- Movie Rating -

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

| May 29, 2017

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies put a lot of stock in curses.  It should, really, when there are haunted men walking around with scales for brains and barnacles for skin.  But the biggest curse that the new installment of the series must overcome is The Curse of the Fourth Sequel.

This is a lamentable movie phenomenon in which a series reaches Sequel #4 and whatever good existed in the series has blown away and the movie going public is asked to pay to see little more than an annuity in action.  Rocky V, Death Wish V, A Good Day to Die Hard, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Highlander: The Source, Terminator: Genisys and countless others have been the scourges of this wretched curse

I don’t want to say that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a complete washout.  There are good things in it, but the end result is a movie that is really hard to care about.  But that wouldn’t break my heart; this is a series that I haven’t really cared about from the beginning.  I see these movies, I enjoy them, but they don’t change my life.  This is a descent movie that I enjoyed while I was watching it but I will probably pass blissfully out of my memories the moment that I finish writing this review.

The chief problem here is that nothing really seems new.  The formula is no longer fresh and the movie marches through the same patterns: an accursed thing rises from the deep and seeks revenge on Jack Sparrow who stole some magical thingamabob that has left them sailing the seven seas lo these many years.  Then we catch up with Jack who’s on the run from not only the accursed thing but also the British Army, fellow pirates and countless spurned women.  Then we follow the plot in which we get talisman after talisman that leads to the magical place that leads to a grand and confusing special effects finale.  Have I left anything out?

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the accursed is Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) an undead pirate hunter who was once a member of the Spanish Navy before being trapped in something called The Devil’s Triangle (I’m sure the producer mean The Bermuda Triangle, but look up that term on Urban Dictionary).

Salazar and his crew became cursed with rotted flesh and missing body parts – torsos, limbs and heads are left hanging in mid air.  Salazar’s curse is that he can never set foot on dry land so now he roams the seven seas looking for Jack Sparrow because . . . well, I’m not sure I remember exactly.  Something about a compass but I never made the connection.

Meanwhile, we find our ever-plucky sea-going rascal Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) once again in trouble with the King’s court and about to be executed in a fun scene involving a rotating guillotine.  Depp’s fifth go-around in this role shows his professionalism.  You can see that he’s apt to give the audience what it has paid for, but you can also sense that he’s run out of things to do.  Watching his performance here is like watching a rerun.  His first go around he created a character for the ages and got himself an Oscar nomination – but now the polish has largely worn off despite Depp’s best efforts

Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly have moved on to bigger and better things and are largely absent from this movie save for a brief cameo, so we have new but ragingly bland young leads to deal with.  Young Brenton Thwaites plays Henry Turner, the adventurous son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann.  His love interest is Carina Smith (Kaya Scodelario) who could be fun but whose performance seems strangely muted as an astronomer whose book smarts lead every man to assume she’s a witch.  She’s also a horologist, a title that becomes a running gag.  The characters here aren’t anything to write home about save for Geoffrey Rush, once again playing the nefarious Captain Barbossa.  He’s given more screen time here than in previous entries and he’s quite good under the circumstances of what he’s given to work with.

The long and short of this movie’s plot is that in order to defeat Salazar, Jack and Co. must find Poseidon’s trident.  This leads to one of those video game plots in which we must find one item to find another item to find another item that will lead us to our destination.  The third act, while standard, does have a neat effect as the water parts like The Red Sea.  The disappointment in when we get to see the trident.  It’s ugly and misshapen, more like something out of Doom than a tale of the sea.  And why is it human-sized?  Wouldn’t an implement of the god of the sea be enormous or at least heavy?

I’ve given the movie credit where credit is due.  The first half includes some wonderful action set pieces that are really a lot of fun, but they are burdened by a plot that is overwritten and underwhelming.  That’s been a constant all through this series.  I gave On Stranger Tides credit for at least slimming things down but here we get back to the convoluted mystical garbledegook again, but this one goes back to the problems I had with the first three.  It’s a mess story-wise.

I think this series needs some new blood and a new direction.  The audience is getting weary from it and we sense that the filmmakers are as well.  They are going through the same paces over and over.  If this series is to keep going, it needs to steer into some new waters.  Maybe next time they could throw Jack Sparrow into the middle of Treasure Island, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk or even Moby Dick.  It need something fresh, something new to break this wretched sequel curse.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2017) View IMDB Filed in: Action