Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is not a terrible film. It is however completely uninspiring, but at film 5 in the series, how can it be? Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is always fun to watch. He wasn’t the problem. You can tell he still enjoys playing this character. I think that’s why I enjoyed the 4th film, unlike so many others. It was a film that just focused on him. He for once was the main character. All the others, including this one, has Captain Jack as a secondary character, using two lovebirds as the real main players. In the first three films we had Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom filling those roles. Here we have… two people I’ve never heard of. They’re basically our Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom stand-ins.
Stand-in number one is Henry Turner. Henry misses his father, Orlando Bloom’s character Will Turner. If you remember in the 3rd film, Will was cursed to live on the ghost ship The Dutchman. Though I’m pretty sure at the end of that film eventually he does come back… See, my problem or at least one of my problems was I couldn’t remember everything that happened in 4 installments of this film series.
Shit would happen and I’d struggle to try and remember if it happened in any of the other films. Like Barbossa now having a peg leg.
When did he get that?
Was that in one of the films and I don’t remember?
Or the fact Captain Jack has his ship the black pearl stuck in a bottle.
When did that happen? It was mentioned Black Beard put it in there.
Did we ever get introduced to a Black Beard?
What film was that?
Was that the 4th film?
Did it happen at the end of the 3rd?
See, now I’m trying to remember if he had his ship in the 4th film, which I don’t think he did. That’s what I was doing throughout most of this movie. Just trying to remember what the hell happened in the others. I’ve only seen them once. The fact that I can remember anything at all is kind of a miracle.
I can’t stress enough how important it is you watch the other films before seeing this one. That might help with the confusion I was struck with.
Henry Turner is obsessed with trying to find a way to free his dad from his curse.
The one thing that can do it is Poseidon’s trident, something that most likely doesn’t even exist.
Now this story is kind of convoluted, so try to stick with me here while I try my best to break it down.
Stand-in number two is Carina Smyth. She’s a scientist, but being a woman that just means she’s a witch and is scheduled to be hung. She’s also obsessed with finding Poseidon’s trident but for very different reasons. She’s an orphan and the only thing she has of her father is this book, a map to the location of the trident. But it’s a map that only she can read. A star map.
Meanwhile, Henry Turner is working on a British navy ship when he breaks command and warns the captain that everyone is about to be led into a trap. Of course they arrest him and put him in the brig. And of course they fall into the trap, getting attacked by ghosts. But not just any ghosts, these ghosts are the ghosts of French pirate hunters. See, completely different from the first film. The first film they were ghost pirates, not pirate hunters.
The ghost pirate hunters are led by Captain Salazar, played by Javier Bardem. Captain Salazar always lets one person live, like Mickey and Mallory Knox from Natural Born Killers. The lucky soul who gets a pass is of course Henry.
He must deliver a message to Captain Jack Sparrow. But his accent is kind of heavy here, adding a filter to his voice didn’t help any either. Mostly it was a warning. You see, when Jack was just a wee lad, he took over the role as captain when Salazar defeated a bunch of pirate ships. Jack used the compass (I honestly only remember the compass being a thing in the 4th film, maybe it was prevalent in the others, I don’t remember) to lead Salazar into a trap, killing and cursing him and his crew.
Meanwhile, Jack is a land locked drunk trying to rob the world’s first iron vault out of a bank. Who wakes up inside the vault… I mean, why use a bunch of horses to drag the vault through town Fast and Furious 5 style when they already broke in… because then we wouldn’t get a 15 minute action sequence of them dragging the whole bank down the city streets, with Jack stumbling around everywhere.
While all of this is happening, Carina Smyth is also escaping the soldiers who are after her. Eventually her and Jack meet up, but quickly separate.
Carina is recaptured trying to sneak into the infirmary to talk with Henry. She knows about his obsession with the trident, like her. Though for some reason she’s searching for it with a scientific mind and dismisses any thought that it really belongs to Poseidon.
After the botched bank heist, what’s left of Jack’s crew abandon him. Now drunk off his ass more than usual, he goes to sulk at the local bar, trading his compass for some booze. This unleashes the ghost pirate hunters from their cave prison, now able to set out, sinking any pirate ships they run across.
Nowadays the only pirate ships out at sea belong to Barbossa, who like I mentioned now has a peg leg for some reason. He goes to a witch that the British army is holding captive and asks for help. She gives him Jack’s magic compass, saying this will lead him to the thing he wants most. And for some reason he offers himself to Captain Salazar. I guess so he’d stop attacking his ships. Anyway, they strike a deal, offering to lead Salazar straight to Jack.
Jack gets arrested and we are treated to yet another long action set piece of Henry trying to break everyone free, including Carina. Thankfully they were together so we don’t have to sit through another 30 minute break out sequence.
Eventually they set out to sea, looking for the trident.
And just like the first film they have the two “real” main characters start to fall in love. There’s an obsessed British navy captain after them, just like the first, though he is quickly killed off by Salazar’s creepy ship eating ghost ship.
That’s another thing this film has going for it. The visuals. The CGI looked a tiny bit spotty here and there, especially with Salazar’s underwater floating hair effect, but the set pieces… these have always been spectacle films. You can see the budget on screen. I’d really compare them with the Fast and Furious films, though I think the F&F films are much better. I make no excuse trying to hide my love for the Fast and Furious franchise. And I highly recommend The Fate of the Furious over this film. The one thing Pirates has over F&F is Captain Jack Sparrow.
Eventually Barbossa double crosses Salazar and teams up with Jack and the others. So small spoiler here. Turns out Carina is Barbossa’s long lost daughter. He didn’t leave her with the book so she’ll go find this treasure that may or may not exist. It had a jewel on the cover and thought it might be worth something, so he left it to her in hopes that it might provide for her later in life.
As Jack and the rest finally make it to the spot on the map with the trident, Salazar shows up, getting the mythical weapon first. As the trident is broken, it breaks all the curses of the sea, even Salazar’s.
Now human but still an asshole, he goes after Jack. Thankfully the black pearl shows up to save the day. Unfortunately, Barbossa has to sacrifice himself to save his daughter, killing Salazar and himself in the process.
Now with the curses of the sea broken, Henry sails back home to greet his father where he and his mother are waiting.
Jack on the other hand got his shit and his crew back. So he’s good.
All in all, like I said, not a terrible film. It did seem kind of pointless. I’m not sure we needed another tale to continue one the 3rd film left off at. I liked that the 4th film was its own contained story, starting a new adventure. This was just a rehash of everything we’ve already seen before but done slightly different.
It isn’t one I’ll ever watch again, but either were any of the other Pirates films.
If you’re a really big fan, sure, check it out. It is at least entertaining.
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