For a series so keen on featuring hordes of pirates eternally seeking the means to free themselves of their curses and troubles, the fifth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, can’t seem to break the curse that has plagued the last few entries in this franchise. While it is an improvement over the previous entry in the series - On Stranger Tides, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s Dead Men Tell No Tales simply can’t compare to the first three films - especially not the original, The Curse of the Black Pearl, even though the original film supposedly served as inspiration for the plot and story of the latest entry. Even Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow couldn’t save this sinking ship.
In fact, one of the biggest issues with this film revolves around Depp’s portrayal of the drunken captain. Throughout the first three films in the series, Captain Jack Sparrow is shown to be an extremely clever individual. While it’s true that Jack often found himself in unfavorable situations, there was almost always a reason for his being there - and it was usually by his own doing. Jack Sparrow always had a plan, and was even referred to as “the best pirate I’ve ever seen” by British sailors. In the most recent two entries in the Pirates franchise, however, Jack is depicted primarily as an unprepared drunk who just happens to get extremely lucky when the stakes are most high. The truth is that Captain Jack Sparrow is better off as something of a side-character - what he was in the original film.
The rest of the cast, returning pirates and newcomers alike did well enough in their roles, although Brenton Thwaites’ Henry Turner and Kaya Scodelario’s Carina Smyth didn’t have the same pull as the young lovers that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly had in the original trilogy. Javier Bardem’s villainous undead Captain Salazar too did fine in his role, but didn’t seem truly terrifying. Similar to how, in the previous installment, Ian McShane’s Blackbeard fell short of feeling like “the pirate that all pirates fear”, as he was supposed to, Bardem’s Salazar didn’t seem scary or threatening enough to warrant being referred to as Jack Sparrow’s “greatest fear”.
In addition, Dead Men Tell No Tales introduced many plot points and details that are inconsistent with revelations made in the previous films. While the casual moviegoer probably won’t notice any of them, for die-hard Disney and Pirates fans, the inconsistencies are painfully obvious – and that’s a shame. With a series as successful and fantastical as Pirates of the Caribbean, one would think that the integrity of the lore set up in the previous films would be protected and valued.
On the brighter side of things, however, the cinematography, done by Paul Cameron, and the CGI in the film looked wonderful. This is certainly the best-looking film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The colors are vibrant and the production design is creative and unique, and offers plenty of cool things to look at and ogle after. Even the musical score in the film, now done by Geoff Zanelli and not Hans Zimmer - as in previous installments, was done well. The score adds to the weight of the emotional moments and successfully amplifies the fun and sense of adventure throughout the rest of the movie.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is not a terrible movie. While it certainly doesn’t reach the height of the original film, and contains plenty of things to complain about, it is without a doubt fun. People heading to the theaters with the hopes of seeing plenty of cool visuals and laughing at silly jokes will not be disappointed. The same probably can’t be said for the hardcore Pirates fans looking for a well-developed story, however. Hopefully this isn’t the last film in the franchise – it still has the potential to be something great and end on a high note.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a fun adventure movie with plenty of pretty visuals but lacks the character, charisma, and integrity that made the original film so special. While not a complete waste of time, it’s certainly not the treasure we were all hoping to find.