REVIEW — “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”
It’s been a mere six years since we last saw Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) on an adventure, but it’s been even longer since we’ve seen him wrapped up in a good one. I won’t pretend to not be a fan of the entire original trilogy for the sake of emphasis on my review, because I genuinely enjoy all three of the originals, due to the insane visuals from Gore Verbinski and the devoted cast of characters. Dead Men Tell No Tales takes place many years after At World’s End finale. I want to avoid spoilers, as I went into this fairly blind and was actually surprised at some of the turns the plot took. So, I’ll run it down like this – Captain Jack Sparrow is continuing to steal and swashbuckle his way through the lands. There’s an evil pirate/ghost, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who wants revenge on Sparrow. There’s two new kids on the block, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who are seeking Sparrow’s help. There’s a trident that needs to be found. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is also in the picture. And, uh, I think it’s safe to say that Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is also in the picture? That’s the best I can do while avoiding spoilers.
Dead Men Tell No Tales walks a tricky line when trying to not feel too much like a reboot, as the film introduces us to many new faces, while simultaneously attempting to be a reunion of sorts for the original cast and an ode to the stories that were left dangling the last time we saw them. When most franchises try to pass the torch to a younger generation and make us interested in younger, prettier actors – it tends to not work. I can’t speak for everyone who’s seen the film, but I thought the new cast here was one of the brightest spots of the film. Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario hold up their sections of the film fairly well and exude charm and really solid chemistry between one another seamlessly. Their interactions with Captain Jack Sparrow and their cynicism to his antics is a refreshing take on him somehow helping the damsels in distress and adds for some genuine humor. This also adds to Jack’s story arc of feeling disenfranchised and out of luck, which would’ve been an even better theme for this reboot if it was downright bad. Thankfully, it’s not.
Barbosa’s role in the film is kept pretty standard for the first half, but once you understand his meaning to the plot , the film becomes surprisingly sentimental and I found Geoffery Rush’s performance to be pretty endearing and a fairly dynamic take on a character that we’ve already spent four other films with. Captain Salazar is a villain who I’m conflicted on; While I liked his motives, his overall look was pretty killer, and he even served as a fairly menacing presence at points, it still felt a tad bit underdeveloped and at the end of the day, he feels like a villain of the week. However, the real stars of here are the directors behind the camera, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. What could’ve felt like a super boring sequel actually feels like a legitimate film, with a voice and energy behind the camera. Rønning and Sandberg are the directors of the 2012 critical hit Kon-Tiki, and their artistic visions for the sea translate pretty greatly here. They deliver on insane visuals that live up to Verbinski’s previous efforts, solid character moments, and absolutely fantastic action sequences full of incredible stunt work and practical effects. The opening action sequence/heist here is pretty incredible to watch. Especially in IMAX.
Despite the new voices behind the camera, Dead Men Tell No Tales still suffers from what most sequels suffer from, and that’s an overwhelming sense of familiarity. I had a genuinely fun time watching this and I do recommend that people give it a chance, but it’s undeniable that they are following a very familiar formula here that almost feels like its parodying itself. Jack Sparrow makes jokes while someone is angry at him and wants to kill him. There’s romance on the side and a plot device (the Trident here) that moves them in the direction of each set-piece. While this film breathes a breath of fresh air to the visual style of the film and the energy that surrounds it. I hope that when they inevitably make a sixth film, they find a more original structure and story to bind the action and humor together. Still, though, Dead Men Tell No Tales is a surprisingly entertaining spectacle the plays excellently on the big screen. If you can wash off the familiarity, then you’ll have a great time with this. 3.5/5.