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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Just like the other “Pirates” films, lots of “stuff” happens in Dead Men Tell No Tales, and while the production is impressive and there some thrilling stunts and special effects sequences - two that come to mind include Jack (and the camera) rotating around in a guillotine and the ocean splitting apart - the underlying plot that brings the various characters and story lines together lacks the energy, wit and, most of all, novelty, required to really engage us beyond just sitting and staring at the screen. By now (and probably as early as four sequels ago), we know what to expect from this series and the bottom line is we've charted this territory too many times before for it to have any real impact as entertainment. The filmmakers seem too willing to just re-use old character and narrative devices instead of taking the time to come up with something inspired.

What's more is the actors appear as if they share my sentiments. Depp and Rush look tired and come across as if they've both just sighed and said to each other, “Here we go again,” before dusting off their pirates costumes and going through the same motions as the first four pictures. Who could blame them, though, given the screenplay doesn't give their characters enough new things to do so they can try out different techniques.


On the other hand, Bardem, as Salazar, is a welcome bright spot, and not just because he's a terrific actor and inherently fun to watch, but because he adds a fresh character to the “Pirates” universe. Perhaps if the script had abandoned Sparrow and Barbossa altogether and made the entire story about Salazar it would have been onto something, but it's likely the filmmakers got caught up in the idea that if a “Pirates” movie doesn't have this, that and the other, with the first “this” being Depp, then it's not a “Pirates” movie. But why not make a “Pirates” movie about a different pirate, or at least different kind of plot? The film seems afraid to take any risks.

The good news is that Dead Men Tell No Tales is at least always watchable, and despite the story being flat and predictable, I found myself admiring the technical workmanship that went into the production (for instance, the execution and choreography of Sparrow and his crew stealing an entire bank in St. Martin is convincing and lively). However, my gut tells me most viewers will find the movie more ho-hum than exciting. The filmmakers have simply given us more of the same. With that being said, Dead Men Tell No Tales does cap the saga in such a way that it lets us believe the studio may be done with it, at least for a while. We hope so, anyway, because it's better the franchise end on the average note that it does now instead of a sour one later.

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