Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is an improvement over On Stranger Tides, course-correcting the aging franchise by introducing fresh talent, but it's still a far cry from the original trilogy.
Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg‘s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales manages to be the 4th worst Pirates installment yet, edging out On Stranger Tides, which is now the worst film of the bunch, but not by much. Johnny Depp continues to phone it in as the drunken idiot Jack Sparrow, while Javier Bardem gives the series yet another forgettable villain. Dead Men Tell No Tales consists of no real tales worth telling.
Will Turner’s son Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is on a quest, to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchmen. He teams up with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a young lady attempting to decipher a treasure map left behind by her father.
Together, the two team up with Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), in hopes of finding the trident of Poseidon and avoiding death by the cursed and undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Also, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) appears because well, it’s Barbossa and you can’t have a Pirates movie without him.
The motives behind this latest Pirates film seem unclear with the loosely-strung plot that makes not a lick of sense as Jack Sparrow and his trusty team of pirates team up with a pair of new-comers as they once again try to discover a treasure that simply can’t be found.
Spoilers: they find it and all is right in the world. Are you surprised?
When it was announced that directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg were tackling Dead Men Tell No Tales, I briefly thought that maybe Disney honestly wanted to try and give us another good Pirates film. On Stranger Tides suffered from director Gore Verbinski stepping away after the first three and suddenly the action-packed high-seas adventure films with a likable and idiotic lead quickly became only about the now unlikable and idiotic lead.
I’m talking about Johnny Depp‘s Captain Jack Sparrow. I won’t deny that Depp has created one of his most memorable characters in Jack Sparrow and I won’t claim to not be amused by his ramblings and short-humor. But I will say that the Pirates films operate best when Sparrow is not the main focus for the majority of the running time.
The core trilogy managed to keep Jack in the loop, but essentially work around him as other characters took the stage and the plot thickened. On Stranger Tides unwisely focused entirely on Jack and the result was the slowest and most boring Pirates film yet.
Dead Men Tell No Tales course-corrects slightly, bringing in Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario as fresh new characters that are essentially driving Jack to his destiny. It also brings in Javier Bardem as an unfortunately lame villain that knocks out Blackbeard, but doesn’t come close to Bill Nighy‘s Davy Jones.
Geoffrey Rush‘s Barbossa is back in pirate garb this time and doesn’t really seem all that necessary until a predictable third act reveal gives us a bit more clarity on his purpose in the film.
The rest of Dead Men Tell No Tales is a trademark blend of comedy and action. There are no elaborate set pieces or extremely memorable lines of dialogue that will have you lining up for a second viewing with your friends and family. But there is a sense of craftsmanship to the presentation that must be credited to the film’s directors.
Dead Men Tell No Tales does a better job mixing the characters into the story and giving us a film that at least feels somewhat connected to the original three films. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley even pop up for a quick second to remind us of the trilogy’s existence, but they don’t stick around.
Pirates fans will enjoy Dead Men Tell No Tales, because it is significantly better than On Stranger Tides, but it never does shake the feeling of not really needing to exist. The original trilogy still holds up and provides more action and spectacle than either of the two later films.
Perhaps it’s about time for Disney to either retire the character or pursue the talents involved in the original trilogy? Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t really tell anything new or exciting, but it does feature zombie-like sharks and birds. That has to count for something, right?