Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Jacob Richardson | 24/05/2017

Jack is back, with yet another curse-filled, irrelevant storyline. Although, while this instalment fails to resuscitate the joy of the original, it’s also not entirely without its’ own charm.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales introduces us to Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) - son of the eponymous William Turner (Orlando Bloom, making an excessively speedy return to the franchise). Looking to break his father’s curse with the Trident of Poisedon, a mythical macguffin that can break all curses, Henry sets off to find Jack Sparrow - the only pirate who can help him find what cannot be found. In the process of acquiring our favourite pirate, he also happens upon Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario); a young woman so adept at science that she has been branded a Witch, and who is also searching for the Trident.

Meanwhile, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has relinquished his trusty compass, unwittingly releasing the first enemy he bested; Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Now much less alive than when Jack first encountered him, Salazar and his army of the dead set off across the sea to find Sparrow and get their revenge.


After a relatively tight initial trilogy, it was heartbreaking when Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides failed to live up to the (admittedly high) bar. While the fifth instalment of the series doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of that first triumvirate, there are certainly flashes of brilliance that stand it head and shoulders above its immediate predecessor.


Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg bring the exact sense of fun and swashbuckling adventure that the film needs in the first epic sequence. Seemingly a play on Fast Five’s vault robbery sequence, here we find Jack Sparrow asleep in the bank vault, only for his crew to not just attach the vault to their horses, but to carry the entire bank through the city streets. It’s absolutely bonkers, and Jack struts his stuff around the scene, firing witty remarks as he does. If only the rest of the movie was like this.


Pirates is at it’s best when it’s a rollicking, high-seas, sword fighting adventure. Later in the piece, when Salazar and his animated ship attack Jack and the Black Pearl, you can see flashes of this again, and it makes you long for it in the final battle sequence. But instead of sword fights and Jack’s lazy relationship with gravity, we get a mess of CGI and Salazar using yet another mystical macguffin to fling Jack around the middle of the ocean. One wishes that they had of opted for a more effective final setpiece.


There’s still stuff to love though. While Kaya Scodelario is a weak link, Brenton Thwaites fits right into this world, and brings with him some of the charm of a young Orlando Bloom. Meanwhile. Geoffrey Rush brings some emotion and pathos to a pretty convenient sub-plot, and Javier Bardem drools blood and shouts about his revenge like the best of them. Ronning and Sandberg also hit on some real beauty, much like in their previous work, Kon-Tiki. There are some glorious shots of sunsets glinting off boats, and the bejeweled island where they find the Trident is a real sight to behold.


Some could argue that the film is a retread of old ground. After all, with an army of dead, two young people being nurtured by Captain Jack Sparrow, and a mystical treasure, it’s plot synopsis is almost a direct match for 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl. But it’s not a bad thing. That movie was great, and this one would be better served by returning more to those simple roots and bringing real tension and unexpectedness to the plot.


Haphazard, and somewhat of a retread, Dead Men Tell No Tales does actually manage to recapture some of the early franchise magic, with it’s glorious sunsets and oceanscapes, and it’s insane initial setpiece. However, too much CGI, an overly familiar plot and a series of narrative inconsistencies reduces its effectiveness. Better than On Stranger Tides, but not by much.