Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, 2017.
Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg
Starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, Orlando Bloom, Stephen Graham, David Wenham, Keira Knightley, Adam Brown, and Paul McCartney.
Captain Jack Sparrow is pursued by an old nemesis, Armando Salazar, who along with his Spanish Navy ghost crew has escaped from the Devil’s Triangle and is determined to kill every pirate at sea. Jack, aided by his new allies Henry and Carina, must seek the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas, in order to defeat Salazar.
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp once again reprising one of his most quirky and iconic roles) is back with his special compass directing him to whatever he wants most in life, which after watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales should be a better script. There’s still a great degree of theme park sized adventure to be found at sea, but it comes packaged with a disjointed narrative introducing a plethora of new characters while bringing back a number of heroes and villains from past entries, cramming everything into “THE FINAL ADVENTURE” which we all know is a bit of marketing BS from Disney. I doubt it will even be Johnny Depp’s last time playing the womanizing, swashbuckling drunkard.
Before getting into how spectacular the action sequences truly are (and trust me, they save the blockbuster from plundering to the bottom of the ocean), it must be said that Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg have no idea whose story the movie should actually belong to, starting out as Henry Turner’s (Brenton Thwaites) quest to free his cursed father at sea Will Turner (Orlando Bloom in a glorified cameo along with Keira Knightley as his partner Elizabeth Swann) to locate the Trident of Poseidon subsequently lifting that curse, and while the ultimate goal of the movie for all characters is finding said artifact for different reasons, by the end it’s hard to fault the audience if they have forgotten all about that plot element and are just living in the moment of Jack Sparrow and company battling an army of decomposing, undead ghost pirates led by Captain Salazar.
Javier Bardem gets the honor of playing the aforementioned nefarious villain with some interesting motives, and the combination of stunning special effects bringing his disgusting looking ass to life along with his intimidating presence and sinister line delivery make him one of the more memorable foes in the franchise. Furthermore, of all the numerous twists found in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the revelation built around him is the only one that really works and feels believable. The problem is, and this is one of the recurring flaws within the series, is that the writers don’t know when to quit, instead adding more and more unnecessary spur of the moment betrayals and important plot twists that simply just spin the plot into far-fetched lunacy. You’ll need some rum of your own to ease the silliness.
Directing the compass back at Henry Turner, there isn’t much of a character to be found. He nobly wants to save his father, which is a cause we can all get behind (especially because it’s Will Turner), but he’s also a blank slate with no personality. Brenton Thwaites is not to be blamed either, as once again, the script is dealing with too many characters alongside a considerably shorter run time (Pirates of the Caribbean movies typically run two hours twenty minutes and sometimes beyond upwards to three hours) of 129 minutes to give any single character a meaty role. Yes, shorter is better in some cases, and I’m not objectively saying Dead Men Tell No Tales needs to be longer, but there’s just too much going on to make anything specifically stand out.
I’m not even done mentioning new characters by the way, as this entry also introduces an astronomer named Carina (Kaya Scodelario) who is automatically labeled a witch by everyone from townsfolk to pirates. The good news is that she is an intelligent and mentally tough woman (which is always an engaging dynamic for a movie during times where females were often viewed as inferior). The bad news is that she is yet another character that I can’t really say struck me as memorable. There is a late plot twist regarding Carina that is too ridiculous even for this franchise, but furthermore, it seems as if the script is trying too hard to add emotional depth to the narrative. Also, without going too much into detail, Captain Barbosa returns (once again played by Geoffrey Rush) and also has a bit of unfinished business with Jack. The post-credits sequence teases yet another recurring character. There are also characters here that I have no idea what they even added to the plot. Even the cameo from Paul McCartney goes on too long, drifting between going somewhere and flat-out pointless. It’s all as dizzying as whatever Captain Jack is drinking.
The saving grace is that as all these characters converge searching for the Trident of Poseidon, the commitment to the silliness does add to the scale of adventure. The film begins with horses aiding in a bank robbery (and I don’t just mean the vault, but the entire fucking building in a stupendously fun chase sequence filled with catastrophic destruction) and ends with a massive battle at the bottom of the ocean. It’s imaginative stuff that wows in its grandeur and its sweeping soundtrack filled with nostalgic cues and epic new pieces. The cinematography also deserves a mention, as some shots (especially of a humongous undead army storming across an ocean on foot weapons raised in hand) are breathtaking. Even smaller scale ship battles are entertaining. Of course, the superb CGI is once again top-notch and responsible for a lot of this razzle-dazzle.
The franchise is long past its prime, but Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is still a worthy entry that understands why these movies regularly make $1 billion at the box office. Johnny Depp is kooky and winds up in bizarre situations (one so bizarre I can’t believe it actually made the final cut), everyone is sailing after a mythological artifact, characters flip-flop between friend and foe, and the action is out of this ocean. Excuse the terrible play on words there, but it is a great piece of summer blockbuster filmmaking. Once that classic theme starts up during the first major action sequence, you’ll know you spent your money on some fun and adventurous escapism.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★