison and eventually will cross paths with Capt. Sparrow, and Henry who makes his way to the island after surviving Capt. Salazar. She will be the key to finding the map Henry seeks.
Returning to the fold is also Geoffrey Rush as Capt. Barbosa, the original nemesis to Depp’s Capt. Sparrow. This time we find that he has been getting quite rich ruling the high seas with the Black Pearl reduced to a small ship inside a bottle in a previous entry. When he finds out that Salazar has escaped and is killing all pirates, he finds himself willing to sell out Sparrow to save his interests.
This film is being helmed by two Norwegian directors who are known for Kon-Tiki. They are able to harken back to the some of the fun of the original at times, especially when the original cast is back on board. During these times the old chemistry kicks in, and we begin to remind ourselves why we like this silly film series that was originally based on a ride at Disney World, instead of anguishing over how bogged down and un-fun some of the sequels have been. Their pacing, though at times, threatens to bog down the whole affair, though fortunately, they kick it back into high gear before it gets too tedious. Depp, as I said is a mess, although he has a great scene strapped to a guillotine. This film has a lot of character development for Capt. Barbosa, and even for both Henry and Carina, but curiously Depp’s character doesn’t seem to be growing through any of these adventures. He just seems trapped in time, which is a pretty precipitous drop considering his portrayal of Capt. Jack Sparrow earned him an Academy Award nomination for 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.
Overall, Dead Men Tell No Tales draws in some of the fun that we remember from the original couple of films in the series, and tries to shed some of the baggage from the last 2 installments. Briefly, we get a chance to see the reemergence of Keira Knightley into the series, along with an after-credit scene that sets up the already announced Part 6, which could see Bloom and Knightley back in the thick of things, which would be a welcomed reprise from the deadwood of this series in their absence. Henry and Carina are worthy additions, but let’s face it, this only works if we have the original cast back full-time, and maybe an extra appearance by Paul McCartney’s pirate character, who provided some good comedy relief.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales shows that while this series was about to walk the plank, that it might just have some life left in it. And if it ain’t dead, then there are still more tales to tell.