The 400-Word Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

By Sean Collier

May 28, 2017

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The first major set piece in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales involves our familiar crew of Pirates, led by Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, very much on autopilot), robbing a bank.

On land. Riding horses. Which — I mean, that’s the least of our problems, but still.

Anyway: They lead the authorities on a dramatic chase, dragging a safe (encased in a full building) behind them while Sparrow narrowly avoids various mishaps.

If you needed further evidence that this franchise is out of ideas, there it is: Despite being a movie about Pirates, Dead Men Tell No Tales steals its most memorable sequence from Fast Five.

Long after the one (and only one) good film in this whole mess, another chapter appears in cinemas today. Various people want to kill Sparrow, who would very much like to get his hands on a ship. Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will (Orlando Bloom), wants to find Poseidon’s Trident, a mythical totem that will remove a curse from his father. Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) has a map that may lead to the aforementioned Trident, but she mostly wants to figure out who her father was. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) would like not to be killed by Salazar (Javier Bardem), a ghostly captain who is doing a lot of killing.


Everyone sails around, duels, fires cannons, tosses quips and ... you know, does seafaring things.

A look at the creative team is telling. Long gone is original helmer Gore Verbinski; his replacement, Rob Marshall, lasted for one installment, 2011’s On Stranger Tides. Instead, this chapter is directed by the Norwegian filmmakers Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, working in English for the first time. Ted Elliott, who shared writing credit on all four previous chapters, is gone, replaced by the inconsistent Jeff Nathanson, who was responsible for a pair of good films (Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal) long ago and has produced pablum such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Tower Heist and Rush Hour 3 more recently.

Even franchise cinematographer Dariusz Wolski bailed out.

Why the exodus? It’s simple: No one wanted to make this movie. There’s no need and no creative motivation behind it. This is a cash grab, and a particularly lazy one at that. Hopefully, the moviegoing public will not be so foolish as to fall for it this time.

My Rating: 4/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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