Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

This ship has officially sunk

Disney Tells Yet Another Tale…

I would consider myself to be an avid fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I really enjoyed the first three, while the fourth one kind of fell flat as it felt more like an “Indiana Jones” movie. I loved experiencing the swashbuckling fun these movies provide and the humorous elements this franchise can bring. Sadly, however, Dead Men Tell No Tales does not bring the same charm and wonder that the films before it did and comes across as uninspired and a little dry.

The new film follows Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the Trident of Poseidon in order to protect himself against the villainous ghost Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a man who Jack has a history with. Jack is joined by Henry (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina (Kaya Scodelarlo) in his quest to retrieve the Trident while Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) handles his own schemes.

Right off the bat, Johnny Depp is still great as Captain Jack Sparrow. He manages to play the character with enough humor and vitality that make audiences love him. However in this installment, it seems as if Depp is just going through the motions and not really bringing anything new to his character. That is not always a bad thing, but he does not have the same levity and cleverness that once earned the character an Oscar nomination in 2003.

The other cast members are fine and are given reasons to be there and propel the plot forward. Thwaites and Scoderlarlo are both individuals who want adventure and to do right by their pasts and see the Trident as the way for them to achieve that. Their mutual goals bring them closer, but the love story that occurs between seems forced instead of a natural flow. Geoffrey Rush is always intriguing as the double crossing pirate Barbossa, and he still brings the same charisma that he has in previous movie. Rush seems to be the only character here who is still having a ton of fun with his character even with newcomer Bardem as the villain.

Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar comes across as menacing and scary but is entirely reduced to a one-dimensional type of villain. His motivations follow an uninspired revenge plot and there are minimal attempts to understand why he is doing what he is doing. His vendetta against Jack is as simple as you can imagine.  The effects for his character look great, and really bring a scary and unsettling feeling to his character. However, he does not evolve into anything more for the audience to care about.

The plot of this movie is fairly straightforward and follows a bit of the same beats as the previous entries. Jack needs X to do Y so that he can defeat an individual he wronged in the past. The familiar plot has worked, but this time the film is poorly paced. Scenes happen mainly just to tell jokes or repeat information that had been previously stated. There is no urgency for these characters in their mission to get the Trident as they really don’t seem to care that a ghost pirate is trying to kill them. There is long periods of time where the characters are just standing around on ships talking to each other about the importance of the trident, or teasing Carina about her love of astronomy instead of more exciting actions scenes of fighting ghost pirates.

The action scenes are pretty well executed and do offer jolts of excitement when they occur. From the opening chase scene, to fighting ghost sharks, to the finale, the action is exhilarating and is one of the reasons why I have loved this franchise. In particular, the final action set piece is one of my favorites for the franchise and brings some real stakes in an otherwise meandering film. Humor is another thing I loved in this franchise, but the jokes do not consistently land. There are some small ones that made me chuckle a little bit, but there was no quotable moment of humor that I took away from this film. The jokes fell flat most of the time and some are reused too many times.

Like I said, the finale is where the film truly gets going. The environment looks beautiful and I was on the edge of my seat to see whether or not these characters will survive their encounters. The spectacle is grand and brings some cool effects to marvel at. However,  the reiterated expositional scenes and flat humor leading up to it is probably what made the finale that much better to me considering the dullness that came before it.

I may be coming across as a bit harsh, but I did find enjoyment in this movie. It is better than On Stranger Tides but does not reach the heights of the original trilogy. This movie feels more like a cash grab for Disney and the actors, which is a shame because they have made some great Pirates movies. This is the newest one in 6 years, I was hoping they would go a little bit extra with this one.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is a fine addition to the Pirates franchise. Johnny Depp brings the same performance he has since 2003 yet it feels tired for him at this point. The plot is a bit generic yet there is still enjoyment to be had in seeing these pirates make fools of themselves and achieve their goal. Nothing really ties this movie to the other ones so newcomers to the series are definitely welcome. If you are an avid Pirates fan, you will find some enjoyment in this film but even then, there is no new ground that is being covered in the epic tales of Captain Jack Sparrow.

(D+) Okay

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