It’s clear by now that I live in a universe with a skewed perspective. In this world, sequels exist only for a short time, but if they discredit the status of an original movie, they cease to exist. Anyone who’s seen Godfather 3 or the two Matrix sequels can understand this feeling. The Pirates franchise may be the quintessential example of disregarding any sequels, as they only water down the original film.
We’re currently on the 4th sequel of this complicated franchise. The cast and characters have changed hands several times, but one thing is constant – Johnny Depp will play Captain Jack Sparrow for the rest of his life.
In Dead Men Tell No Tales, it’s clearly been several years since Jack’s last adventure. His crew has shrunk, and that’s not even mentioning his ship, The Black Pearl. Essentially, he’s just causing mischief and avoiding the everyday noose or guillotine.
The “main” character this time around is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), who is looking to end his father’s curse by finding the Trident of Poseidon. He can only do this with the legendary Jack Sparrow’s help. Along the way, Henry is joined by a “woman of science” Carina (Kaye Scodelario), who has a possible map to the Trident.
Meanwhile, there’s yet another crew of ghostly pirates, led by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who would like nothing more than to end Jack’s life.
The format is familiar – Two anchor characters, one scene-stealing rogue, a magical macguffin and undead pirates. The simplicity almost works for the movie. Had the plot been limited to this formula, the waters would be far less tumultuous. Instead, there are around nine random subplots that overcomplicate what it happening on screen. These subplots actually take away valuable screen time from Henry and Carina’s character defining moments.
The weakest aspect of the franchise at this point, is also the biggest star. Jack Sparrow is more of a routine than a character. Depp is still hamming it up and clearly loving it, but the jokes have all been done. I would like to see a Pirates movie that only references Jack, but does not insist on using him as a main character.
At times, there are visually outstanding moments in Dead Men Tell No Tales. This is also not hurt by the soundtrack either. I believe there are still magic in these waters. There are fun mythologies that could still be explored. Yet, Sparrow (and Geoffrey Rush’s Barbosa) is the anchor that won’t allow the ship to move forward.
All this said, Dead Men Tell No Tales is the second best movie in the Pirates franchise. It acts as a stand-alone movie, but also has the ability to close off open plots from previous movies. This could easily end the Pirates franchise, but we all know it won’t. Brenton Thwaites and Kaye Scodelario are good stand-ins for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. With more focus (and better writing) on these two characters, the movie would be far stronger. Javier Bardem’s Salazar is creepy enough and far more memorable than any single element in On Stranger Tides (bet you forgot that existed).
This feels like a big screen experience that you can justify as a dollar movie or rental. C