Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth instalment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the franchise that solidified Jack Sparrow, sorry CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow, in the minds of movie going audiences when it first burst into the scene in 2003. Yes, it’s been 14 years since the first Pirates movie, and it still holds up great. The first one, at least. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t as awful as most critics would have you believe, and I didn’t Pirates 2 through 4. I definitely didn’t hate it with the vehement tenacity of a thousand suns the way most critics did, but they held nothing to the first film. What the fifth instalment is though, is essentially the first film, again.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Orlando Bloom, sorry, Brenton Thwaites is a young, attractive, self-righteous do-gooder who’s decent with a sword and quick witted enough to hold his own with Johnny Depp, who’s focus is the main driving plot of the film in an effort to save someone he loves, recruiting the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow along the way. Keira Knightley, sorry, Kaya Scodelario is a woman far ahead of her time, in a man’s world, doing all the things the boys can do and reaffirming what we already know about outdated views on woman. And Johnny Depp is Captain Jack Sparrow, who pisses of and curses a bunch of ghost-pirates, largely creating a complex narrative that envelops our heroes in a mystical, swash-buckling story told with brilliant special effects and production design set to a score that’ll have you galloping along the adventure in no time. Wait, was that a synopsis of the first movie? Or the fifth? Nah, jokes on you says Disney – IT’S BOTH!! Same, same, but different, no? No.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the less funny, less enjoyable, less exciting, slightly duller second cousin, poor man’s version of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, with a bit of the second movie thrown in for good measure. Yes, Disney by all mean, remake all your animated classics into live action and I’ll come throwing my money at you in waves. Take Star Wars and essentially make A New Hope again with The Force Awakens, and you’ll also have my money, on the promise that you’ll deliver new and exciting plot points in later movies (plus you wanted to distance yourself from the prequels, but now after 2 films and the 40 year celebration, you’re kinda bringing them into the fold more, it’s a whole thing, I’m way off topic, sorry. Star Wars. Yay, Star Wars!) But this just felt kinda dirty. IT’S THE SAME MOVIE. You even brought back the weird witch-like character from the second film for that creepy vibe, you’ve got pompous, British fellows doing pompous British things to contrast the pirates against. You’ve got a post credit scene that hits at more of the same, possibly remaking the second Pirates film! Gah! You’ve got no pre-existing source material, you’ve got a plethora of myths and worlds to explore, and a cast of actors and film makers bursting at the seams with talent, and this is what you come up with, writers? Looking at you, Jeff Nathanson, with your Catch Me If You Can talent, and your Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, oh. Oh that makes more sense.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales looks pretty fantastic, but I’ve come to expect nothing less of a Pirates movie. The production value, CGI and design of these films have always looks absolutely sublime. The performances are also all great, poor Brenton Thwaites can’t seem to catch a break between Maleficent, Gods of Egypt and now Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, none of which he’s been bad in, but all of which have received mixed reviews, to put it mildly. Kaya Scodelario is one of the best parts of the film, and the two of them most definitely have chemistry. Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbosa is once again, excellent, and actually has one of the more interesting and poignant story points in the film. Which brings us to Johnny Depp. Depp’s received much critique for his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in the later Pirates films, but it isn’t Depp’s portrayal I have a problem with. Again, it’s the writing. Specifically, the writing of the action scenes. In the first Pirates movie, Sparrow was a drunkard, who somehow managed to pull off the most incredulous and intricate plans with utter perfection. The ridiculousness of “but why is the rum gone” was matched with the wit and skill so the audience has a certain sense of admiration for Sparrow. Now, instead, Depp’s Sparrow has become a beneficiary of chance, with hardly any display of swordplay or an ingenious plan, but simply drunkenly stumbles into success. Where’s the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow gone? Back to 2003, it would seem. We need action scenes that don’t just make us laugh at Captain Jack, but make us appreciate his crazy antics for the genius they used to be. I miss Captain Jack, would like to see him back on screen sometime, but it’s not Depp I blame, again, it’s the writing.
Which brings me to my final gripe – I know I’ve already spewed about how this film basically rips of the first one, and yes there is a tender plot point in the middle that I quite enjoyed, but otherwise, the writing is most definitely not on point. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has one of the most boring, ill-conceived inciting incidents that I’ve ever seen. Ever. Without going into spoilers, I’m going to simply say that firstly, explaining away the mysterious past of a particularly beloved character doesn’t always do that character justice. In fact, it more often than not starts to pull apart at the tapestry that made that character so great in the first place. But when you link your inciding incident to a character’s past, and don’t even explain it properly? Now that’s a recipe for a bad movie. I mean, this film’s catalist does. Not. Make. Sense. Add that to the regurgiated plot from the first film, hitting the same character beats, just poorly, with jokes that land only about 40% of the time, and I’m sorry Disney, try harder.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a beautifully dissapointing waste of space on our screens, and for a franchise that I think genuenly has potentially, please stop making poor story choices and start telling interesting and different stories again.