When Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was released, I doubt anyone was more excited than I was at seeing the fourth installment of my favorite film franchise. By the time it ended, while I enjoyed the music, Geoffrey Rush’s performance, and Johnny Depp’s usual flapping, drunken demeanor, I wished the third had been the end. It was the perfect ending to the trilogy, you know? Sparrow singing “A Pirate’s Life for Me” to close the series just as a young Elizabeth sang it to open it seemed like a perfect, fitting finale. Alas, they ruined it with a fourth, nonsensical film (I’m still trying to figure out why Sam Claflin was even there to begin with), and so the need for a fifth and maybe even sixth was apparent. Not just for monetary purposes, but to fix what Producer Jerry Bruckheimer had clearly screwed up…and thankfully, Dead Men Tell No Tales cleaned up the disasterous fourth film WALL-E style.
The film–the shortest in the series–gets a lot done in just over two hours. We meet up with Will Turner and his young son, Henry, aboard the Flying Dutchman immediately. We are introduced to Carina Smyth, an astronomer searching for an island on a map no man can read. Jack Sparrow turns up, passed out drunk in a safe that he’s supposed to rob. Henry pulls a Will Turner, rescues Jack from the gallows, and threatens him aboard a ship only to have the wily Sparrow show that he hasn’t lost a step. Meanwhile, you have the merciless Captain Salazar, recently liberated from the Devil’s Triangle, hunting down every pirate he can, with particular interest in the man who trapped him in the first place, Jack Sparrow. Barbossa, fearing for the existence of his pirate fleet, makes a deal to give Sparrow to Salazar in exchange for his life, the lives of his men, and his ships.
Everything that happens from here on, and some other surprising, gasp-inducing stuff in the midst of all that, makes this film more than worth the watch. The writing clearly stepped it up from the last film…it has a long way to go to recapture the glory it had with the original three, but an improvement over the fourth film is a win. One gripe I have with the writing is that they changed Jack’s backstory in relation to the compass. In Dead Man’s Chest, Tia Dalma says that she gave Jack the compass; here, we see the dying captain of the Wicked Wench (the Pearl’s name before it was the Black Pearl) give Jack the compass. Another issue is that from the beginning, it is clear that Jack and Will are no longer friends. Will reacts almost violently to hearing his son say Jack’s name, and Jack almost vomits when he hears that Henry is Will and Elizabeth’s son. Last we saw them, Jack had saved Will’s life and Will helped Jack defeat the Endeavour and Cutler Beckett. It was slightly irritating to see that blatant disregard for continuity, but nonetheless, if the rest of the movie is worth it, those issues are forgivable.
Dead Men Tell No Tales is more than worth the price of admission if you are a fan of the franchise. You get the usual outstanding performances from Kevin R. McNally and Johnny Depp. Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scoledario hold their own very well as the new stars and heirs-apparent to Will and Elizabeth’s love story. Keira Knightley has literally no lines, but for fans of the film, it’s great just to see her again. Orlando Bloom has lines, and uses what little screen time he has to his advantage, making himself appear as the tormented, cursed ghost pirate he is. The performances of the film, however, go to Geoffrey Rush and Javier Bardem, the only Oscar-winners among the cast. Bardem’s creepy, skulking, more-ghost-than-man character of Armando Salazar haunts the screen even when he isn’t on it. His disturbing, halting speech pattern, with the help of masterful effects that have Salazar drooling thick, black saliva, add to the air of fear Bardem has exuded since his portrayal of Anton Chigurh. Still, Geoffrey Rush owns the screen. From his imposing moments at the start, to his obvious fear of Salazar at the very mention of his name, to the very end of the film, Rush’s Barbossa gets more out of PotC fans in one film than any other character has throughout their entire time in the series.
If you’re expecting fight scenes out the wazoo like in the previous installments, you will be disappointed; there is a glaring lack of sword-fighting in this movie. That said, given the drama and story-line of the film, I didn’t even notice the lack of fights until hours after I left the theater. And given how the film played, out, it was a smart decision not to bog down the film in those fights when the intention of the film was more about emotions than ass-kicking: Salazar’s revenge-fueled hunt; Barbossa’s fearful, yet conniving actions, among others; and Jack’s lust for treasure at every turn, to name a few. One last thing before I sign off: THERE HAVE BEEN FOUR FILMS ALREADY; IF YOU DON’T KNOW ENOUGH TO STAY UNTIL AFTER THE END CREDITS, THEN DON’T GO, BECAUSE YOU WILL MISS THE BEST PART OF THE WHOLE MOVIE.
One last thing before I sign off: THERE HAVE BEEN FOUR FILMS ALREADY; IF YOU DON’T KNOW ENOUGH TO STAY UNTIL AFTER THE END CREDITS, THEN DON’T GO, BECAUSE YOU WILL MISS THE BEST PART OF THE WHOLE MOVIE.
Rating: 6 slices out of 8