Originally published on Creators.co June 1st, 2017
I think I hold the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in higher regard than most people, critics, or reviewers do. I love the original Pirates of the Caribbean film (The Curse of the Black Pearl), but parts 2 and 3 (Dead Mans Chest and At Worlds End) do not get the credit that I believe they deserve. They are not perfect, but how many movies are? The movies not only work individually but work great as a three-part story and trilogy. Quite frankly, I think it’s one of the better trilogies made in North American film history. They are fun, exciting, dark, dramatic, beautifully visual, have really interesting lore and characters. It’s the type of blockbusters I get drawn to, epic swashbuckling fantasies.
However, the 4th film lets me down. The movie wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel like a continuation of the story of the first 3. The movie (On Stranger Tides) felt more like a spin-off or part 3.5. The movie also focused way too much on the famous Captain Jack Sparrow. Sparrow is a central character for sure, but he can’t lead a movie, and I’m not sure Rob Marshall was the best choice to replace series director Gore Verbinski (although I don’t think it’s for a lack of effort). Part of me wondered if they should have stopped with three. The story really ended there.
Part 5, Dead Men Tell No Tales, looked like it was going to answer a lot of my critiques of the 4th movie. The movie had more to do with the story of the original movies: Jack wasn’t the lead, the story looked more epic, a better villain was portrayed, and it brought back some of the pirate crew that was missing in 4 (even the return of Will Turner). For the first 30 minutes or so, I got the movie I was hoping to get with the 4th film. But, as the movie proceeded, I became more and more disinterested, disheartened, and disappointed. This might be my least favorite film in the series, with characters acting out of character, subpar CGI and set design, rushed story elements, and contradictions towards its own lore. Even as a big “Pirates” fan, I was left unhappy.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales picks up a few years after the events of part 3 and 4. Captain Jack Sparrow is past his prime and now struggles to come up with good fortune as he spends most of the time drunk and antagonizing his crew. Will and Elizabeth’s son, Henry Turner, is now all grown up and is hell-bent on freeing his father from The Flying Dutchmen. To do this he has to find the Trident of Poseidon, which has the power to lift all curses. To do this, he enlists the help of an intelligent young woman (who is thought of as a witch) who has a map that can lead them to the Trident. All the while, Jack is pursued by the dreaded ghost Captain Salazar, the captain that Jack killed in the Devil’s Triangle and is who is now out for revenge.
As I stated before, I was really enjoying the movie for the first 30 minutes or so. It had some energy, introduced the new characters nicely, had a solid setup, connected to the previous movie, and had some large scale (and fun) action sequences. The movie starts off on the island of St. Thomas, where Jack attempts to rob a bank in “Fast Five” style. Henry comes to this island after his ship falls prey to Salazar, but Salazar leaves him alive to tell everyone the tale of what happened. Why? Dead men tell no tales. Carina Smyth runs from the law as they think of her as a witch, and eventually the three paths cross and they head off to sea to find the Trident.
The problems started to become apparent to me as it felt like we were never getting off this island of St. Thomas. This movie spends a lot of time there before finally getting the plot going. It isn’t really spent much on developing or establishing Henry Turner and his relationships with Jack or Carina; it’s a lot of hijinks, comedy, and downtime, (downtime that could have trimmed or refocused on something more important). The cast has little to no chemistry with one another. Henry (played by Brenton Thwaites) doesn’t work well off Carina (played by Kaya Scodelario), and Jack doesn’t work well off of Henry. Jack and Henry’s relationship should have been the easiest to write since Jack and Will had been through so much together in the first three movies. I never felt like they had a relationship at all.