The 5th installment of Pirates of the Caribbean is derailed by substandard performances and a weak narrative.
The film begins with an engaging prologue centered around our new male lead played by Brenton Thwaites. We quickly find out that he’s playing Henry, the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) who was cursed to spend the rest of his days on the Flying Dutchman (Davy Jones’s ship) at the end of At World’s End. The narrative takes place 20 years following the last film. Henry has spent his adolescence studying all the curses and folklore of the sea. He believes that the only way to break his father’s curse and allow him to return to his one true love Elizabeth Swan (Kiera Knightly) involves acquiring the Trident of Poseidon (no big deal). There is some familiarity to this release. At times the film has the look and feel of Curse of the Black Pearl. Much like the original film, there’s yet another cursed group of pirate hunters led by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) who are out for the blood of our beloved drunken swashbuckler Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Predictably, Henry and Jack’s paths cross and they get caught up in a quest that’s at best daunting.
Jeff Nathanson made sure that the narrative for the 5th installment of the franchise was extremely lean in the same way Curse of the Black Pearl was.
The film didn’t delve deep too deep into Jack Sparrow’s back story and focused more on his drunken buffoonery. Much in the way the first film did.
The action sequences were intricate and appealing. While we didn’t have any ship heists, we certainly had a less than successful attempt at robbing a bank.
While Jack is a big part of the narrative, the story of Henry’s quest to break the curse is what this film is primarily about. Depp’s character should have never been thrust into the spotlight and works better as a comedic foil. This was understood in the first film and certainly appears to be the case in the 5th installment.
What Didn’t Work
Brenton Thwaites lacks the emotional resonance needed to drive this story. This story is about a son desperately trying to reunite with his father for both his sake and his mother’s. Instead of being on the edge of my seat, I found myself hoping Henry would somehow just drown so this uninteresting tale would finally reach its end.
Geoffrey Rush and Javier Barden appear to be this picture just for the big Disney paycheck. Rush’s character time on screen is supposed to provide an emotional backbone to this adventure but in reality, amounts to whole lotta of nothing. Barden is neither scary or intimidating. He looks the part but certainly doesn’t pull it off.
A majority of the film has a palpable feeling of familiarity. While The Force Awakens is able to borrow from previous Star Wars films, JJ Abrams made a conscious effort to make sure his picture had its own identity. Dead Men Tell No Tales is so strikingly similar to Curse of the Black Pearl that the films are in many ways interchangeable.
The 5th installment of Pirates of the Caribbean is the perfect example of how money talks. As long as individuals are willing to accept this type of substandard storytelling, we will continue to have unnecessary sequels. Dead Men Tell No Tales is not a horrible film. It’s just an incredibly average imitation of the highly successful original film that started it all. Why waste paying to see it at the theater when you can just rewatch Curse of the Black Pearl? You’ll get the same experience but at a far better price.