It’s been six years since Jack Sparrow’s last film adventure. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales finds our favorite scallywag facing an old, ghostly nemesis. Jack’s only hope is to find the Trident of Poseidon with the help of some familiar faces, as well as new friends. The fifth film in the successful Pirates franchise once again brings an epic adventure to life that’s equal parts enjoyable as it can be frustrating.
A grown Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), has spent much of his life searching for a way to break his fathers curse as Captain of The Flying Dutchman. While working on a British Royal Navy ship, they venture into the danger within the Devil’s Triangle, despite Henry’s warnings. The Triangle being cursed with the spirits of Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his crew. Salazar seeks revenge against Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), the very pirate who’s responsible for his death. Fearing for his life, Henry agrees to find Jack and bring him to Salazar.
While Henry looks to find the infamous Captain Jack, his main mission is to find the Trident of Poseidon, which can break his fathers curse. The same trident can also protect Jack and other pirates from Salazar, who desires to rid the sea of them all. With the help of Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer who is the only one capable of locating the Trident, they all set sail to find it before Salazar catches up to them.
This pirate adventure is far from being a perfect installment to the franchise. While it’s an exciting film, there are many parts which leave you questioning the mythologies used. At 2-hours long, the film suffers from a feeling of having far too many plots stuffed into it, which can at times be frustrating. The overall story being the Trident of Poseidon, which possesses the power of the sea. However, the story of Poseidon is never actually developed. Whereas the legends in the previous films were fully explained, the journey to the Trident felt like an afterthought – and everyones differing motivations are difficult to follow.
It’s not the worst in the series though. For me, it’s better than the fourth film for a few reasons. In On Stranger Tides, there was a void left by Will and Elizabeth. In Dead Men Tell No Tales, we see the two again, albeit just for short parts that could be likened to cameos. While you may be itching for more of them, the introduction to Henry Turner helps a little. Thwaites (Oculus, The Giver) gives a great performance and feels like a comfortable addition. Fellow newcomer Scodelario (the Maze Runner franchise) also does a wonderful job of portraying a woman of science, accused of being a witch. Although, their characters inevitable romance feels extremely forced and unnecessary and diminished their storyline. Henry and Carina really just felt like a ploy to establish the next Will and Elizabeth, without the chemistry or investment of the audience.
The villain in this film, Captain Armando Salazar played by Javier Bardem, was a great supernatural adversary for our characters, and much more memorable than in On Stranger Tides. While his menacing crew and ship were conceptually and visually magnificent, their curse seemed a bit confusing as it’s partly tied to Jack’s Compass. Yet the rules of the curse seem to change and the compass relation is never explained. It would have been much better to have this film focus on breaking Will’s curse, and save the legend of Salazar for another to further develop.
Despite a fair amount of head scratchers throughout the film, in some cases ignoring mythos from the first three films completely, it was enjoyable to watch. Depp could never portray Jack Sparrow in any way other than perfection. He’s hilarious, entertaining and a constant reminder of why this franchise has been a favorite among many. Whatever chaotic plot the film may have, the character itself can only better it.
Dead Men Tell No Tales also brings back old favorites like Mr. Gibbs (Kevin McNally) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), as well as Jack the monkey. Although there were quite a few still missing that audiences would have loved to see. The amount of familiarity in this film is perhaps its best redeeming quality. If this were a first film in a series, perhaps we wouldn’t be so forgiving towards its flaws.
In the end it’s a fun pirate adventure – humorous and exhilarating. While the trailers tease this to be the last adventure, the success of the series always gives Disney motivation to continue. It felt very much like they were setting up a new couple to take the reigns from Bloom and Knightley. I only hope if they choose to continue, that the original trio is brought back together and it doesn’t become a second generation Pirates of the Caribbean. The franchise definitely needs that old spark back.