Review: ‘Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’

Were you one of the people who rolled their eyes at the prospect of a FIFTH addition to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? Did you even realise that this was number 5? The actors are getting older, and so is the audience. The first film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, came out fourteen years ago. Since then, we have had a fairly steady stream of Captain Jack Sparrow into our lives… and we can’t seem to get enough. To put it in perspective: since it opened a few weeks ago, Dead Men Tell No Tales has made $606 million worldwide – already close to what The Curse of the Black Pearl has made in total. Granted, the first film is the lowest grossing of the franchise, but I definitely remember it being quite popular. The fact of the matter is this: I wasn’t expecting to like it, because often I find film franchises to be very tedious and cheesy. But I did like it, quite a bit. That’s not to say it wasn’t tedious or cheesy in parts, but I did like it.
The film centres around the quest to find the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful and legendary object said to be able to break every curse of the sea. Jack Sparrow teams up with two headstrong young partners Henry Turner and Carina Smyth (each equipped with their own daddy issues) to track it down, all the while being pursued by an old nemesis, Captain Salazar, and his crew of dead Spanish navy men. The new main characters in the film were very well done. Notably the malevolent Captain Salazar, played by the master of vengeance and tension, Javier Bardem. It took me a while to figure out why he always looked like he was floating, but it’s actually quite a nice touch.
Brenton Thwaits plays Henry, the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan. His character fills the role of the much needed antithesis to Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) behaviour, being kind, innocent and determined. The other role to fill is that of the girl, who in this film is Carina Smyth, played by Kaya Scodelario. A thoroughly independent astronomer and horologist, she comfortably dodges any cringe-worthy movie clichés of being an attractive woman surrounded by men (something that the Pirates franchise has always been good at). I will also give a brief mention to David Wenham who plays Scarfield of the British Navy, simply because I have a huge soft spot for this Australian actor and anything I have to say about him will be unfairly biased. He does do a good job though.
In what I would imagine to be a team effort, directors Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg and actor Johnny Depp have managed to avoid tedium or cheesiness in the most likely of places: Captain Jack Sparrow. He isn’t drunk throughout the entire film, and his classic Johnny Depp mannerisms still find new ways to be amusing. He still gets stuck in awkward situations which bear no consequence to the rest of the film, and somehow it’s not tiresome. But while it is successful in being an iconic and highly-stylised caricature performance, I would, deep down, love to see Johnny Depp bring out his dramatic acting skills every once in a while as well.
Despite an overall enjoyable story, there were a few parts which didn’t quite sit right with me. Two of them related to Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly. I physically could not restrain myself from rolling my eyes (I tried, I promise) at the pointlessness of Keira Knightley’s silent cameo. And why are there no other crew members from the Flying Dutchman around when we see Will Turner? And while we’re on the topic of the Flying Dutchman, the events in the film have some serious implications on this ship and its crew, and I think this needs to be addressed. It basically makes the entire Dead Man’s Chest film – the highest grossing of the franchise – completely redundant. In fact, it sort of makes all of the films redundant. Similarly to the question of ‘why didn’t Gandalf just get the birds to take Frodo to Mt Doom in the first place’, I have to ask, why didn’t they just suss out this curse-breaking trident in The Curse of the Black Pearl (I’m looking at you, Barbosa)? Without giving too much away, it would have saved them all a lot of messing around, and saved Will Turner a bunch of facial barnacles (not a metaphor – literal facial barnacles). But, these eye-rolls are only minor in the scheme of Dead Men Tell No Tales. There were plenty of moments where I laughed out loud or found myself on the edge of my seat. In future, maybe I won’t be so quick to write off the fifth instalment to a movie franchise, or for that matter, the sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film.


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