Having grown up with the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, news of a fifth entry inspired more doubt than interest in me. As far as I was concerned, the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow ended with the third movie, At World’s End, and Dead Men Tell No Tales does little to change that sentiment.
Down on his luck and past his prime, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) must hunt down the legendary Trident of Poseidon to save himself from his long deceased rival Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) – who came back from the dead to exact vengeance. Other parties (both friend and foe) have their eyes on the Trident too, and Captain Sparrow must beat them to the chase if he wants to sail the seas again.
To be fair, Dead Men Tell No Tales is not a steaming piece of shit like the fourth Pirates entry On Stranger Tides was, but its existence still begs the question why sequels were made after At World’s End.
Back to Basic Piracy
Dead Men Tell No Tales thankfully learned from the mistakes of On Stranger Tides, and this should somewhat please those who were unimpressed by a movie with a main villain who had the ability to control fucking ropes. For the most part, the fifth Pirates movie did its job of rekindling the spark of the older Pirates movies that was missing in its immediate predecessor.
If Dead Men Tell No Tales feels familiar, this was intentional and it’s not just you being an observant, cynical asshole who’s seen too many movies like yours truly. In an attempt to revive the Pirates movies, Dead Men Tell No Tales borrows the entire set-up of The Curse of the Black Pearl while sprinkling it with the sequels’ best elements.
From killer ghost sailors to Captain Jack Sparrow being relegated to a supporting character for a pair of lovebirds no one gives a fuck about, Dead Men Tell No Tales brings the Pirates movies back to their roots. Rather than try to surpass the previous movies, the latest sequel narrows its focus to a smaller cast and a chase for a mythical object not unlike the Heart of Davy Jones from Dead Man’s Chest.
Dead Men Tell No Tales feels and looks like a proper Pirates movie. But besides being a homage to the franchise’s better days, Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t have much else to it. Despite being an improvement over On Stranger Tides, this sequel is still wholly unnecessary and worse, lifeless.
Apologies of the High Seas
The common sentiment among Pirates fans is that the series ended perfectly with At World’s End, and whoever thought On Stranger Tides was a good idea is a dumb motherfucker. If Dead Men Tell No Tales is anything to go by, it’s possible that even the cast and crew agreed with fans’ complaints.
Everything in Dead Men Tell No Tales feels obligatory – probably because everyone on board stopped caring years ago and are just present for a paycheck. Minus Captain Salazar, none of the characters give a fuck. Even Captain Jack Sparrow felt like a bumbling parody of his once clever self, as if he had better things to do than look for a magical ocean fork. The stakes are nonexistent because the characters’ flimsy motivations for acquiring the Trident are interchangeable. That, and everyone just decides they want the damned thing before knowing what the hell it does in the first place.
Even the movie itself felt as if it were just following a checklist instead of showing a brand new adventure. The humor was repetitive and forced, and the plot was as predictable as any forgettable disposable summer adventure movie could get. The biggest fault of On Stranger Tides was continuing a story that already ended, and Dead Men Tell No Tales remedies this by tying up every loose end possible while acting like the fourth movie never happened. Though this apology is appreciated, Dead Men Tell No Tales still missed the chance to end the Pirates movies on a high note.
Laying the Pearl to Rest
Advertised as “The Final Adventure,” Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t bother giving the franchise a proper send-off, preferring to quickly get shit over and done with so it could go home and get hammered on rum while recalling the glory days of the Pirates movies.
Despite these, Dead Men Tell No Tales is still watchable and even heartfelt in the right places. It may be cynical, lazy and generic when compared to the creative madness of the original trilogy, but at the very least it’s a competent, serviceable movie that won’t offend anyone over its 129 minute run – the shortest runtime of a Pirates movie to date. If this doesn’t emphasize the feeling that Dead Men Tell No Tales wanted to leave cinemas in a hurry, then I don’t know what else could.
The best thing about Dead Men Tell No Tales is its intent to end the Pirates movies once and for all. Pirates of the Caribbean has been going on longer than it should have, and Dead Men Tell No Tales accepted this hard reality. There’s nothing else to be told in the story, and it’s better for Captain Jack Sparrow to heroically sail into the memories of fans and never come back, because his legend is better remembered than being needlessly prolonged.
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