Movie Review: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Men Tell No Tales’
Director: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Kaya Scodelario, Brenton Thwaites, Kevin McNally, David Wenham
Plot: The undead pirate hunter Salazar scours the oceans hunting for Captain Jack Sparrow, who teams up with Will Turner’s son to find Poseidon’s trident to break their respective curses.
Review: The Pirates sequels have not built on the success of the original, and with good reason. The people making them have no idea what made the first one so damn good. It wasn’t massive, over-the-top CGI sequences, it wasn’t dragged out slapstick routines and it wasn’t about Jack Sparrow (Depp). Sure he was the most fun to watch, but he was the Han Solo to Luke Skywalker and the sequels made Will Turner (Orlanda Bloom) background noise to Depp’s quirkiness.
After three increasingly messy sequel no-one would blame Disney for cutting their loses. The fourth film was particularly dire (nobody wants to see Jack planning his schemes, we want to think he’s making it up as he goes along!). Yet here we are again. The film begins with Henry Turner seeking out his father and laying out some exposition about the trident of Poseidon, a MacGuffin that will break Turner’s curse. Then we jump to Henry grown up (Thwaites) encountering the undead Salazar (Bardem) who lays out his plan to hunt down Jack. After this we get introduced to Carina Smyth (Scodelario), an astrologer mistaken for being a witch. Then we finally catch up with Jack and his crew trying to rob a bank and they provide exposition about Jack being cursed with bad luck, and he carries a shrunken Black Pearl in his pocket. THEN we get reintroduced to Barbossa (Rush) who’s fleet have been attacked by Salazar. He consults a real witch who exists to fill in plot holes such as somehow having gotten hold of Jack’s compass.
Bloody hell, is there some reason we need so much going on in a single film? The plot drags terribly in places because we’re keeping up with so many characters, and that’s not mentioning David Wenham as a British Navy Officer trying to bring in Jack, a flashback that overstays it welcome to explain the oh-so-important story of how Jack got all that shit in his hair and Carina’s true heritage. The film has no narrative backbone and compensates by adding in dozens of distractions. As such, Salazar never becomes an interesting or menacing villain, none of the characters develop beyond a one sentence description and the run time is much longer than it needs to be.
This review is starting to sound a little mean, but in all honesty the movie isn’t all that bad. It is visually impressive with huge, detailed set pieces and bright, swashbuckling locales. The design work remains one of the strongest points of the franchise, particular Salazar’s ship and crew. Everything has the feeling of a live-action Saturday morning cartoon. The core concept of a classic pirate adventure speckled with supernatural elements is always going to be fun to watch, they just need to keep the plot simple.
Dead Men Tell No Tales does feature some of the best action sequences in the series. The clash between Salazar and the Black Pearl is creative, featuring Jack trapped on the cannons between the ships. The zombie sharks would’ve been pointless if it wasn’t for the fact that zombie sharks are awesome.
If you’re still invested in the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow this is will deliver, but in a year where we have a tentpole blockbuster in cinemas every single week this is not going to stand out enough.
Rating: SIX out of TEN