PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (2017).
Ain’t that the truth!
While I still enjoy the Captain Jack Sparrow character played by Johnny Depp, the PIRATES films themselves have become shallow and redundant, with no sense of storytelling whatsoever. But I get ahead of myself.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (2017) is really the tale of two new characters. Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the dashing blacksmith who teamed up with Jack Sparrow in the first three PIRATES movies. We learn in a pre-credit sequence that Will Turner is forever cursed to spend his days in a watery grave beneath the ocean, but his son Henry is determined to free his dad. And what self-respecting son wouldn’t naturally try to free his deceased dad from an underwater curse? This is the sort of thing that happens every day, right? Anyway, the only way Henry can do this—of course— is with the help of one Captain Jack Sparrow.
To free his dad, Henry needs the Trident of Poseidon, which gives its handler total control of the seas, and the only person who possesses enough gumption to get it, I guess, is Sparrow.
The other main character is Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). When we first meet her, she’s about to be executed for being a witch, but she’s not a witch. She’s just smart and enlightened, but being an intelligent woman in those days doesn’t sit too well with the men, and so she’s accused of being a witch.
When Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his pirate buddies attempt to pull off a bold heist, things don’t go so well, and Sparrow is captured and set to be executed on the same day as Carina Smyth. But the two escape with the help of Henry Turner, setting in motion the quest for the Trident of Poseidon.
Meanwhile, the undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) is also searching for the Trident so he and his men can escape their own watery grave and kill Jack Sparrow in the process. And if all this isn’t enough, old nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) also shows up, and he too is interested in the elusive Trident.
Talk about a story that generates absolutely zero interest.
And that, by far, is my biggest problem with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. The screenplay by Jeff Nathanson is pretty much geared for six year-olds. Seriously, unless you’re a young child who loves pirates, I don’t know how you can sit through this movie. It’s not even appealing to teenagers, let alone adults. The Trident of Poseidon? Seriously? The story here works on the same level as something like PETER PAN, which is fine for a children’s movie, but for a PG-13 pirates adventure? It just doesn’t cut it.
The humor doesn’t work either. The jokes are watered down and not edgy enough to earn many laughs.
The film plays like a TRANSFORMERS movie under water. Special effects galore, but no story to be found, which is a shame, because it wastes a character I like a lot, Captain Jack Sparrow.
Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg have created a polished looking movie that is as hollow and empty as it is visually striking. It’s the kind of movie that puts me to sleep, because there’s no story to support it, and no characters to capture my interest.
The action scenes don’t distinguish themselves, except for the early robbery scene, which was a pretty fun sequence, as Sparrow’s pirate buddies literally drag the entire building housing the safe they were robbing through the streets of the town in a rather rousing chase scene. But other than this the action scenes fall flat.
I like Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, and I have no problem with his performance here. The problem is with the script, which can’t seem to give him worthwhile lines or things to do. The first PIRATES movie, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003) was a snappy, rousing, and very creative flick with a story that featured lots of satisfying twists and turns, and at its center was Depp’s Jack Sparrow. Here, there’s barely a creative spark to be found, and Depp is stuck saying inferior lines and having his screen time reduced in favor of newer younger characters.
Javier Bardem is a fantastic actor, but I found his performance as Captain Salazar grating and difficult to watch. It didn’t help that the character is as dull as a piece of floating seaweed.
Geoffrey Rush is another superior actor, and he benefits here from having his Captain Barbossa character introduced in the earlier movies. Rush actually does have some fine moments here, especially with some revelations about his character later in the movie.
Newcomers Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner and Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth pretty much put me to sleep.
Kevin McNally, who has appeared in all five PIRATES movie as Sparrow’s fellow pirate Gibbs, is enjoyable once again here, but like Johnny Depp, he’s contending with an inferior script.
My favorite part of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES was the music, and I’m not talking about the new score to this film by Geoff Zanelli, but the original PIRATES theme written by Klaus Badelt. That theme was and still is perfect for this series, and whenever it was used in this movie, the film became at least tolerable, but outside of that, there’s nothing worthwhile about this movie.
Check that. There is one more thing. Paul McCartney shows up in a cameo as a pirate named Uncle Jack (What? No Uncle Albert?). His exchange with Depp’s Jack Sparrow is brief but it’s fun.
The rest of the film is flat-out awful. Better to walk the plank than to sit through two plus hours of this sea tale.