For the past 10 years, we’ve been passengers on the Black Pearl, following Captain Jack Sparrow and William Turner as they fought everything from squid-men to skeletons. Disney has established a huge franchise and it’s made Captain Jack Sparrow one of the biggest pop culture icons of this decade. But drunken slurs can only make folks laugh for so long. Fans of The Curse of the Black Pearl have been growing up, while Johnny Depp has stayed in this juvenile stage. Jack Sparrow has not developed as a character at all, leaving his only gimmicks to be about rum and getting caught with his pants down (literally). Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth (and supposedly last) installment of the Pirates franchise, and it suffers from all of the same problems: tired-out characters running in circles trying to get through these convoluted plot lines that leave the audience unsatisfied.
Dead Men Tell No Tales follows Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), Will Turner’s (Orlando Bloom) son. The only way that he can break his dad’s curse is to force Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) into helping him discover Poseidon’s Trident with “a map that no one can read.” Luckily, they have Korinna (Kaya Scodelario) in their group, who is a lady of science who uses the stars to guide them on their journey. In any case, their excursion is interrupted by an old enemy of Jack Sparrow – Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who’s fixated on demanding his revenge on Jack in the wake of staying stuck in an unceasing limbo.
Other than the swashbuckling scenes, we cherished the remarkable characters that this franchise provided. In any case, as the series continued, it began to lose its freshness. In The Curse Of The Black Pearl, Jack Sparrow was a drunkard who acted inept yet could put up a fight. In Dead Men, he’s pretty idiotic and boarder-line obnoxious. The authors didn’t even attempt to develop a connection between Henry and Sparrow despite Henry being Williams son. The two might as well have been in different movies because they had no worthwhile dialogue between them.
What made the other Pirates movies so great was the use of their villains. Captain Barbossa and Davy Jones were compelling adversaries because they had multiple movies to develop their characters. Bardem definitely looked the part of scary pirate captain, but literally had almost no substance to him. A good portion of his screen time has him mumbling, “Sparrow” over and over again. His character had potential to be interesting, but the rushed pacing leaves him without a major impact and with a terrible ending to boot.
Truth be told, Dead Men’s written story struggles in practically every angle. It feels like the writers have never even seen the previous movies and deleted past coherence and mythology set by the trilogy. The origin of Jack’s compass becomes an integral factor and contrasts drastically from the second film, which will profoundly bother genuine enthusiasts of series. We’ve come so far in this universe, and it’s offensive that so little care is made to the legend that has been produced throughout the years.
Setting the legend aside, Dead Men feels like an outright repeat. Henry Turner discovers Jack Sparrow in jail to go on an adventure and battle ghoulish pirates along the way. It’s exhausting and almost insulting in how predictable it is. Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg try to distract with a few exciting action scenes including a house being dragged by two horses and a guillotine execution gone wrong. Unfortunately, Ronning and Sandberg weren’t able to capture Gore Verbinski’s swashbuckling magic and rely heavily on CGI spectacles. That being said, the CGI is mostly well done and lets the audience indulge in the madness (there’s even a scene where Jack Sparrow literally jumps the shark).
It’s a damn shame that Disney won’t let this franchise just rest in peace. Soon enough, we’ll forget why we loved this series in the first place. Dead Men Tell No Tales is certainly a Pirates film at its core, but it lacks the heart that Verbinski put into the trilogy. Dead men might not tell tales, but apparently, living men don’t either.