Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13) ★★

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Image credit: Walt Disney

Only for diehard franchise fans.

A month ago, Disneyland guests on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride were treated to a cool surprise when Johnny Depp popped up on the attraction in place of the animatronic Captain Jack Sparrow. If you didn’t see clips of it already, I recommend looking them up online—it was pretty hilarious.

Unfortunately, that little stunt was more entertaining than the majority of the film Depp was at the park to promote: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (or POTC5 as I will call it from here on out).

So, yeah… any time we’re talking about the FIFTH film in a franchise, I feel like most people’s expectations are going to be pretty low, and mine certainly were. The bad news is that POTC5 failed to recapture the original film’s spark, and a lot of its story felt recycled. And clearly nothing is going to be able to recreate the weird mix of confusion and delight most felt when seeing Depp as Sparrow for the first time in 2003. But I will say that POTC5 is at least much better than the last two installments in the franchise.

It opens with a great flashback of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann’s (Keira Knightley) young son Henry sneaking out in the middle of the night, reconnecting with his cursed father under the sea and promising him that he’ll find the trident of Poseidon in order to break the spell. At this point I thought that perhaps the totally new writing and directing team (Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg as co-directors and Jeff Nathanson in charge of the screenplay) was going to breathe new life into the franchise.

Then we move ahead nine years and see a grown Henry (Brenton Thwaites) trying to warn his shipmates against sailing into the dangerous Devil’s Triangle—but they of course don’t listen and incur the wrath of a zombie crew of pirates and their leader, Salazar (Javier Bardem). Henry learns that Salazar wants revenge on Sparrow for leading his ship into the Triangle decades ago, and Henry promises to deliver that warning to the perpetually drunk Captain. Eventually, Sparrow’s old nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) shows up and says he’ll help Salazar track down Captain Jack.

On land, Sparrow and his crew attempt to pull off a bank heist, and what happens is so ridiculous that it destroyed any interest I had built up in the plot. Which I realize is strange, because I can totally deal with zombie pirates and magic curses and an all-powerful trident in a movie like this, but I can NOT suspend disbelief enough to be able to roll with a couple of horses dragging an entire building containing a bank vault around a small town. But that’s what happened and I grew impatient.

While the bank heist is going on, we learn that a woman named Carina Smyth (Kara Scodelario) has been sentenced to death for witchcraft, when in reality she’s just really into astronomy. After the silly part about the heist is over, Carina, Henry and Sparrow’s crew escape and then team up to outrun Salazar and Barbossa and find the trident.

Henry and Carina were well cast—Henry definitely looked like he could be Turner and Swann’s child (those eyebrows!), and Carina’s character injected a shot of Girl Power into the film while also being genuinely interesting and giving the writers an excuse to include some corny-but-I-still-laughed lines rife with innuendo.

Unfortunately, most of the chase and action sequences were unoriginal and boring, and the stunt cameo casting of Paul McCartney as Jack’s uncle was groan-inducing (and caused two girls behind me to squabble back and forth quite loudly for two minutes about whether or not it was really McCartney). And while there were a few times when I couldn’t help but laugh at some of Depp’s weird facial expressions, for the most part I just felt like the Sparrow shtick has gotten old.

The best parts of POTC5 were the quieter, character-building ones, and most revolved around Carina. The ending was also sweet (though it involved an unrealistic about-face from a certain villain, but I’ll let it slide), and the after-credits scene ensures that we WILL get a sixth film, and that it will likely reunite many of the original cast members. I can’t decide if that gives me hope . . . or if I simply want it all to end.


The Bottom-Line? If you’ve watched the other Pirates films, you might as well catch this one on DVD because it’s certainly better than the past two installments, and it does have some entertaining moments. Just keep your expectations low.

Cast: Johnny Depp (Captain Jack Sparrow), Brenton Thwaites (Henry Turner), Kaya Scodelario (Carina Smyth), Javier Bardem (Captain Salazar), Geoffrey Rush (Captain Hector Barbossa)

Credits: Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. Written by Jeff Nathanson.

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Run Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Erika Olson © May 26, 2017