It’s hard to believe that we live in a world where we have five blockbuster films based off a ride a Disneyworld, yet here we are. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise kicked off in 2003 with The Curse of the Black Pearl. Due to the huge success of the film and the popularity of Johnny Depp’s performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, three more films followed. 2011’s On Stranger Tides was so negatively reviewed, it seemed the franchise was dead in the water. However, here we are in 2017 with the newest film in the franchise Dead Men Tell No Tales to try to raise this saga from the depths.
Captain Jack Sparrow squares up with another old nemesis of his, Captain Salazar, and his crew of the damned. After escaping from the Devil’s Triangle, Salazar and his men set out to kill every pirate on the sea. Jack’s only hope of survival is to seek out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, said to grant its wielder the power of the sea.
The Pirates films have always been massively entertaining. From grandiose action at sea to gorgeous set pieces, the films always have a certain allure to them viewers can not deny. Each entry is pretty formulaic and predictable. The first act consists of a mismatched crew helping Jack goofily escape his current predicament with his typical antics, the second act is an epic journey at sea to there destination padded down with exposition, and the third being an epic showdown over the treasure in question. Dead Men Tell No Tales is no exception. The first act is rather entertaining this time around with a delightful sequence involving a guillotine, but the green screen shoots show some cracks in the other two thirds of the movie.
No other film in the franchise has been able to live up to the charm and spectacle of the original, but the newest film comes pretty damn close. There are some familiar plot elements like a crew of the damned walking on the sea floor, and some baddies from a governing entity giving chase to the lovable pirates. This was a smart move on the studios part, as it helps them film surpass the last venture On Stranger Tides, which was just too different for it’s own good.
The cast of the new film is strong. There isn’t the lovable charm of the original cast but newcomers Brenton Thwaites (Gods of Egypt) as Henry Turner the son of William Turner, and Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner) Carina Smyth a learned astronomer trying to escape being marked as a witch, prove themselves as welcome additions to the franchise. Cast as the new love interests to replace William Turner and Elizabeth Swan, they don’t quit live up to the charm of the original couple but stand strong enough on their own for audiences to want to see more of their characters.
Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa is back in the fray, but his performance and character arc is a rinse and repeat from earlier films. Depp’s portrayal of Captain Salazar is the true standout performance of this film. After being duped by Jack into succumbing to the Devil’s Triangle, he and his crew of the damned are out for pirate blood once they are freed. One of the big draws this franchise has always had is the endless myths to pull from within pirate lore and ocean mythology. Davy Jones was a wonderful addition to Dead Man’s Chest, and the series did not have a strong of an antagonist since. Having a supernatural villain looking to settle a debt with Jack is an arc this franchise has use several times now, but it’s tried and true.
The Pirates films have always been gorgeous blockbusters. They are guaranteed money makers so Disney is able to funnel a big budget into these, and it pays off. The cinematography and set decoration is consistently stunning. The CGI, save for a few bum scenes, is as believable as ever. The one lacklustre element overall is Depp himself. It’s hard not to judge him on a curve due to all the flack he has been getting in the press lately, but viewers can tell life has definitely affected his performance.
Dead Men Tell No Tales ultimately stacks up as one of the stronger films in the Pirates franchise. This is a film no audience really wanted, but it’s a surprisingly good treat. The new members of the cast elevate the film overall, and the familiar tropes shine as bright as ever. Also, fans of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley can expect a nice surprise in futures films in the franchise.