Dead men tell no tales. Neither do movies on the fifth go-around, apparently. However, the latest installment in Disney’s goldmine franchise proved two things. One, that a return to the glory days of Pirates, while somewhat repetitive, was necessary and long past due. Two, Orlando Bloom, even with a barnacle-encrusted face, can never look bad.
After a flop in 2011 with the release of On Stranger Tides, it was clear that the newer Pirates movies were lacking their original charm. While Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow may have been able to hold the movies on his own for a little while longer, the original storyline that involved Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightly) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) was too strong and too unfinished to forget about.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales takes off where the third Pirates left off, with Will Turner doomed to a cursed life aboard a barnacled ship at the bottom of the ocean with passage to leave once a decade to see his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Henry. Henry, now a young man, longs to reconnect with his father and break his curse by summoning the power of the legendary Trident of Poseidon. Meanwhile, a blubbering and unfortunate Jack Sparrow also seeks the Trident to avoid the threat of death from the recently escaped Captain Salazar and his crew of ghosts from the Devils Triangle.
To be sure, this Pirates wasn’t a carbon copy of the original trilogy. In the way the newest Star Wars flicks are mirroring the older storylines in a younger generation, this Pirates film boasts its ghosts of the past (Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa is timeless) without letting them completely dominate the film. The general arch, however, is still in place. Swashbuckling pirates search for an ancient source of power and Captain Jack helps for his own reasons with plenty of sword fights, shipwrecks, and CGI to boot.
But perhaps the only character to have suffered a decline in this new Pirates is the veteran of the seas himself, Jack Sparrow. Whether because of poor directorial ability or sheer laziness, Depp’s Sparrow, once distinctly characterized by brilliance disguised with drunkenness, has become a caricature. This new Jack is washed up and not nearly as captivating as the original, more lucky rather than clever. Depp seems to have traded the depth of his character for cheap laughs and the film definitely suffers from it.
It is interesting; however, to see a young Jack Sparrow take the screen for the first time with the help of GCI magic. The backstory of his eclectic entourage (including his unusual compass) is finally revealed in a sequence that is perhaps Sparrow’s deepest moment in the film.
Apart from Depp, the film is as swashbuckling and audacious as its predecessors. With a budget of 230 million dollars, every sword fight and explosive shipwreck loudly demands the attention of its audience for a draining two and a half hours of plundering, sailing, and death defying stunts. The quiet moments in the film are the ones that focus on the charming love blossoming between Henry Turner and a brilliant young astronomer (Kaya Scodelario), also in pursuit of the Trident.
Dead Men Tell No Tales is able to arouse a thirst for adventure amongst its audience in classic Pirates fashion. Despite its reliance on old tricks and tales, this new Pirates is still an improvement from the last one. With a slew of more sequels on the near horizon, we can be hopeful that the films only get better from here.