After the fourth instalment in this franchise, On Stranger Tides, I would have figured Pirates of the Caribbean would be done. There just didn’t seem to be anything more to say. Even the actors seemed bored. But then number 5, Dead Men Tell No Tales came out, I thought maybe they’d stumbled on something great. Like maybe they’d found something worth bringing all this back for another go. After all, they weren’t going to just bang out another sequel, were they? Were they? Well yes and no. Up front – it was fun to watch but certainly not up to the brilliance of the first movie, or even the second.
Just look at that synopsis, Pirates of the Caribbean. Even IMDB has had enough of you. A fifth film didn’t work for the Terminator franchise, even with nekkid Jai Courtney, what makes you think it was going to work for you? I draw this comparison because the two films are remarkably similar. They’re both obvious cash grabs held together by sheer enthusiasm and made for the remaining fans who can’t stop seeing things that remind them of the original awesome films. Lucky for you, Pirates of the Caribbean, your fan-base is forgiving; the Star Wars geeks would have never put up with this.
It’s pretty obvious how this film was made – they got a bunch of writers in a room, reviewed all the previous films, made a list of all the things they liked (I’m guessing – treasure maps, curses, artifacts, drunken Jack Sparrow, undead pirates) and then assembled them, Frankenstein-style, and made sure every one of those elements was dialed up to 11. Jack was extra drunk, the enemy was extra undead and there was not one, not two but three (as I count it) curses that needed dealing with.
Now I have to admit I’m being the teensiest bit unfair. Partly that’s due to the fact that I was disappointed and partly because it’s much easier to write a snarky review than a fair one. The truth is that Dead Men Tell No Tales was a lot of fun all the way through. There was a scene with a bank that was a hoot. The special effects were very pretty, as were most of the sets. The trailer didn’t take all best bits. And there were some good characters (the witch comes to mind) and some solid scenes. The problem is that these elements were sandwiched in by less-than-great characters and scenes. If they had taken out some of the mediocre bits (and Brenton Thwaites shirt), this could have been a much better film, but instead they went for volume. If they had tightened this up, they couldn’t have shortened it to a reasonable length and made it all the way awesome. It barely even needs a rewrite, just a ruthless editor.
So is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales worth watching? Nope. But I wouldn’t avoid it either. It was better than On Stranger Tides. And it tried SO hard, it really did. That alone nearly saves it – I enjoyed watching this film swing for the rafters. I liked the ghost pirates and their crazy ship but it just wasn’t enough. I think we’re about done with the franchise, here’s hoping they don’t make any more.