Movie Review – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

And neither do dead horses.

But hey, it’s a pirate movie, and how often do we get those nowadays? Given how terrible At World’s End and On Stranger Tides was, I gave it a chance since the villain is a pretty badass actor, and the Pirates franchise have come to symbolize brainless fun, sorta like The Expendables.

Going in with zero expectations, I gotta say the film wasn’t that bad. At the very least it’s a significant improvement over Pirates 3 & 4.

In this film, an undead pirate is unleashed upon the open seas with one goal in mind: killing Jack Sparrow. Yeah, it’s pretty much the same plotline as the first two, but the bad guy has a new ship and crew this time! Best not to think about it too much. This review will consider the good, the bad, and legacy of the Pirates franchise. There will be spoilers.

Aesthetically interesting, hygienically horrifying.

The Good

The best part about this movie is that it’s a pirate movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a fun movie with a solid plot minus one little detail discussed below. As always, PotC dives deep into its setting, creating a convincing world where pirates, dead and alive, terrorize the oceans. Costume, scenery, and dialogue all help to develop this immersive world.

One thing that other moviegoers may not like is how various stories happen all at once throughout the film. There’s Jack losing his reputation and crew, Jack vs. Salazar, Jack vs. Barbossa, Henry trying to save his father, Henry + Carina, Carina + Barbossa, and the pursuit of Poseidon’s Trident. It’s a lot to follow, and so I was surprised at how well these multiple story threads held up, although others may disagree. Unlike Blackbeard, I felt like I knew enough about Salazar’s character and his motivations to believe in him as a threat.

As expected, the soundtrack is amazing. I can’t remember if it was purely orchestral, but it was most definitely epic and contributed to the intensity of every action scene.

The Bad

I still can’t decide whether Henry and Carina belong in the good or bad category. On the one hand, they inject new life into the Pirates world and their performances were well-executed by their respective actors. On the other hand, they simply lack the presence established characters have, from Sparrow to Gibbs to Barbossa and even the monkey. Davy Jones was perhaps the last memorable character to be cast in a Pirates movie.

Speaking of which, Johnny Depp’s performance was sorely lacking in this film. Either he himself is tired of playing the role, or Jack Sparrow has simply become stale to us, the audience, after seeing him so many times without any major character change. Dead Man’s Chest was the last time Sparrow was interesting, as he actually made a moral choice demonstrating character growth. Unfortunately, Dead Men Tell No Tales plays it safe and presents a Sparrow who is still only good at getting in and out of trouble, and being snarky while he’s at it.

There is one plothole that sticks out like a sore thumb: the whole reason Salazar is freed from his magical prison is the fact that Jack gives his compass away. There’s absolutely no reason why this was the case, as the compass played no real part in how Salazar was trapped there in the first place. On top of that, Jack had already, in fact, given the compass away twice before: to both William Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Why wasn’t Salazar unleashed then? Well, the obvious answer is that they hadn’t planned a fifth Pirates movie at the time. Once upon a time this would’ve bothered me a lot, but having accepted that some movies just want you to have a good time, it ain’t as bad as sin, but still bothersome. If the storytellers don’t care, why should we?

The last bad thing about this movie is Barbossa’s death. I don’t mean the fact that it actually happens, but because it felt devoid of meaning and emotion. Barbossa dies sacrificing himself to save his daughter at the end of the movie. The reason it has no emotional impact is because we see very little interaction between Barbossa and Carina throughout the film. There is no significant bond being broken, beyond a superficial father-daughter movie relationship. We never get the sense that they truly cared for one another, not only because Carina didn’t know Barbossa was her dad, but because she never responds or reacts to him emotionally in any way before the death scene. She holds onto her diary as a memento of her father, but never really speaks of any desire to get to know him. Barbossa being a major character, it was a real shame that his death was nothing more than a last-ditch effort at creating a dramatic ending, which falls flat on its face.

What’s the pirate’s favourite letter? You might think it’s “R”, but his first love was the “C”.

End of a Legacy

Hopefully I’m not speaking too soon. I mean, if Star Wars can come back after so long, we can’t really say any movie franchise can ever be truly over, right? Hopefully when the PotC reboot happens in ten five years, they’ll patch things up plotwise and we get a series with a more consistent plot.

As is, the PotC franchise is a series of movies that began as a serious swashbuckling adventure followed up by a pair of ambitious sequels. Art direction, cast performance, and plot were all top-notch (for the most part), but then the movie devolved when Disney wanted more money. Nonetheless, there is no other pirate film franchise that comes close to matching what PotC has accomplished, and although films 3-5 are obvious cash-grabs, it was a fun ride while it lasted. Solidifying Johnny Depp as a quirky actor, Captain Jack Sparrow will go down as one of cinema’s most memorable pirates.

In Conclusion…

Watch it! But go in with low expectations. This isn’t a film that will have you by the edge of your seat, nor will it blow your mind with major plot twists. It’s a silly pirate movie with impressive set pieces and visual effects. If you take it for what it is, you’ll have a good time.

This has been a gamobo review. Thanks for reading!


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