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Movie Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
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Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Director: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Screenwriter: Jeff Nathanson
Cast: Johnny Depp, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Rated PG-13 | 129 Minutes
Release Date: May 26, 2017

While it may be based on a theme park ride, there’s no denying that Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise is the very definition of popcorn summer movie fun. Pure escapism. Though the last entry, On Stranger Tides, tried to do something different to reinvigorate the series, the film was a minor misstep. But now comes the next adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

With a pair of new directors in Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki), and a new screenwriter in Jeff Nathanson, the franchise sails back to its roots and what makes these films so wonderful. Big on excitement, plenty of great characters, and lots of fun. The only problem is that there isn’t enough rum to go around. Check out the full review below.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back for Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth installment of the Pirates franchise. Having earned a reputation for being a notorious pirate, not only is his past catching up to him but his name has been disgraced due to a clear lack of piracy. But fate will help him regain that recognition when Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) asks for his help to lift his father’s – Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) – curse. With the help of Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) a horologist, they seek to find the legendary Poseidon’s Trident, a treasure so powerful, it is said to lift any and all curses. The problem is, Captain Jack Sparrow is pursued by an old nemesis, Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who along with his Spanish Navy ghost crew, spares Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his crew to aid him in his quest for revenge.

These films cannot outrun the idea of using the undead as an antagonistic force seeking revenge on Jack Sparrow. Though it’s lacking in originality, it is a running gag that is used well considering the perfect casting and character motivation. So while almost all of them are seeking something from Jack, whether that be missing treasure, a debt, or revenge, everyone’s favorite bumbling rum-soaked captain is part of a film that is a nice sidestep away from superhero films that generally take up the summer blockbuster season space.

Sure, the Pirates franchise is connected, with the first four focusing on Jack looking for immortality. On Stranger Tides felt like such a deviation in terms of tone, that another film felt almost unnecessary. So, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a return to form.

Jeff Nathanson’s script embraces the mythology of the films by focusing on what made the original trilogy great. It’s a whimsy adventure that is a cinematic version of the ride. While there are plenty of wild and fun set pieces that will surely keep audiences both excited and laughing, they aren’t nearly as elaborate as some of Gore Verbinski’s films. Still, these sequences are more grounded than their predecessors and that kind of risk pays off well as it plays out a lot better than one would think.

And even if these films have taken us to so many ports and islands that they all look the same, there is still plenty of world building going on. Each of them has their own unique personality to them, and a lot of them have intriguing finds like Easter eggs to the rides. So while they may be based on the ride, the film expands on their history and mythology. Making it that much more interesting to find out if there are other locations that have similar qualities.

As for the cast, well, unlike the stiff On Stranger Tides, the characters in this film are all fighting for something they believe in. There are real stakes to it, and because of that, it gives audiences all the more reason to connect to them. Scodelario carries the torch that is strong female characters. Watching Carina outsmart a ship of egotistical pirates and people accusing her of witchcraft with her vast knowledge of charting stars. And she isn’t afraid to stand down. Instead, she wants everyone to know she knows a lot more than even some of the top scientists.

But her belief in science comes into conflict with what the franchise has embraced for so long. The Pirates films have been built around curses and magic. But this is the first time that science has ever been used. And maybe it’s that clash of science and magic that makes the chemistry between Scodelario and Thwaites works so well. With Carina firmly believing that science can explain everything, Henry’s belief in curses and magic doesn’t necessarily discredit science, it just adds something to the mix. The dichotomy of science vs magic makes for great banter, and each has its own moment to shine, but neither are proven to be ultimately right.

Depp and Rush are also back to reprise Sparrow and Barbossa, respectively. Each of them is at each other’s throats, but both have a mutual respect for each other. Sure, this is the third time that they find themselves having to recently work with each other, but it never gets boring as each encounter draws out the history between the two. As for Sparrow, even though he’s notorious pirate, not to mention mocked and ridiculed for being a notoriously bad pirate, we’ve never seen him at such a low point where he’s willing to sacrifice everything just for a bottle of rum. Even his most loyal of crew members are willing to walk out on him due to his ridiculous requests for tributes. Whereas, Barbossa demands the highest respect but longs for something that he’s been missing.

Bardem really steals the film with his menacing performance as Captain Salazar, a vengeful undead Spanish sea captain hell-bent on killing Sparrow for cursing him and his crew. The means of which he tries to achieve this goal is truly savage, but we have a much better understanding of his drive and motivation thanks in part to a small exposition scene that not only explains his rage but how Jack Sparrow became Captain Jack Sparrow. The slow wavy hair and wrathful voice only make Salazar’s villain that much more frightening to watch. Bardem just eats up the scenes that he’s in, and anyone who is opposite of him is just terrified of what could happen to them.

As strong and fantastic as these characters are, they are supported by some great action sequences and deep respect to the films and the rides that have led up to Dead Men Tell No Tales. Watching a rum-soaked Sparrow bumbling along while also stuttering takes us back to what makes the character so likable. And to watch him get in and out of hazardous situations is a nice break in the drama and some of the action-heavy scenes. But the Ten Commandments parting of the ocean sequence is something that is truly stunning to watch on the big screen.

By embracing its absurdity and complete nonsense, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a return to its swashbuckling form. Sure enough, the summer blockbuster season can be inundated with an insurmountable number of superhero films, but these Pirates films are a nice interjection. The fact that it goes back to its roots and is wild and crazy is every reason why we go to a summer movie.

No need to worry about having to watch a previous film to understand this one. In fact, Dead Men Tell No Tales feels an awful like a reboot in and of itself by setting up for bold new possibilities when it ties up a few loose ends set up by its predecessors. But it also reopens the door – you’ll have a better understanding of this if you stick around for the after credits scene – for something very exciting. So even though there’s no logic or sense to what’s going on, there’s no denying you’ll have fun watching this.


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