Full disclosure: I love the Pirates franchise. If pressed, I will reluctantly admit that the last two installments could have been better. The panache, style and absolutely perfect comic timing of the first two was distinctly lacking. But at the end of the day, there’s still something fundamentally brilliant about the mix of slapstick physical comedy, one liners and unashamedly ridiculous plotlines that characterizes the franchise.
The fifth film in the series finds Captain Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) “loyal” crew at something of a loss. They no longer have a ship, their latest heist doesn’t exactly go to plan (more on this later) and their captain is, as usual, fall down drunk through all of it. Meanwhile, Will’s (Orlando Bloom) son, Henry (Brenton Thwaites), is searching for the Trident of Poseidon, the only thing that can rescue his father from the curse that chains him to the Flying Dutchman. He teams up with a scientist named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) to find the trident, which also happens to be the only thing that can save Jack from the wrath of undead pirate hunter Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).
Johnny Depp’s talent for physical comedy continues to be a pleasant surprise, especially for those of us who have never really enjoyed his many collaborations with Tim Burton. The act is, however, beginning to get a bit old and predictable. There are many laugh out loud moments in Dead Men Tell No Tales and it’s a decent enough movie but there’s nothing new here.
The choreography is slick and clever, there are some wonderful set pieces (Jack’s “crew” stealing an entire bank – sort of – comes to mind) and the casting is definitely on point. But the excitement and originality of the first two instalments is somewhat lacking in what is becoming somewhat repetitive and a little unoriginal (the bank scene notwithstanding – that was comic genius at its best).
That said, I kind of love that Jack has seen little in the way of character development throughout the series. Everyone else changes around him but Jack remains the same irreverent drunk that he’s always been. He stands for the one thing that we all want but can never truly have: freedom. When Carina tells him that she isn’t looking for trouble, Jack’s natural response is: “Really? What a terrible way to live!” In the freakishly realistic (they de-aged Depp using VFX) he’s the same Jack we all know and love, just a bit younger.
Let’s talk about Paul McCartney for a moment. There was something slightly incongruous about his cameo but it wasn’t a bad performance. He has surprisingly good chemistry with Depp and a knack for delivering his lines with a cheerful panache and somewhat roguish charm. Apparently, McCartney agreed to cameo when Depp texted him after Keith Richards had to pull out at the last minute. Richards previously appeared as Jack’s father, Captain Teague, but was forced to hand over the “rockstar cameo” reins to McCartney due to a scheduling conflict.
If I have an issue with this movie, it isn’t about the plot (which is surprisingly clever) or the acting (although Bardem is a little heavy handed in his delivery) but instead with the fact that it was made at all. It’s a good movie but like all the other sequels to the first in the series, it isn’t necessary. The Curse of the Black Pearl was one of those rare films that’s pretty much perfect and thus completely impossible to follow up.
It subverted old stereotypes – Barbossa has a monkey, instead of a parrot – and reinvigorated a genre which had sunk without much of a trace since the ‘50s, when Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster swash-buckled across our screens in their own brand of pirate movie. That kind of innovation is pretty much impossible when you’re on your fifth go round, however, and it’s still a highly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.
Did you see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales? Let us know what you thought!