Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

By Matthew Huntley

May 31, 2017

I don't care how many drugs you take, you won't fit in that ship.

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In as little as two weeks, Hollywood has given us installments from two franchises that probably should have ended years ago. Last week, it was the dreadful Alien: Covenant; this week it's the so-so Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. As with many aging franchises, these two have been stretched thin and there seems to be a general lack of effort on the part of the filmmakers to breathe new life into them. Instead of devising an original story first and then shaping the brand around it, their approach is to shape the story around the brand and hope the brand will sell it.

Unfortunately, this method isn't working and I'm willing to bet Disney executives green-lit Dead Men Tell Not Tales even before a script was ready. Perhaps they assumed a worthy narrative would magically fall into place just because they had their star, their budget, and a prime release date. And even though the finished product isn't outright bad - and indeed it has some virtues worth mentioning - it lacks the spark and vigor that made its predecessors, particularly the original, stand out as something special.

The evidence is in the lackluster story itself, which revolves, yet again, around the misadventures of the eccentric pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), and the various individuals pursuing him, either for help or to exact revenge. It's been a while since I've seen the other “Pirates” movies, but is this not the running theme throughout all of them, more or less? By entry number five, it's gotten stale.


One of the characters seeking Jack's assistance is the plucky yet impetuous Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who you may recall had a curse placed on him at the end of At World's End, confining him to a sort of sea hell. Henry believes Jack's magical compass can tell him where to find the Trident of Poseidon, which controls all aspects of the sea and can therefore lift his father's curse. Amidst trying to find Jack, Henry becomes smitten with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an astrologist and horologist who's accused by the British Navy of witchcraft just because she's into science (and probably because she's a woman with a brain).

She's certain the diary left to her by her father contains clues and a map to the Trident. In exchange for helping her escape public execution, Carina strikes a deal with young Turner to guide him to the Trident's location. They eventually join Sparrow and Sparrow's ever-diminishing crew aboard the dilapidated Dying Gull, in search of what most believe to be a myth. Sparrow's primary focus, of course, remains self-indulgence, specifically in the form of drinking rum.

Chasing after them is the vengeful Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spaniard and pirate-hater who craves retribution from Sparrow after he led Salazar and his crew into the Devil's Triangle, which cursed them to a life as incorporeal ghosts. After breaking out of the Triangle, Salazar and his crew invade the ship of Sparrow's old pal, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), demanding he and his crew either help them or meet an untimely end.

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