The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise began nearly 15 years ago with a film that nobody thought would amount to anything. Today the famed and favorite Disneyland ride has 5 movies under its belt, with the latest installment having premiered this weekend. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has all the makings of a fun pirate romp, not dissimilar from the original 2003 movie. But does it succeed?
*You’re off the edge of the map, mate. Here there be spoilers!*
This adventure follows Henry Turner, the son of William Turner and Elizabeth Swann. As a child, he tries to find his father—who, if you’ll remember, is cursed to a life of servitude aboard the Flying Dutchman and can only set foot on land every ten years. Also, in case you forgot, the last time we saw Will and Elizabeth was during the after-credits-scene of At World’s End. Henry doesn’t want to grow up without Will and is convinced that a mythical item called the Trident of Poseidon can break Davy Jones’ curse.
Despite Will’s urging to forget the Flying Dutchman and be happy, Henry spends the majority of his young life learning everything he can about the legends of the sea in the hopes of discovering this key to his father’s freedom. Enter Carina Smyth, an orphaned young woman of scientific means who is also searching for the Trident. They team up with Jack Sparrow, who coincidentally could use the Trident himself. Jack is being hunted by a vengeful ghost, Captain Salazar, who was sent to his death in the Devil’s Triangle by young Jack many years before.
It’s easy to see how the new directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, were trying very hard to capture the essence of the first film. The ingredients are all there: a young man and woman who get caught up the entanglements of pirates; Jack Sparrow as the witty secondary character; Barbossa with all his ambiguity; villainous pirates and not-so-villainous pirates; and of course, the Royal Navy in the background wanting to eliminate all piracy and those who are even remotely associated with it. And yet, despite all its jokes and amazing CGI, there is something missing.
The Jack Sparrow in this film is not the Jack we know and love. Unlike the wily pirate from the first three (hell, even four) film, this Jack is not three steps ahead. He doesn’t have a plan, he truly is drunk the majority of the time, and he isn’t looking out for himself the way he usually would. He’s been separated from the Black Pearl yet again—but in lieu of actively seeking a way to get his ship back, he does exactly the opposite. Instead of imbuing the film with the fuel of the first installment, this storyline drags it down.
Don’t get me wrong—overall, the film is still fun to watch. Its essence is still piratical, and the new characters bring their own sort of life to the franchise. Javier Bardem delivers a captivating villain, in the same vein as Davy Jones. Carina’s story, in particular, is both touching and interesting, and I’m always happy to see an intelligent and capable woman on screen. But for me, the best parts of the movie were the beginning and the end. Coincidence that those were the only scenes with Will Turner? Probably not.
So, in the end, is it the best Pirates movie? No. But if you like cool CGI underwater scenes, want to know more about young Jack, and like a good redemption arc, then you’ll probably still have a good time watching Dead Men Tell No Tales.
The Collected Mutineer
P.S. Stick around to the end. The very end. In true Pirates style, we get a post-credits scene.
P.P.S. Will and Elizabeth get reunited and it’s all I ever wanted in life. If you have access to a gif of this scene, I will love you forever.