Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales


Director: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, David Wenham, Golshifteh Farahani, and Orlando Bloom 


In the dark, watery confines of a boat ride in one of Disneyland's most beloved amusements, a deep voiced ghost utters the words "Dead men tell no tales". It was the striking phrase that stuck in my adolescent mind after a family trip to California in the late 80's. 


In 2003 the film "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" was released as a summer blockbuster to very positive reviews; it seemed that a film could capture some of the nostalgia, some of the magic of a theme-park ride. Starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, a trickster with an affinity for rum and treasure, in the role that would define the actor and directed by Gore Verbinski, who would go on to direct the trilogy of features for the franchise, the film was a highlight for the typically overwrought CGI-fueled summer blockbuster design. 


Unfortunately, subsequent films could not maintain the quality of the first film. Though it didn't seem to matter because audiences continued to flock to the theaters for more pirate adventures, with each film getting worse in the progression. Surprisingly to say "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales", the fifth in the franchise for those who stopped keeping count, is actually much more entertaining than the other sequels. That doesn't necessarily mean that the quality of the story or characters are much better than any of the other films, but at this point that doesn't seem to be much of a concern to the filmmaking team. What does concern them is that the audience returning to see this film is being entertained


The plot involves the expedition of two young people, a young man (Brenton Thwaites) looking for the legendary pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to help save his family and a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) searching for a treasure laid out for her in a journal that has been with her since she was born. Both are looking for the same thing, a magical and powerful object that will help change their lives. However, an evil is unleashed by the hands of Jack Sparrow, a ship with a decomposing crew lead by the vengeful Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).


You've seen this film before, everyone knows this including the team behind the film. The story is a familiar one, a curse exists that unleashes one of the many vengeful myths that haunt the sea. And, before the title card flashes across the screen in this film the bulk of the story is introduced; we get an encounter with the bad guy, an explanation of the adventure that awaits, and the acknowledgment that the franchise favorite pirate is going to come along for the mission. It's quick and foolish but works in establishing everything that is to come. 


Gore Verbinski is responsible for establishing the style and structure of these films, and new directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg don't deviate too much from everything that has been initiated. In fact, they actually honor much of the good elements that came with the original film. There are some very distinct and fun set pieces introduced here, one that feels like an alternative scene from the original film involving a bank safe that defies the laws of physics, another that is pure summer blockbuster ridiculousness involving a guillotine, and one that needs only two words to sell a ticket...shark zombies. 


We've all seen Captain Jack swagger and prance in and out of situations numerous times before, so it's nice that his character plays somewhat of a supporting character here. The film suffers whenever Captain Jack gets too much screen time, which is surprising to say considering Sparrow was the saving grace for some of the sequels. The film wisely focuses on two new characters, Henry and Carina, giving them a nice balance within their individual journeys. Also good is Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar, the design of his character is exceptional and the performance fits the realm nicely.


"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" easily ranks near the top for this franchise. It's a return to everything that made the original film so good even though it doesn't do anything new. Instead the film focuses on the fun associated with a swashbuckling adventure and the quality that the supernatural elements can add to a story.


Monte's Rating

3.00 out of 5.00