5.5 out of 10
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review:
Five years after the events of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Will Tuner’s son Henry is on a quest to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman. He has educated himself on every supernatural myth of the high seas and he believes he has found the key to saving him. The Trident of Neptune has the power to break every curse on the seas, but Henry needs one man to help him find it – Captain Jack Sparrow.
But during Henry’s travels to find Sparrow, he runs across another ghostly curse. Captain Salazar and his crew ran afoul of Jack Sparrow many years ago and have been living in torment as ghosts ever since. They too seek the drunken pirate, but for revenge rather than salvation. Salazar spares Henry’s life after a vicious attack on a British ship and sends him away with a message – he’s coming for Jack.
In the meantime, Captain Jack Sparrow has hit rock bottom. He can’t steal any loot, his legend has faded, he no longer has a respectable ship, and his crew is ready to mutiny. But when he crosses paths with Henry Turner and a young woman accused of being a witch, his fortunes again change – but for better or worse?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content.
One of the most notable things about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the visual effects. I happened to see it in IMAX 3D and it was quite impressive. Captain Salazar’s eerie underwater effect is enhanced by the 3D as his hair floats around and bits of seared flesh float by. When zombie sharks jump at Jack and Henry, they come out of the screen at you. And in the big finale, which I won’t spoil here, the 3D enhances the setting as well as the peril that the characters are in. If you have a chance to see it in this format and you like 3D movies, you’ll enjoy how the effect is used here.
I was also impressed with the action scenes in the film. They were well choreographed and suited Sparrow’s comedic character. You could easily switch the characters with the Coyote and Roadrunner and they’d be at home in the action. A fun chase opens the film as Sparrow and his band of misfits rather ineptly try to rob a bank. Later in the film, the aforementioned zombie sharks pursue Jack and Henry. It ends up being one of the more memorable action scenes in the series. Then there’s the big finale which makes full use of the ocean setting. I won’t elaborate, but it’s the moment you’ll remember Dead Men Tell No Tales for.
Among the cast, the main standout is Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar. Combining his intimidating presence with the cool visual effects makes a great villain. And when you hear his backstory as a pirate hunter, he becomes somewhat sympathetic. He’s essentially a terrorist hunter. It’s hard not to root for him, but among the variety of Pirates villains, he delivers a noteworthy performance.
While much of this film is unmemorable and blends together with the other Pirates sequels, this movie does resolve one storyline that has been lingering since the first film. It’s emotional and ends this story on a note that may make you forget the mediocrity of the rest of the film. Along those lines, be sure to stay through the credits for a bonus scene.
What Didn’t Work:
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has a number of problems. First and foremost is Jack Sparrow himself. He’s simply not likable here. He’s more drunk than usual, more surly than usual, and generally less interesting. It’s the same routine for a fifth film and there’s little to no expansion on the character. When the second Pirates movie came along, it was like, “Great! Captain Jack Sparrow is back!” When he appears on the screen for the first time here, it’s like, “Yawn. OK, here we go again.” In the first film, he was fun because he was the underdog, he craved respect but never got it, and underneath the exterior he had a heart of gold. Here he’s just cocky, incompetent, and you question if there’s anything redeeming about him. The appeal of his character is waning and they made no effort to breathe new life into him.
Then there’s Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner. While he’s a handsome young man, he lacks any personality. As he deals with Sparrow, you want him to be very angry with him, very happy about him, or at his wits end with him. Instead, almost every reaction from Henry is middle of the road. He’s simply a dull character.
Kaya Scodelario had a lot of potential as Carina Smyth, yet she too is a wasted character. Carina is a woman of science – a fact that is literally beaten over the heads of the audience. She’s a strong, intelligent, independent woman. We get it. But when she’s thrown in with Barbossa and the other pirates, so many great character opportunities are wasted. She’s smart. They’re stupid. She’s civilized. They’re barbarians. She’s rational. They’re emotional. They could have created so many more character conflicts than they did, so I felt she was a great opportunity that was wasted.
There are pacing issues with the story as well. I have to admit that there are long stretches of the film that are quite boring. You may yawn, put your head back, and fall asleep until the next action scene. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that it takes the characters almost a full hour to even start their journey to find the MacGuffin – Neptune’s Trident. Only then does it pick up speed again.
On a final note, there’s a weird out-of-nowhere cameo by Paul McCartney as Jack Sparrow’s uncle. It serves little purpose other than to amuse Depp and crew.
The Bottom Line:
Is it worth checking out Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales over the holiday weekend? Yes, especially in IMAX 3D. But should you expect much? Nope. It’s not the worst of the Pirates sequels, but it’s not anywhere near as good as the first film either.