Review - 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales'
I have a love-hate relationship with the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. I love, love, love the first film and feel like it was a great adventure that basically serves as this generation's answer to Indiana Jones. I also like the second film, Dead Man's Chest, even though it's a tad disjointed and overlong. The third film, At World's End, is where things got a little dicey for me. At World's End had ambition and an excellent sense of scope, but got bogged down by some incomprehensible plot turns and had way too much happening at once.
As questionable as some of the decisions were in the third film, they were nothing compared to the complete water-logged slog that was On Stranger Tides, which ironically was much less "strange" than any of the previous films. Now we finally come to the latest offering and supposed finale to the whole series: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. And, well, I wasn't bored by it, but only on the basis that it was constantly throwing everything it had at me with reckless abandon. The shotgun approach directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg took with Dead Men Tell No Tales works just about as well as you might expect; some stuff hits and some doesn't.
The story this time around follows Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann's son, Henry (Brenton Thwaites), who is seeking the trident of Poseidon, a mythical artifact that when found could potentially rid the seas of all curses. This is of particular interest to Henry because it could lift his father's curse and his family could be whole again. Henry runs into both Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), who conveniently has a map, and Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who conveniently has a ship. Though their motivations are different, they reluctantly team up to find the trident. Little does Jack Sparrow know that he has accidentally attracted the attention of an old enemy; Captain Salazar, who commands a ship of deadly ghost sailors. Sound familiar?
If you were looking for a more restrained and believable journey this time around, you're definitely not going to get one here. So much is happening all at once that it's hard to tell if there's a cohesive story the film's trying to tell. During the entirety of Dead Men Tell No Tales, I was constantly inundated with loud action sequences, outrageous slapstick comedy and actors playing caricatured versions of pirates. It all became a bit much, but I was never lulled to sleep like I was in the previous film. And as a counterpoint to each of those criticisms; most of the action is enjoyable and in-focus, the slapstick is clever enough, especially a fun bit with a guillotine and the actors are at least game for the ride.
As much of a mess as Dead Men Tell No Tales is, it does a surprisingly remarkable job of tying together all of the loose ends left from previous films and actually has a rousing and emotional conclusion, so much so that the third act felt out of place due to how far it exceeded everything that had come before it. If you were disappointed with many of the decisions that were made in At World's End, Tales rectifies much of that.
Dead Men Tell No Tales introduces a few new characters, none of which are bad, but aren't really memorable either. Brenton Thwaites plays a decent every-man character, though he's nowhere near as charismatic as the filmmaker probably intended him to be. Kaya Scodelario plays Carina Smyth, her character is smart and has spunk, but again, isn't that memorable. Javier Barden plays the villain, Salazar, he has a very striking look but seems to be hitting all of the same villain notes that all of the other Pirates antagonists played in the past. Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa, and he actually gets the most memorable, heartfelt moments in the film. Finally, there's the one-and-only Jack Sparrow played again by Johnny Depp. Depp could play this role in his sleep, and that seems to be the decision that he made for this one. He does his drunk, slapstick shtick and not much else.
From a technical standpoint, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is flawless. The money is clearly on the screen and everything looks gorgeous. If there's one thing you can't fault this film for, it's being colorful and having an incredible attention to detail. I also enjoyed the score by Geoff Zanelli, but that's not much of a surprise at this juncture.
If you're still on board with the franchise and know what you're getting into, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is decent popcorn entertainment. That said, despite ending on a satisfying note; Tales is not a very memorable adventure.