It’s the series that launched a thousand ships: Keira Knightley’s career, Johnny Depp’s Oscar nomination, the imitation of cockney accents across schoolyards everywhere and a gold mine of a franchise for Disney, whose last film grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. The Pirates of the Caribbean films have a long and storied history, famously inspired by the beloved Disneyland boat ride, but can such a franchise keep its sea-legs five entries in?
(I’m really enjoying the sea-puns, you guys.)
In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, brilliant astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) and the son of Will and Elizabeth Turner, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) must team up with notorious pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as they scour the seas on the hunt for the Trident of Poseidon, whilst on the run from the British authorities (not the East India Trading Company this time) and yet another band of undead pirates, and their Spanish Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).
For an iconic noughties franchise with some pretty memorable scenes, Dead Men Tell No Tales is a highly forgettable entry to the series, a generic-at-best attempt to recapture the magic of the original trilogy that had me rolling my eyes, several times, at just how hard they’re trying. The search for Poseidon’s trident is merely a device to throw a bunch of Pirates tropes at the screen and see how they land: as Henry fights to save his father, reunite his parents and bring to life the only hope of this film (a Bloom-Knightley reunion), he is lost in the confusion of Captain Jack’s now-boring schtick and the film’s disconnected fight scenes, spread out by long bouts of exposition attempting to make interesting the cut-copy story that no-one asked for. Combine this with the terrible CGI of Salazar’s crew and the awful chemistry between Thwaites and Scodelario, all mixed up with yet another terrible family reveal, Dead Men Tell No Tales fights so hard to prove that this franchise still has some surprises left in it, but surprise! It doesn’t.
One surprise strength of the film, however, is Kaya Scodelario as Carina, whose passion for science and love for the father who left her is infectious. Her ‘bitch, please’ attitude to the ignorant men around her who accuse her of witchcraft and her self-confidence in always being the smartest person in the room was a step above the strong female heroine role that Knightley paved the way for in the previous films, without taking away from Elizabeth’s importance, of course, and was a pleasant inclusion in a film that usually focuses on its male heroes.
Speaking of male heroes, Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow is getting dumber and dumber the longer this franchise drags on. In the first few films, he was a lazy, backstabbing coward, but always the smartest person in the room; nowadays he has been relegated to the comic relief buffoon, a side character, and that’s the problem with this film! It doesn’t even focus on the main reason why people like, and Disney keeps making, these films, cheapening the films as they go on. Returning as Captain Barbossa, Geoffrey Rush genuinely seems to be having fun throughout the entire film, but Brenton Thwaites and Javier Bardem are replaceable in their roles, and everyone’s off in their own corner, doing their thing, with none of it gelling or worthwhile. Thank God for modern woman Carina.
Pirates of the Caribbean is not Indiana Jones – you can’t just keep inserting mythical objects of history into the same story and expect people to love it. What drew us to the original films were the swashbuckling fights, the double crosses, and the complex relationships between the main characters, none of which are even present in Dead Men Tell No Tales. Yet the worst part of this film is not even the film; it’s the post-credits sequel bait, which dares to assume that we’ll want another one of these things (and even worse, that Bloom and Knightley will sign on for it). If anything, Dead Men Tell No Tales is a reminder that audiences are smarter than this, and deserve better than this, and hopefully will serve as a warning to Disney that lazy sequels won’t cut it anymore. Dead franchises deserve no sequels.
With the amount of cameos in this film (even Paul McCartney shows up!), there’s a really great cast here, so here’s my top five favourite films starring the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:
- Begin Again – Keira Knightley
- The Maze Runner – Kaya Scodelario
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Johnny Depp
- Bran Nue Day – Geoffrey Rush
- Shakespeare In Love – Geoffrey Rush
Photos taken from IMDb.com: