Cinematic Releases: Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales (2017) - Reviewed

I will always remember when the original Pirates of the Caribbean came out and the impact it had on me as a child. It was 2003 and I was a young boy who liked action adventure movies. Audiences everywhere fell in love with its world and its characters. No one could believe that a movie inspired by a theme park ride could be so good. The adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow were filled to the brim with action, humor, and groundbreaking visual effects. We dreamed for more of these astonishing nautical adventures. And then they kept making them and they got worse and worse. Rather than the let the series end with dignity, Disney decided to keep returning to the well until finally…it went dry.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth installment of the popular Pirates franchise. The perpetually down-on-his-luck Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is feeling even more lost and aimless than usual. When deadly ghost sailors led by his old nemesis, the evil Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil's Triangle, Jack’s only way of getting out of this predicament is to find the legendary Trident of Poseidon. But as usual, he can’t do it alone and he must forge an alliance with a brilliant and beautiful astronomer (Kaya Scodelario) and a headstrong young man (Brenton Thwaites) in the British navy.

Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have made a film so aggressively mediocre that I can’t even be mad at it. Five films into this franchise and the excitement has dissipated. The sense of adventure is gone and it seems that almost everybody in this film is there for the paycheck. The effects and music while fine just serve as cues that are meant to excite the audience but end up reminding the audience of how much fun the original movies were.

This approach lends itself to the rest of the film. The acting in the film is essentially the actors playing the franchise greatest hits. Johnny Depp plays Sparrow in the same way he has before. The character’s arc in the film is non-existent and he just seems to be around to drunkenly mumble and make jokes throughout every scene. Depp is on acting autopilot throughout the film. Bardem’s Salazar is an impressively computer-generated retread of both Anton Chigurh and Davy Jones that brings some fun to the mostly dull proceedings here. He plays it up with enough menace that he makes for an enjoyable enough foil for Depp to play off of.

Newcomers Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites have a little bit of chemistry and in a better movie they would have been a lot of fun. They play off of each other well. In this movie, they are just dull retreads of the Orland Bloom and Keira Knightly characters. The only character in the film that has a satisfying and engaging arc is fan favorite Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Rush has always done a great job with this character and he is no exception here. He brings heart and humanity for a film material that is deeply lacking in both. 

I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a film that feels like it was made for the money and that there wasn’t any care put into it. It plays like a passionless facsimile as opposed to a vibrant summer blockbuster. It’s hard to harp about artistry and passion in a review for a franchise based on theme park ride, but come on. The humor, adventure, and heart were a part of what made that film work are hard to find here. That spark is gone and so is our interest.

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Liam S. O'Connor