The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has had issues for a few movies now (arguably there hasn’t been a really good one since the first installment, The Curse of the Black Pearl). Moreso when one considers how many times you can find people that if you tell them that this is the 5th film in the series, they’ll say “There was a fourth one?” Dead Men Tell No Tales will almost invariably go into that same phantom zone of forgettability. We’ll remember truly bad films as they burn into our memories forever, and years later one will still feel the inner rage of two hours lost that can never be gotten back.
Dead Men is just stunningly weak, the novelty of Jack Sparrow and his dim-wittedness has long since worn off. His character design has also gone along the lines of Maxwell Smart from the class TV series, Get Smart. He had originally started out as a character who was a good agent, just an incredible klutz and often forgetful, but then evolved into a bumbling idiot whom only blind luck kept him from being offed by the bad guys. Here too, Sparrow was once solid captain, if a bit taken to rum and very nonchalant with discipline. In Dead Men, he’s just an idiot. He doesn’t know what various words mean, he has no charisma as a leader, and he comes off as a rather pitiable character rather than a crazy scoundrel.
In addition, we expect some amount of fanciful set pieces from these films, I mean we are talking about Pirates on the high seas and undead Spaniards chasing them in a zombie-semi-alive ship. However there is a point at which the request of poetic license just can’t be accommodated: there is a scene where Jack’s crew lashes a heavy cable around a bank vault and attempt to make off with it by being pulled by a team of horses straight out of the building. The building’s’ wall holds and they dislodge the entire bank building from it’s foundation and take off with the building and safe (and Jack) through a few mile chase through the city. The building holds up and doesn’t just dig into the group. It pulls hard right turns and doesn’t tear apart. So sure, they eventually get away from the redcoats as they leave the town gate and it manages to destroy the still mostly intact bank and the vault pulls free. But then we get to Jack’s drydocked ship, with vault on board and they’re having a leisurely conversation about their attempted ill-gotten gains. It’s established as a multi-ton vault – how and why did they bother to lift it onto the deck (and on this small ship it takes up about a half of the foredeck), and the trench it would dig being dragged along could have been followed by anyone interested in hunting down the thieves. But no, it’s just a punchline and they move on.
The film centers around the son of Orlando Bloom’s character (Will Turner) from the first films. He’s still got the curse of Davy Jones on him so he can only set foot on land once every seven years. So Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is being a good son and being hellbent on finding a way to break Will’s curse so he can return to land and his family. So the legend of the Trident of Poseidon appears, and whomever shall possess it can break all of the curses of the sea. So Henry sets off to find Jack to have him help in his quest.
To throw a wrench into the works, a Spanish naval captain Salazar (played by Javier Bardem) who was once hunting pirates and nearly wiping them out was tricked and he and his crew destroyed by Jack. But his rage (and plot requirements) brought him back as a new flavor of ghost, but is trapped where he was originally sunk. Well it doesn’t take long before the locks on his prison fall away and he’s able to continue his campaign against pirates in general, and Jack in particular. Then the race is on, who will kill who first, who will get to the Trident first.
It’s a fair enough of a premise, but unfortunately the audience just really doesn’t care. It’s like trying to really feel for any character in a Michael Bay Transformers film (ok, other than Bumblebee – but Pirates has Barbosa so we’ll call it even). I wish I could say I was disappointed in the film, but in reality it just met expectations that I had going into it. If they really want to continue with the series, they should go back and revisit the elements that made the first one so good, rather than fighting a losing battle.
And the fact that they have the music done by Geoff Zanelli rather than Hans Zimmer, even though every memorable note in the entire film was Zimmer’s original themes is just adding insult to injury.
If you’re a completionist, go check it out and let me know if you think I was way off base. If you’re wanting to just see a film this holiday weekend – at least Baywatch is out now, too. Go see that instead.
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