The Good: Good performances, Kaya Scodelario is good, Effects are generally good
The Bad: Dull plot, Low on character development, Most of the humor falls flat, Thinly developed villain
The Basics: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is about what one expects from the franchise at this point, a tired callback to the prior entertaining films.
I had no drive to see Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. In fact, Johnny Depp is off the list, much like Mel Gibson, at this point, so I would have been content to never see the latest Pirates Of The Caribbean film. But, the cheapskate in me won out and when Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was part of a double feature locally, I justified watching Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales as a freebie while paying for the other film. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales generally tries to ignore Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (reviewed here!) and hearken back to Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End (reviewed here!) instead. As such, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is essentially the story of Henry Turner, Will Turner's son.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is, as one might expect, a film filled with chases and the fairly unrelenting nature of the pace is contrasted occasionally by attempts at humor and flashbacks filled with exposition. But, at its core, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a fantasy film that is Henry Turner's quest to rescue his father, played off the undead Captain Salazar hunting Jack Sparrow. The macguffin in this particular film is Poseidon's Trident and the quest for that is the excuse to have a new pirate chasing Jack Sparrow while Henry attempts to do his own thing.
As a child, Henry Turner rows out to sea and manages to locate the Flying Dutchman, home of his father, Will. Will urges Henry to give up his quest to rescue him, but advises him to enlist Jack Sparrow to help him. Nine years later, Henry is aboard a ship that is attacked by the undead Spanish Captain Salazar. Salazar asks Henry to deliver Sparrow a message, but Henry - as the lone survivor of the attack, accused of insubordination - is arrested by the British and taken to St. Martin. Jack Sparrow, as it happens, is on St. Martin, attempting to rob a bank by literally stealing the bank. Henry manages to slip away from his captors to the British jail, where he finds Carina Smyth. Carina is a scientist who is following her father's journal to a map that no man can read that will lead to Poseidon's Trident. Henry, Carina, and Sparrow escape execution and head for the seas on a quest to find the Trident Of Poseidon, which Henry believes will allow him to free Will from the Flying Dutchman because it will imbue Jack Sparrow with complete control over the seas.
With Jack Sparrow having given away his compass, Salazar and his ship are able to surface and they begin slaughtering various pirates, most of which are part of Barbossa's new fleet. When Salazar attacks Barbosa's main ship, Barbosa negotiates for his life. He begins a hunt for Jack Sparrow to save his own life (and in the hopes of getting his beloved ship, the Black Pearl, back from Sparrow). With Salazar hunting them, Barbosa and Sparrow search for the Trident Of Poseidon.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales feels like it is a pitch for future Pirates Of The Caribbean theme park rides the way it includes so many chase scenes. There's the stealing of the bank, the pirates and undead sharks on the island and, of course, the rescue of Sparrow, Smyth and Henry Turner; much of the movie feels like exactly what it is, a prolonged series of chases, as opposed to the protagonists actually hunting something.
The character relationships in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales suggest that Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides did not resonate as strongly with fans of the franchise. The first three Pirates Of The Caribbean films featured Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann and while Sparrow flirted with Swann, the movies kept putting Turner and Swann together as they built a romantic relationship. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales tries to replicate that chemistry by having Henry Turner and Carina Smyth at the start of their relationship, butting heads but clearly headed in the direction of a relationship. The film is complicated by putting Barbosa into Smyth's backstory, but the bulk of the film is Henry and Carina's story.
The irony here is twofold; for a franchise built upon Johnny Depp's charisma, celebrity and sense of comic timing, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales avoids keeping the focus on Depp's Captain Sparrow for too long. Second, for all the press for Salazar as the villain, his appearance in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales acts as more of a secondary complication than the primary focus of the film. Salazar acts as a medium by which the film can present a bonanza of special effects.
To be fair, when it is lit in a way that the effects can actually be seen and appreciated, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales looks amazing. The effects - while not linked to any sensible sense of physics - are visually impressive for their level of detail and creepiness.
The real winner in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is Kaya Scodelario. Scodelario follows Keira Knightly as a strong female character in the Pirates franchise who might appear at moments to be a damsel in distress, but is actually highly motivated and capable. Scodelario's Smyth is a scientist who is self-actualized and self-motivated, which allows her to play as headstrong, smart, articulate and fun for the bulk of Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Brenton Thwaites is well-cast as Will Turner's son, as he looks a lot like a young Orlando Bloom. Thwaites and Scodelario play off one another well and make Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales watchable, if not particularly good.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales moves to make Captain Sparrow the king of the seas, but it is other characters in the film who are resourceful and rise to heroic heights. As a result, odds are pretty good that Depp's Sparrow will easily be trumped by Amber Heard as the ruler of the seas when Justice League is released later this year. As it stands, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a humorless continuation of the franchise where Jack Sparrow is minimized to lead to a potential continuation of the franchise that allows other characters to grow and take over when Depp no longer has the box office appeal the franchise needs to survive.
For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Volume 2
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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