Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t quite reach the standard of the gloriously original trilogy. Still, the movie makes its mark as a grounded adventure of supernatural in pirate world. The movie serves best for any purpose, either as start for a new series or the finale of Jack Sparrow’s hilarious sails. Best of all, this fifth installment allows viewers to forget that Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides ever happened.
Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales, directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, gets off with a strong start with a prologue revealing that our new young male lead, Henry (Brenton Thwaites), is the son of Will Turner. From there, the movie quickly establishes a picture directing the sequel to the original trilogy while immediately winning our interest in young Henry’s quest to save his dad using a Trident of Poseidon.
Certain structural beats and story turns feel familiar to fans of Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl. The story takes place about 20 years after the events of the previous trilogy, with Jack Sparrow still bumbling along and inspiring vicious pirates who can and will slaughter any number of folks to exact their revenge upon him.
This time around, the haunted rogue is Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spanish Navy captain who was sent to his death by Jack Sparrow when he was young. Salazar has sought vengeance on Jakck ever since. Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) returns this time as the villain-turned-antihero gets unwillingly involved in the spat between Sparrow and Salazar. That’s pretty much all the story you need, as we get the usual assortment of chases, escapes, close calls and battles by sword and by ship.
The special effects works are superb delivering with enough style and grace to merit the existence of Salazar’s ghost crew. Moreover, in some flashback scene of Jack’s young days, the de-aging effect is very well used making us thinking of a prequel of the trilogy might coming soon.
Jack Sparrow is still a relative drag on the proceedings, as he’s been more “fly in the ointment” than “useful rogue” since Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest. Johnny Depp is still fine doing his job, but the character is a lot less funny than it used to be 14 years ago. Bardem chews exactly as much scenery as you’d expect, while Thwaites and Scodelario make a charming hero/heroine match. They don’t try to mimic Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, and the movie is better for it.
The pleasures of the movie is beyond a superficial; they are genuine of seeking a full-throated pirate adventure with good company walking away satisfied. Throughout the movie, there is a subtext about an educated woman facing persecution and having to manage stupid men whose gender gives them authority and the presumption of competence.
To sum up, the movie looks gorgeous, and the action is well-staged and coherent. It is miles better than Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides. I still adore those shoot for the moon blowouts, for their sheer chutzpah, for their grim political commentary and for that time not so long ago when we could never imagine a bigger and more obscenely overstuffed blockbuster than At World’s End. Alas, I found the chases-to-swordplay ratios to be tilted in the wrong direction. All in all, the movie ends on an elegant and surprisingly moving note. If this is to be the end, Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales works as a fitting finale.