Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Kaya Scodelario, Brenton Thwaites, Kevin McNally
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive conten
There’s a new “Pirates”tale in town, and if you have seen any of the previous films, you know exactly what to expect from this one. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” checks off all the expected boxes. There’s Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). There’s his crew. There’s an attractive young couple as secondary protagonists. There’s a supernatural villain who is covered in awesome special effects. What isn’t here is the spark that set the early “Pirates” films alight.
The story revolves around Jack’s feud with Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem): Jack tricked Salazar into wrecking his own ship and killing everyone on board. Salazar and his crew have been biding their time as ghosts, waiting for Jack to do the thing that will set them free. When they’re freed, they vengefully go after Jack.
Meanwhile, we have our young male protagonist (Brenton Thwaites), who is the son of the previous young male protagonist (Orlando Bloom). He’s searching for a way to break the curse his father is currently suffering through. He meets a girl, Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who is also looking for an item that breaks curses, and they wind up working with Jack and his crew to find it.
It’s all pretty formulaic. Everyone has their backstory (though only Jack’s features an uncanny-valley de-aged version of himself). There are fights, both on land and on ships. There’s some ridiculousness to lighten the mood.
The special effects are truly stunning – Salazar and his crew were blown up, and each ghost is made up of the chunks of body that were left. They walk and talk and fight like whole-bodied humans, it’s just that some of their parts are missing. In Salazar’s case, the missing part is a chunk of his head. One ghost is missing everything but the top of his head (still wearing a hat) and his sword-hand. For bonus eeriness, they look like they’re under water. Salazar’s hair floats around his head, rippling with his movements. His clothes float a bit as well.
The rest of the movie is less stunning. The production values are very high, and everyone seems to be taking their part seriously. But very few of them seem to be having fun. Even Geoffrey Rush’s delight at being the cheesy and scenery-chewing Captain Barbossa again seems a bit muted.
It’s easy to forgive plot holes, poor continuity, and general nonsensical activity when it’s in service to a film that’s engaging enough to carry you along with it. If you aren’t carried by this film, there’s a lot there to be annoyed by. These range from abrupt and unexplained costume changes to inconsistency around the effects of a magical item.
This is not a good film to serve as an introduction to the franchise, so newcomers are best advised to watch the first one on the best and largest screen available (the special effects have always been one of, if not the single, best thing in these films). Folks who love the franchise unreservedly have probably seen the new film at least once by the time this review will see print. If you weren’t impressed with the last couple of “Pirates” films, give “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” a miss.