Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: A Film Review

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I’ve got a confession. It’s a really awkward one to share but today’s the day I’ll spill the beans. Trilogies, when done right, can take a special place in a person’s heart; just look at how many fans the Star Wars original trilogy had and you’d have a pretty convincing example. And my secret is… my trilogy of choice will have to go to the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It just has that perfect blend of campiness, strangeness and charm that only a trilogy of pirate films can give you.

After the extremely disappointing 4th film in the franchise which steered away from the narrative they concluded in the trilogy, my expectations were honestly pretty damn low. I won’t go into detail why the 4th film was horrible for me but it just felt like the formula was messed with; there were many elements that I loved in the original 3 films that On Stranger Tides just lacked. So when the teaser for Dead Men Tell No Tales finally hit mainstream media, I couldn’t help but be excited for the franchise again… in the hopes that this time, they’d hit the mark like the did once before.

Disclaimer: SPOILERS AHEAD!!

Introduction
We are quickly introduced to our main character, the son of the hero of the original trilogy, Henry Turner. He disobeyed his mother and steered a rowboat out to sea. Tying a bunch of rocks to his leg, Henry commits suicide in order to meet his father, Will Turner, after he has taken over the role of Davy Jones in events from the previous films. They argue a bit about getting Henry back home but Henry mentions the existence of the Trident of Poseidon, which hold the ‘power of all the seas’ and could be strong enough to break his father’s curse. Will is disheartened and persuades his son to not chase such a foolish tale as his curse cannot be broken and to stay away from Jack Sparrow. Will steers the Flying Dutchman back into the waters but frees his son back to life as Henry crawls back onto the boat he was on and mutters “Jack Sparrow” before the scene ends.

Rating: 8/10. Hmm… this is how you open the doors to welcome fans of the franchise to the film. Establishing the young, reckless Henry Turner and the reminder of his father’s fate, namedropping the most iconic (arguably, most annoying too) character in the franchise, and the mention of a supernatural treasure/artifact; all of it serves the purpose to tell the story of this film to fans of the franchise and it’s done magnificently. Every moment was not wasted and it kept me interested to find out what happens later, even though it can be argued to be kind of predictable already but that’s what the Pirates of the Caribbean films are about really: it’s the journey that matters, not the outcome.

Characters
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Rating: 7.5/10. Hmm… the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is not known for particularly engaging characters and mainly brings back a recurring cast which helps and hurts the film. Instead of listing out the characters and describing what I like about the characters, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of the cast as a whole.

Pros
1. Captain Jack Sparrow: The one iconic character that just never seems to be able to escape trouble returns in the 5th film and serves his signature weird mannerisms and devil-may-care attitude. Delivers a lot of the film’s comedic parts and once again, serves an important role in the story.

2. Captain Salazar: The new villain is a fascinating one. I love that the series returned to its supernatural villain roots, bringing along one of its more horrifying villains in the series. His look as an undead pirate is a little cheesy but he serves as a great villain, having his roots as a navy captain instead of a pirate also makes him a bit more interesting too. His MO on having a lone survivor of a ship they destroy to “spread his tale” is very cool and his line delivery does feel like a Spanish man trying to converse to the audience in English (“Where Jack Sparrow?” comes to mind). Not as awesome as Davy Jones, in my opinion, but does a damn good job in playing the role of the antagonistic unstoppable force villain very well in the film.

3. Henry and Carina: Some may argue that they’re just ripoffs of the Will and Elizabeth characters from previous films but they needed strong characters like that for Jack to bounce off of for his comedic lines (especially a scene where Jack ‘teaches’ Henry how to court Carina) and are, in my opinion, what the 4th film lacked and with these two character archetypes in Dead Men Tell No Tales, the formula they once had that was successful was there again.

4. Barbossa’s redemption arc: One of the biggest things I loved from this film is that they kinda got a little self-aware in the way they have ruined Barbossa in On Stranger Tides and gave him a way to redeem himself by making a noble sacrifice near the end of the film. And it was a bit heartbreaking to see him go like this but it’s a nice way to conclude his character’s arc throughout the 5 films in the franchise.

Cons
1. Captain Jack Sparrow: Sigh, there’s a reason why I love and hate Jack’s character. Him being iconic also means the film likes to focus on him (at least not so much as some of the other films in the series) but a very long drawn out sequence to set up his introduction early in the film feels absolutely redundant to me, especially the events that follow shortly that has his crew abandon him, only to return later. He could definitely be used better to tell the story but it was kind of “facepalm-worthy” to keep learning that everything revolves around our favorite captain, Jack Sparrow.

2. Allegiance to the Captain?: One thing I absolutely could not understand was how much the characters flip-flop over wanting to serve under Jack Sparrow, especially the crew that followed Jack in the last few films. In one scene, they were starving and left him, returning to him later for a measly 10 silver coins. In another scene, they mutinied against Jack but later return to him and the Black Pearl after escaping capture by navy soldiers.

3. The “witch”: Wasted potential in a new ‘oracle’-like being for the story. We get glimpses and inference she’s a real witch with the ability to see into the future but she does not use her powers much and seem too subservient to be an interesting one. Give her a bit more fleshing out and she might be a bit more interesting than “I can show you where to go!” which is also funny as the navy soldiers get destroyed by Salazar later in the film but she was still kinda meh overall.

Atmosphere
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Rating: 9/10. Once again, we see the production value going into the film, capturing quite well what the world we live in would feel like at that pirates’ era, sprinkling in generous doses of supernatural and mythical elements to complete its aesthetic. Just as excellent as in the previous films but I do have to give props to the CGI animators for making the scary ghostly pirates look legitimately disturbing to look at with missing parts of their faces and bodies yet floating around as if it were still one whole body. Awesome.

Overall
Rating: 7.5/10. Well, this movie was a VERY satisfying ending to the films of the original trilogy and seeing the post-credits scene made me hyped for the next but it’s not a piece of storytelling masterpiece that you can show off to everyone as it retains a very campy, cheesy feel but at the same time, it charms the socks off anyone that loves themselves a fun movie about pirates and treasure, along with tales of myths and legends of the seas coming to life. It would score higher if it did not rely so heavily on the previous films to tell the story well; a newcomer would be so confused and would likely turn away from future installments but I recommend it nonetheless to share my love of this franchise. Till next time!

Sherman

P.S. Trying a new format this time around, giving a rating before I share thoughts (also a new pros vs cons presentation for characters) as well as adding more PICTURES! Hope it does add a little bit more to the review as a whole! Happy weekend!

Image taken from: http://m.imdb.com/title/tt1790809/mediaindex?ref_=m_tt_mv_sm

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