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

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

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

It’s remarkable the Pirates of the Caribbean films have lasted this long, considering what a risk the first movie was. Yet the swashbuckling adventure and Johnny Depp’s drunken antics excited audiences and we have been treated to four sequels of varying quality. Somehow, the sequels have never come close to capturing the fun and invention of the first chapter, though Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales thankfully comes the closest. There are some clever set-pieces and imaginative concepts thrown into the movie with directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg going full tilt on this theme park ride turned feature film. It starts to lose that energy late in the game, but it’s a mostly refreshing return to the franchise’s simplicity.

The other sequels got far too convoluted and ridiculous in their plotting, with At World’s End proving to be the most exhausting of the bunch. Dead Men Tell No Tales has some occasional plot points that don’t stick, but Ronning, Sandberg and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson understand what made the initial adventure so appealing. The concept of the ghost ship presented here is distinct enough from Curse of the Black Pearl’s skeleton pirates, with the visual effects artists having a ball with depicting the vessel and its inhabitants. Some thought has been put into their mythology, including an extended flashback showing the origin of this curse. Disappointingly, Javier Bardem hams it up a tad too much, even for this franchise. There lacks the proper menace in Captain Salazar with the script taking him far too much into comedic territory.

Johnny Depp’s popular Captain Jack Sparrow has shifted between endearing and annoying over the course of the franchise. Here, he slides back into endearing with the filmmakers utilising him just enough. The real focus of Dead Men Tell No Tales is on the young duo thrust into the adventure. Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario do act as substitutes for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, but they are thankfully given goals and personalities of their own. The audience knows these two will be romantically entangled, so that’s not a focal point of these characters. In particular, Scodelario’s astronomer provides a humourous contrast to the old-fashioned pirates she has to deal with.

The action sequences have the proper liveliness and the sword-fighting remains excellently choreographed. It’s only at the end that the film starts to tire as it succumbs to noise and special effects. A couple of plot points feel tacked on and not needed in the grand scheme. A third act character reveal doesn’t add a whole lot to the proceedings and merely exists to give the finale some emotional heft that’s not earned. A promising early turn from Golshifteh Farahani as a witch is disappointingly short-lived as she suddenly disappears without a trace and has no further bearing of the plot. An attempt to de-age Jack Sparrow, using a technique that has become all too common in Disney tentpoles lately, doesn’t quite create the desired effect.

Within Disneyland’s own history, Pirates of the Caribbean stands out. It’s a theme park ride that almost celebrates pirates and the film series has followed suit. Dead Men Tell No Tales is easily the second best movie in this long-running franchise as it returns many of the joys of the first film to the screen. Some plot points don’t entirely work and like its predecessor, it starts to peter out in the finale. However, for the first two acts, there is the proper energy and swashbuckling mayhem. Even Jack Sparrow is a winning presence. An after-credits scene shows there is still interest at the top for more films. Hopefully, the upward swing in quality can continue.


Stefan Ellison

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