Avast ye, scurvy dogs! All hands ahoy! Batten down the hatches… Give no quarter. Loose the stays and ready the sails for a wild adventure across the Caribbean in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Dead men tell no tales… nor do they tell ye spoilers, so read on me hearties, yo ho!
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl first premiered in 2003. Based on the Disneyland attraction of the same name, this film starred superstars Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush and brought stars like Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley into the limelight.
The tale of Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, Barbossa and the Black Pearl spanned the storylines of three films: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, and At World’s End. Many fans believed the conclusion of At World’s End would be the end of the Pirates saga but all that changed when On Stranger Tides was released in 2011.
For those of you who were less than blown away by Jack’s search for the Fountain of Youth with Blackbeard and Angelica, have no fear! Dead Men Tell No Tales returns to the storyline of films 1-3 with familiar characters as well as the humor and adventures that made Pirates such a hit almost 15 years ago now.
The story follows Henry Turner, son of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner, and his quest to find Poseidon’s Trident–the only thing that can break his father’s curse and allow him to return home. While on his search to find Jack Sparrow and the trident, Henry’s ship is attacked by Captain Salazar’s undead crew but he is spared when Salazar requests Henry to relay a message to Jack Sparrow. Henry ends up meeting a young astronomer named Carina Smyth and together they, along with Jack and the crew, set out to find an unknown island and the trident.
Great Characters, Old and New
One of the downfalls of On Stranger Tides was a lack of the characters that we had grown to love throughout the last three films. But from what we saw just in the trailer, alone, we knew we would be seeing some familiar faces that helped shape the Pirates franchise.
Orlando Bloom returns as Will Turner, now captain of the Flying Dutchman, and Kiera Knightley as the love of his life, Elizabeth Swann.
Alongside Jack and Barbossa, we also see Mr. Gibbs and Marty and even Murtogg and Mullroy.
These familiar faces–whether they are brief cameos or principle characters–helped make this feel like a true Pirates film, returning to the roots that made these films so memorable and so much fun in the first place.
On top of so many actors reprising their roles, we managed to get a handful of brand new characters that somehow managed to fit perfectly in the storyline along with the characters we already know and love.
Kaya Scadelario plays the young heroine (that seems to have replaced the character of Elizabeth Swann), Carina Smyth, a young astronomer, horologist (that’s the study of time for those of you with filthy minds), and a free spirited woman of science who possesses the map that no man can read. While she was an interesting character, running from the rumor of witchcraft, her character seemed a bit forced at times.
Brenton Thwaites plays Henry Turner, son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, who is on a lifelong mission to find a way to break his father’s curse and bring him home. The casting of Thwaites was perfect. You genuinely believe that he is Will Turner’s son from his looks and mannerisms to his sense of honor.
But the most memorable performance among the newcomers (and possibly one of the best in the entire film) goes to Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar, captain of the Spanish Navy and ruthless pirate hunter. Set free from the Devil’s Triangle, the undead captain and his crew set out to find and kill Sparrow. While he acts as one of the film’s main antagonists, he is charming and charismatic through it all. He fits in perfectly alongside Barbossa and Davy Jones as cursed captains that we love to hate.
And an honorable mention has to go to Sir Paul McCartney. While he has more of a cameo than a full fledged role, he manages to steal the show in no time at all.
Surprisingly, the weakest performance in the entire film came from Johnny Depp. When he first brought us Jack Sparrow, it was effortless; he was dashing and funny all at the same time. In Dead Men Tell No Tales, Jack is intoxicated for the majority of the film, and when Jack is drunk, he isn’t so much Jack Sparrow but more like the Mad Hatter. It was disappointing, to say the least. Sparrow is such an iconic and lovable character that Johnny Depp originated, and yet it felt as if he had a tough time breaking back into that role.
A Cursed Crew
When The Curse of the Black Pearl first premiered, the story of Barbossa’s men and the cursed Aztec gold brought a spooky supernatural feel to the tale. Cursed to sail the seas as the undead, the moonlight revealed them to be corpses–unable to die, making them an enemy to fear, by even the bravest of men. The iconic scene of them walking along the ocean floor to attack Norrington’s ship remains one of the coolest moments in the series.
Barbossa’s crew wasn’t the only cursed ship we’ve seen in Pirates. Davy Jones’s crew of the Flying Dutchman was also cursed, but, for some reason, they weren’t nearly as frightening as Barbossa’s crew (I don’t know… dudes with star fishes stuck to their faces just don’t do it for me).
But Salazar’s crew seems to have easily joined the ranks of super creepy cursed crews, alongside Barbossa’s men. Damned as the undead, just like Barbossa, Salazar and his crew remain trapped in the Devil’s Triangle until they are freed to hunt Jack.
One of the most iconic scenes is when Salazar and his men see Jack for the first time and race across the surface of the water. It was a terrifying sight equal to that of Barbossa’s crew lurking along the ocean floor.
The Return of Humor
One of the successful elements of the first few Pirates films was the perfect balance between action/adventure and humor. We were swept away on a crazy adventure, but the hijinks that Jack dragged us all through made it so much more memorable.
It seemed as if films three and four forgot that humor was a driving force in this franchise, and they seemed to take themselves way too seriously. Well, the humor has returned full force, to the point where I found myself fighting back screaming in laughter. One word: guillotine.
A Bit too Fantastical
Pirates is known for their fantastic memorable moments: the edge of the world, Davy Jones’s Locker, the mill wheel sword fight sequence, and the stunning scenery that only the Caribbean can offer.
This film had no shortage of fantastic moments… some were even so ridiculous that they took you right out of the moment.
When we first see Jack and the gang, they’re attempting to rob the St. Martin bank and you just find yourself rolling your eyes, worrying that the rest of the film will be just as ridiculous. Luckily, that was the only moment I found myself sighing and mumbling, “Really?” Other moments, however, were memorable in the way we tend to like it. Battles between the ships, the stunning island that Carina’s map finds, even the final battle between Salazar and our heroes are all visually stunning.
As a whole, I truly enjoyed this film. After the train wreck that was On Stranger Tides, I was a bit dubious about whether or not this (supposed) final film was necessary. However, I was happily proven wrong. This was a great continuation of the original story with enough old characters to feel nostalgic, and plenty of newcomers to make it feel fresh and new. So much was added to the character of Barbossa (something I wasn’t anticipating after four films). It was the perfect ending to a story we all somewhat begrudgingly love, while still leaving it a bit open if filmmakers ever want to return for a Pirates 6 ( pro-tip: sit through the credits).
While these films are starting to feel a bit forced, it had the adventure, humor, and charm from the originals. It was a great companion and the perfect conclusion to Pirates, with memorable characters, gorgeous costumes, and stellar visuals.
+ Familiar faces from the earlier films helped to make it feel like a cohesive story
+ The humor that seemed to be lost in the last few films has returned
+ Added depth to old characters
+ Great special effects with Salazar’s ship, his crew, and the climax
– Johnny Depp’s performance seemed forced and a bit off. The spirit of Jack Sparrow was definitely missing
– Unbelievable moments such as the bank robbery seemed cheap and forced for laughs
– The number of Pirates films makes the story a bit too drawn out
What did you think of Dead Men Tell No Tales? Does our score match yours? Do you think this is the last time we’ll see Captain Jack? Let’s get chatting in the comments!
Amanda Woomer-Limpert is one of the Geekiverse’s newest writers, a former Disney Cast Member, and a Pirates of the Caribbean lover… of course, she prefers the ride at Walt Disney World over the film but she’ll take pirates anyway she can.
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