Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales finally jumps the shark for this tiresome series.

Taking place some years after On Stranger Tides, a luckless Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is now being pursued by his old nemesis, a ghost pirate named Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). The only thing that may be able to save the life of Sparrow is the legendary Trident of Poseidon, which has the ability to break any curse. Jack must now form an alliance with Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of William Turner, as well as a young astronomer named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), to find this legendary artifact before it’s too late.

The first few scenes of the film gave the impression that I’d be seeing a much better flick than I did. Scenes were shot and paced nicely, and I was pretty interested in what was happening. Unfortunately for the audience, Pirates totally gives up very early on. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact moment the film jumps the shark and accepts that it’s going to put in zero creative effort. That’s when Gibbs (played by Kevin McNally), and the rest of Jack’s crew, pull an entire building by horseback throughout a city. From here, everything goes downhill fast.

The entire returning cast looked particularly grim and out of it. As if Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush have grown tired of playing these roles. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley were also conned into returning for a few moments, and they too looked annoyed to be back. These are no longer the cool, swashbuckling pirates we used to know. Now, they’re clearly just actors antsy to finish this lingering franchise.

On the topic of Jack Sparrow, I feel that the writers for the first time actually wrote him incorrectly. That his personality here is far different from in any other Pirates of the Caribbean movie. In previous films, while Jack could be an idiot at times, he was also conniving and devious. He knew how to double-cross others in clever ways, ways that benefited his own gain. In Dead Men Tell No Tales, he’s just a bumbling buffoon with little charm or spunk. Nothing that made his character memorable or creative in the first few movies was in this flick.

Another aspect that really bothered me about Pirates was the female lead, played by Kaya Scodelario. Instead of actually writing a strong female character, the filmmakers felt it would be better if they just told us how independent, strong, smart, and better she is than everyone else. Resulting in a poorly written character that comes off as arrogant, in constant need of being saved, and as interesting as tree bark. The moral of the story being: Show, don’t tell.

Even the most refreshing character in the film, Captain Armando Salazar (played by Javier Bardem), was the weakest written villain in the whole series. I’m usually a big fan of Bardem, but here is regrettably boring. Just like everyone else in the flick, he kind of just goes through the motions and doesn’t really stand out too much. Apart from his appearance, I can’t remember a single thing about his personality or motivations.

Sadly, the conclusion of the film feels rushed and very unsatisfying. After dragging its feet for two hours, Pirates feels the need to tie all its loose ends with one quick swoop, producing an ending that is sure to leave viewers saying: “That’s it?” Knowing that this may be how we’re left remembering the characters forever, I find Dead Men Tell No Tales to be insulting.

I cannot in good conscience recommend this to anyone. As a huge fan of the first three Pirates movies, I feel that I’ve more than put up with sloppy and convoluted writing here and there. However, this is the straw that really breaks the camel’s back. Not only did Dead Men Tell No Tales manage to be worse than On Stranger Tides, it ruined the character of Jack Sparrow for me. It’s safe to say that I’ve completely run out of patience for this careless, dead in the water franchise.

The Verdict: D-

-Zachary Flint