Dead men tell better tales.
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is an indication of just how powerful of an influence Disney has on our society. Disney turned one of the worst rides at Disneyland into arguably the biggest movie franchise of all time. Pirates of the Caribbean’s first three entries shattered box office records, although most would argue the series started experiencing diminished returns during that time. All would agree the fourth entry, On Stranger Tides, was unnecessary save for seeing Penelope Cruz in a pirate outfit, and that the ending left no reason for there to be a fifth entry. Six years later, however, captain Jack Sparrow and the pirates have returned for another adventure on the Caribbean.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales introduces Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), attempting to break the curse that bounds his father to remain the captain of the Flying Dutchman. His only hope is to obtain the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that not only breaks all of the curses of the seas, but allows one to rule them as well. To obtain the trident, he enlists the help of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and a feisty female astronomer accused of witch-craft Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) to accompany him on his quest. However, trouble awaits them on the deadly waters of the sea, as Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who has sworn to rid the seas of pirates, seeks revenge against the man who killed him, Jack Sparrow.
If we’re being honest, the character arch-types of Dead Man Tell No Tales mirror the ones of The Curse of the Black Pearl. Yes, he is the son of Will Turner after all, but the humble beginnings of Henry nearly match the ones of Will. As a woman of science, Carina is just as doubtful of the myths of the seas just like Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann as well. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the young actors Thwaites and Scodelario are improvements over the barely resonating younger cast in On Stranger Tides. While the romantic subplot between the two is cliche’, there’s no doubt the two have sizzling chemistry on screen.
And of course, Jack Sparrow is the same carefree swashbuckling drunkard who first graced the screen nearly 14 years ago. We go see these movies for Depp’s portrayal of the legendary pirate. When he isn’t mumbling his way through scenes, we’re reminded of just how great of a character Sparrow is and why the Academy nominated Depp for his portrayal of Sparrow back in the 2004 Academy Awards. The rest of Jack’s rag-tag crew also reappears, and it’s Kevin McNally’s Joshamee Gibbs who remains as grounded and honest as ever, a welcome aspect of these films. Veteran Actor Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Hector Barbossa as well, and given the material he’s given, he comes across as a more heartfelt character than we’ve seen him be in the previous films.
Unfortunately, it’s Bardem’s Salazar who keeps the curse of lackluster villains alive for the series. His whole goal in life to rid the seas of pirates is fascinating, but the explanation of why he is doing so is merely glossed over instead of deeply explored, robbing the audience of any sort of connection to the character other than “oh hey it’s the dead bad guy.” It’s a shame, because then the audience might have actually been conflicted over who to root for had that dynamic been examined further.
The one aspect of the series that appears to grow larger in scale with each entry is the action. For starters, dead sharks as dangerous weapons should have been introduced to the series a long time ago, as they provide for one of the most thrilling action sequences the series has seen. Pirates robbing banks is always a hardy good time to experience as well, after all they are pirates, it’s what they do. And the final sequence, as implausible as it is, is something to behold, even though it almost ruins the entire movie. If you want the full scale of the action, see the movie in IMAX 3-D as I did, you won’t regret it.
Lastly, we get more closure than we did in At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. While it shouldn’t be characterized as leaving the series on a high note should they choose to do so (*apparently this film is supposed to be the first of a new trilogy of Pirates of the Caribbean films*), it should be characterized as less of a low one than the ones we got from At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. While there are still many flaws present that have consistently plagued the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales sails on better tides than most of the previous sequels. However, Jack Sparrow and company should sail on this tide into retirement, as it’s evident there are no more tales to tell after the dead have told the most competent tale since Dead Man’s Chest.
Rating: 2.5/4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.