dead men tell no talesThis past weekend the Pirates of the Caribbean saga went on what is probably its last journey at sea with its fifth installment Dead Men Tell No Tales. Norwegian directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg took the helm for this film. The pair has directed several projects together before.

While Johnny Depp returned to play the series most recognizable character, Captain Jack Sparrow,  Brenton Thwaites, and Kaya Scodelario held their own as the new faces of the film. They’re the next generation of the Pirates tales, although it’s unclear if more films will be made.

Spoilers for the film ahead

The premise of the film surrounds ghostly figure from Jack’s past, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) seeking revenge while Jack, Henry Turner, Carina Smyth, and Captain Barbossa search for Poseidon’s trident, which can break any curse at sea.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is not a bad film. I wasn’t as engaged as I was with the earlier films in the franchise, but it wasn’t a disaster to sit through. As usual for a Pirates film, each character wants the same thing for a different reason and their stories intertwine because they need each other to get it. Brenton, although 27 years old, plays Henry Turner, who I assumed to be in his late teens/early twenties. His babyish face definitely helped sell his theatrical age. Henry is reckless and bold, much like his parents Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. His goal is to find the Trident of Poseidon to break his father’s curse.

In the opening scene of the film, Henry sneaks out of the house where he has drawings and maps all around. He takes a boat out and follows the map to perfectly time the arrival of the Flying Dutchman. Tying rocks to his ankle, he jumps into the water and ends up on the deck of his father’s ship. Will (Orlando Bloom) is happy to see his son but tells him to go home and to stop searching for him. While watching this scene, I couldn’t help but wonder where Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth is. Henry snuck out of the house with little trouble as if he was home alone. I also wondered how realistic it really was for him to be brave enough to almost kill himself to see his father.  There’s no backstory on how Henry learns about his father’s curse, becomes knowledgeable about the mythologies of the sea, or learns how to read maps.

Our other Pirates newcomer, Kaya Scodelario (Skins – U.K., The Maze Runner) plays Carina Smyth. She is a young woman dedicated to science because of her father but accused of witchcraft because of her intelligence. While trying to escape execution, she meets Jack and draws herself into the race for the trident with Henry. Scoldelario played the sassy and fierce Carina well for the most part. I found her to be more interesting and tolerable than I did Elizabeth Swann in the earlier films. 

Captain Salazar and his ghostly crew are more chilling than Davy Jones and his nautical crew were in Dead Man’s Chest. From missing limbs and barely there faces, the Spanish crew was a sight. I still don’t understand the magic behind the Devil’s Triangle that turned them into ghosts or how Jack’s compass is connected, especially when it’s been passed around in the past, but Bardem delivered a decent performance.

In this fifth film, I was expecting to tire of Sparrow’s brand of humor. The writers did a good job of keeping it from feeling stale. I did laugh quite a few times at his familiar antics and witty replies. It seems that those antics have always been a part of the character, even before he was a captain. In a flashback scene, we see a young (very clearly CGI’d) Jack saving his crew by taunting and leading the film’s villain Captain Armando Salazar into rocky and dangerous waters that end up killing and trapping the Spaniard’s crew and ship for years. This is also the origin story for Jack’s nickname of Jack Sparrow and how he became a captain.

There are a few things that bugged me about the film. First, they refer to the map that leads to the Trident as “the map no man can read”. Carina uses the book her father gave her to realize that the map is in the stars. Since I can be quite picky about technicalities and facts, I’m going to point out that astronomy being used as a navigation tool probably would not have been a rare skill for sailors, especially experienced ones like Sparrow and Barbossa. It’s still used today as it was centuries ago.

Secondly, Dead Men Tell No Tales made me realize how little we really knew about Geoffrey Rush’s Hector Barbossa. In an unexpected twist, Barbossa is Carina’s father and the one who left her with the book. Her mother passed away when she was young and Barbossa left the infant at an orphanage. It seemed that Jack knew of Carina’s mother, but the woman and Barbossa’s life outside of being a pirate are never mentioned before this film. For most of the other main characters of the franchise, we know a bit about where they come from and who their families are. Barbossa wasn’t given a backstory beyond his betrayal of Jack. When he revealed his tattoo that matches the design on Carina’s book, I was left thinking that he never mentioned or displayed any interest in anything involving astronomy. It sucks that once we learn a bit more about him, it’s too late because he sacrifices himself to save the others right after telling Carina that he is her father.

Lastly, while the film attempts to place Henry and Carina in the spotlight of the film quite a bit, it’s quite hard to outshine Captain Jack Sparrow.

Final Thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The movie felt slow and a little too long at times. I can accept that they didn’t want to rush the story, but some of the dialogue heavy scenes dragged. If you’re a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean I’d recommend seeing the film. Are you missing out if you wait until it’s on Redbox or Netflix? Probably not. It gives a good closing the franchise.

Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar is creepy and the special effects including the ghostly crew and Poseidon’s trident are pretty cool. I’m going to exclude young Jack Sparrow from that list because I felt like I was watching a video game for second because of how obvious the CGI was.  If you’re excited to see Will and Elizabeth again, you’ll be a bit disappointed that they’re only on screen for about five minutes and I can’t even remember if Elizabeth had any lines or not. That’s how minor her appearance is.

 

Kira McCall covers entertainment for MFST. Follow her on Twitter at cocovanilla45 and @kiramira_.

 

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