FilmReview

Review: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Livens the Franchise

Jacqueline Gualtieri ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

After Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the newest Pirates film seems like an apology to the fans. It’s been ten years since the last time that the fans have seen Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley). It’s been ten years since they were married and then torn apart, heartbreakingly. It’s also been ten years since the Pirates franchise itself had its heart ripped out, leaving the fourth film an emotionless wreck. With Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the franchise has gotten its heart back.

Make no mistake. Will and Elizabeth make appearances, but are not the reason the heart is back. That distinction goes to the two leads, Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). Perhaps the Pirates films always need a Turner in order to function. Regardless, the character of Henry is a wink at the fans, who could see how he’s a mix of both of his parents. He has his father’s moral compass and his fighting skills, but his mother’s cleverness and outspokenness. Carina, though, is similar to Elizabeth, but still manages to be her own character. She’s an academic woman in a time when women weren’t allowed to be academic. She’s a feminist heroine and the film makes no bones about it. In a mix of not so intelligent pirates, she’s a standout as the only one able to even get them to their destination.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

After Gore Verbinski directed the first three films, Rob Marshall couldn’t quite create the same magic, romance, or excitement that his predecessor had. For the fifth film, neither Verbinski or Marshall return. Instead, direction is done by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, both of whom are less well-known than Verbinski or Marshall. And while Dead Men Tell No Tales is not quite up to the caliber of the first films, it does prove to be far closer to the original trilogy in terms of direction than the fourth was.

The newest film is a nostalgia-fest, with not so subtle references to the first films, like when Henry has to save Jack in the beginning of the movie, much like Jack’s rescue at the end of the first Pirates. Some of the reflections of previous films go a little too far, however. In fact, much of the plot seems like a rehash of the second movie. Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) has been cursed and is taking out his revenge on Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). He blames him for his curse, leaving him trapped at sea forever. When a member of his crew tries to go on land, the man/ghost/zombie turns to sand. It was a bit too familiar to Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), who also chased Jack throughout the sea, blamed him for his problems, and couldn’t step off his ship. Salazar isn’t so much a new villain as much as he just seems to be a bit of a redone Davy Jones, right down to the belief that he should rule the sea. It’s one thing to reuse a few old ideas as a wink to the audience and it’s an entirely other thing to just recycle characters and entire plots.

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

A side plot quietly comes into play that is actually far more interesting than the main one, involving Carina’s past. As an orphan, she has always wanted to find her father, with only the journal that was left with her when she was given up for adoption as the clue, the same journal that teaches her the love she has for astronomy. The shame of this plot is that it’s left underdeveloped. The story is introduced in a loud, abrupt way to the audience, never referenced again until the end. The movie ends rather abruptly after her learning anything about herself.

Jack Sparrow is the same as he’s always been, which is perhaps all that can be said about Depp’s famous pirate. He’s a drunken, selfish mess that never really learns anything, but seemingly has a very hidden heart. And, whether he wants to admit it or not, he has a soft spot for Turners. Henry and Jack’s partnership harkens back to Will and Jack’s back and forth in the first film, talking about women, ending up swordfighting but never for real, and ultimately fighting to protect each other. Depp’s Jack never really works that well on his own on screen, which is a big part of the reason why On Stranger Tides failed. He needs someone to play off of him and Thwaites’s Henry fit that role well.

Dead Men Tell No Tales brings the Pirates franchise back to the way that it was ten years ago. Not only are the original characters back, but the romance, the friendship, and the banter are all back. It’s a story that’s fun to watch. Although it’s a two hour and ten minute film, it feels over all too quick. Which is perhaps a good thing since Dead Men Tell No Tales lays the groundwork for a brand new adventure for the sixth film, which has already been announced. It seems that Captain Jack and the Turner family have more stories to tell and, with such a film as this one kicking it off, fans can trust that the new directors are going to tell them well.

Overall Grade: B+

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