Jungle
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

I was surprised to recall that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides came out in 2011. I honestly thought it’s only been a couple of years since the last Pirates film and not six, which made me wonder why I felt the franchise was becoming tired. The first two films were fantastic, but the last two have been rather forgettable, with the exception of Davy Jones from At World's End. They’re great as mindless popcorn entertainment, but once you walk out of the theater it’s as if their plots are wiped clean from your memory. Fresh of its longest hiatus yet, Pirates of the Caribbean returns with Dead Men Tell No Tales. Like the two film that have come before it, though, it’s entertaining despite being largely forgettable.

 

Dead Men Tell No Tales revolves around the search for the Trident of Poseidon, an artifact said to grant its possessor the power over all the seas. Naturally this would be extremely useful for a pirate so everyone is after it. Unfortunately its location lies on a map no man can read so the treasure has long been just a rumor on the winds of the sea. It isn’t until astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) deciphers a journal her long lost father left her with as a baby that the Trident comes within reach. Along the way she meets Henry (Brenton Thwaites), who is looking for the Trident to free his father from a curse, and together to two reluctantly team up with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Meanwhile, they’re being pursued by dead pirate hunter Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who is out for revenge against Sparrow after being trapped in the Devil’s Triangle because of him. Everyone wants the Trident, and some will do whatever it takes to get it.

 

The heart and soul of the Pirates franchise isn’t Jack Sparrow as one would presume but the relationship between Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). While On Stranger Tides avoided Will and Elizabeth altogether by focusing the entire story on Jack, Dead Men Tell No Tales makes attempts to replace them with the fresh faces of Henry and Carina, and it simply doesn’t work. Thwaites and Scodelario just don’t have the same chemistry as Bloom and Knightley, and the film makes it abundantly clear. Both do make cameo appearances in the film - which are absolutely wonderful - but all they do is make you wish the franchise would return back to the olden days. Fortunately, it appears that things may be headed that way in the future.

 

Thwaites and Scodelario struggle because the story itself isn’t all that interesting. The Trident of Poseidon is this magical artifact that solves all of the franchise’s conflicts in one fell swoop with little to no explanation. It’s a boring MacGuffin that ignores everything that was set up by the previous films.

 

Thankfully the action is fun enough to keep the film at least somewhat entertaining. I liken it to the Fast and the Furious franchise; over-the-top and unbelievably outrageous. The opening scene alone involves Jack and his crew stealing a bank vault by dragging the entire building itself through the streets of the town. Logistically it makes no sense, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch. The film is full of these larger than life scenes that make its two hour and nine minute running time feel a little less tedious.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a lackluster attempt to revitalize the franchise. I enjoyed the action and Javier Bardem’s performance as Captain Salazar, but everything else is forgettable. It’s big and loud with little substance. The franchise is still floating but just barely.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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