Walking into a theater with zero expectations has a consistent way of leading to an eventual surprise at a film’s end. While it’s fair to call the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise the worst Disney live action franchise they have put out to date, the films have certainly made their share amount of money. Outside of the first installment, they have progressively gotten worse in terms of quality and coming off the heels of 2011’s On Stranger Tides, one would have thought the franchise was done. Fast forward 6 years, we have the latest and in my opinion final installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Although the film does not capture the magic of the 2003 original, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was a nice surprise that very well may be bidding farewell to Jack Sparrow and the franchise in a somewhat satisfying way.
Dead Men Tell No Tales opens with a 10-year old Henry Turner, son of Will, boarding the Flying Dutchman in which his father is cursed to the ship forever. When he tells his father that he’s found a way to break his curse and free him from his ship, Will dismisses the idea and forces him to leave and never return. Fast forward nine years later and Turner now grown is on a ship taken down by Captain Salazar, who is stuck in the Devil’s Triangle. Salazar quickly kills the crew and leaves Henry to tell the dead men’s tale and find Captain Jack Sparrow. Jack and Henry eventually share the common goal of finding the legendary Trident of Poseidon, which bestows upon its possessor total control over the oceans as well as the ability to break every curse of the sea.
What works well for this installment is Jeff Nathanson’s script brings back some of what worked in the earlier installments of the franchise. Pirates worked well when the focus was not just on Jack Sparrow, and while On Stranger Tides took away any care for its supporting characters, Dead Men Tell No Tales brings it back. Carina Smyth and Henry Turner are not only both likable but you care about both their motives and intentions throughout, including those of Jack Sparrow.
In 2003, Johnny Depp hit lightning in a bottle as he created this endearing, original character Captain Jack Sparrow. However, as the years went on and the franchise grew, it felt as though the reins were not being pulled by Depp as Sparrow turned into a satirical imitation of the performance mostly everyone loved back in 2003. Not much has changed in Dead Men Tell No Tales, as Depp is mostly over the top and extremely unfunny and irritating. What was once an Oscar-nominated performance has turned into a temporary removal from the Party City costume aisle to the big screen.
Where this film compares to the original is in terms of villains is better. Javier Bardem is tremendous as Captain Salazar. His motives are clear and he is heartless, vicious, and incites fear in anyone around his presence. He also looks damn frightening thanks to the great CGI throughout the film. He is right up there with Geoffrey Rush’s Barbosa in Curse of the Black Pearl. Speaking of Barbosa, his performance is truly heartbreaking as his story comes full circle and realizes what ultimate treasure really is. Rush is outstanding.
The film’s finale closes the chapter on the Pirates franchise very well and while there is still room for more sequels if Disney wants, the way the film concludes all the characters stories puts a bow on top that should be satisfactory for all fans of the franchise.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tells No Tales is not a great film by any means. It is a passable finale to a franchise that has lasted longer than anyone ever anticipated. With that being said, the only place we should hear “A Pirates Life for me” from now on is on the Walt Disney World or Disney Land ride.
Reel Talk gives Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales 2.5 reels