I have a confession to make: I can’t stand the character Captain Jack Sparrow. He’s obnoxious, irritating, bumbling, obscene, and all around just frustrating to watch. Yes, I realize I just described his entire character and that’s the point of him, but I could just never bring myself to like him. Johnny Depp does a fantastic job at playing him, clearly enjoying himself and disappearing into the role, but I can’t stand the way he’s written. Needless to say, I wasn’t too excited for a new Pirates of the Caribbean adventure.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of the cursed Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), is a crew member on a British Royal Navy ship. Obsessed with breaking his father’s curse, he desperately searches for the Trident of Poseidon, which can give him the power to do so. One normal day, they unfortunately come across the ghost of Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his crew, who kills everyone on board, save for Henry. He leaves Henry alive, so he can tell the tale of Salazar, as well as deliver Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) a message that he is seeking vengeance. When Henry later meets up with Sparrow and astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), they set off to find the trident, with Salazar and a newly recruited Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) on their trail.

All disdain for Jack Sparrow aside, I actually quite like the first Pirates film. It’s a rollicking, fun film with a constant pace and thirst for adventure. The supernatural world surrounding it made it stand out from other pirate films, and the characters all played off each other well. It was the sequels where they really started losing me, when the writers suddenly started forcing in plot contrivances and conveniences, making the plot and logic to this universe unnecessarily complicated. The adventure was still there, but the fun was gone.

This fifth outing is really more of the same. Jack Sparrow gets roped into another seafaring adventure while a colorful cast of characters to assist him along the way, all with a spooky bad guy in tow. With these films, you kinda know what you’re gonna get. That includes the poorly structured and paced story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and feels emotionally empty. A lot of the setup with Sparrow and the new characters here relies on a lot of convenience. Henry needs to locate a spot on a map that no man can read, but luckily he happens to run into a woman who’s an astronomer. Good thing Captain Jack Sparrow happens to be in town, too, so he can join in on the adventure and captain the ship. Also, now Henry can tell him Salazar is coming for him. Everything from the setup to the conclusion felt very contrived.

Even Jack Sparrow feels like a supporting a character here, and doesn’t really do a whole lot. He has no real motivation to be there, or really go along on the adventure, other than the fact that his crew abandoned him and Javier Bardem wants him dead. He has no character growth, nothing to add to the story, and seems like he’s only there because he’s the face of the franchise. Johnny Depp either doesn’t remember how to play the character, or just doesn’t care, because he seems like he’d rather be off chugging a real bottle of rum. At least that makes him a lot less annoying this time around. Hopefully in the next film he’ll just spend most of the time blacked out.

It would have been nice if our other characters weren’t complete non-starters. Not-Will Turner and Not-Elizabeth Swann are both bland, with none of the charm as Orlando Bloom or Kiera Knightley. It’s most likely not their fault, considering how thin their characters are. Character dilemmas and traits are established, but never resolved or expanded upon. This is definitely evident with Carina, where Disney and the filmmakers try to force in some social commentary about women’s rights, independence, and equality. Sure, it makes sense in the time period, but those themes aren’t brought up again after the first act, nor do they have any sort of satisfying payoff. I have no problem with “girl power” in movies, but it should be handled by the actions of the character instead of through forced dialogue.

There’s no real story to be told with any character, until they try to shove one in during the last act with Captain Barbossa to try to give the film a heart. That heart was more out of sight than Davy Jones’, though, because I felt nothing. The only interesting character was Captain Salazar, played by a gleefully creepy Javier Bardem. However, this film only further proves my theory that any time Javier Bardem is a villain in a film not made by the Coen Brothers, it’ll most likely be mediocre. They brought a new screenwriter and pair of directors on board, but they do nothing to inject any new life, or coherence to the franchise. Many scenes and characters go absolutely nowhere, and it felt like the filmmakers never knew which direction to take. We have all the hallmarks of pirate ghosts, ship battles, and the kooky characters, but it all feels directionless. The only better thing about it is that it’s considerably shorter than the rest.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales feels devoid of almost any passion. It has been six years since the last film, and it seems like Disney only released this to make an extra buck before people stop caring about this franchise for good. The effects, costumes, and production design are as fantastic as ever, and the action scenes still creative and entertaining. It’s just that everything else is still just a big mess that we’ve already seen three times before. Where’s all the fun gone?


Leave a Reply

Connect Online