Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – 3/5 – Long running franchises take you on journeys that provides a place of no ends.  In film universes, there is a trend to ‘keep going’ if the premise has enough to stretch out multiple paths to experience.  The Pirates of the Caribbean series has been one filled with a lot of ups and downs, but it always managed to provide entertainment to the big screen.  For this next installment, we return to something most of us are familiar with from the previous films.  Even with the odd characters and some ties back to previous characters, most of it feels like another lost chance at something more.  Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is filled with a lot of spectacle, but becomes another average blockbuster.

Premise –  As a deadly ghost Captain and his crew escape the Devil’s Triangle, Jack Sparrow and a new band of misfits must find the Trident of Poseidon and save the Pirate’s world once more.

At the heart of this series has always been Captain Jack Sparrow.  Played by Johnny Depp, he has provided the world with an odd, flamboyant but truly standout character.  Even for some of the repeated quirks, hijinks and clichés that have been encapsulated by his overtly cartoonish acting, Depp has continued to stay true to the role.  For this fifth instalment, there is nothing new you get from his character.  Even if it is the ‘same old’ thing, it is one that you are glad to see stay the same (as he is always the best part and the anchor of the films).  Another returning character that compliments Jack Sparrow is Hector Barbossa.  Played by Geoffrey Rush, he provides the same snarky but homely ‘anti-hero’ for the film’s story.  Always being at odds with Jack, he provides that complimentary character that has you seeing the highs and lows of their relationship.  Even with this fifth installment, you feel the power of his presence in every scene.  Playing the same character within a different complex, it is a little refreshing to see some depth provided for him in this story.  For the rest of the cast, you can refer to the IMDb page.  The new main and secondary cast are nothing more than basic plot elements to have another story within the ‘Pirate’ world.  There are some characters that add deeper elements to the past, but it isn’t something that goes beyond the common archetypes of a fantasy film.  For all the potential that is in the new hero Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the female/love interest Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) or the villain Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), there isn’t enough to provide that kind of attachment that is sown into this franchise.  Even for all the one-dimensional aspects, it never deters from the little bit of entertainment they bring on the big screen.

The direction is one that’s filled with ‘potential’ storytelling covered in fantastical elements.  There are a lot of unique ideas setup within backstory points from prior characters.  This provides a path to something bigger and enthralling.  With each deepening element for the ‘Pirate’ lore, Jack Sparrow and the Turner family, it is deterred by an unapologetic use of spectacle.  This creates a sense of loose ends, ambiguous linearity and a hollow experience.  That false setup creates a missed opportunity of capturing that essence of magic (from past films).  There are a lot of repetition of the same old elements from prior films.  What happens is:

Setup for a deep plot point > comical/dramatic/slapstick moment > some quick expositional element > big spectacle > Re-focus direction on some ‘new’ deep plot point

This happens on repeat within the first two acts.  There is never a sense to let the story unfold for the audience.  It is the common ‘bait and switch’ tactic where something interesting develops but there is a quick turn into an enormous set piece of explosions, action or CGI conundrum.  This fragments the ideal experience of what was potentially set up.  For all that happens, there are times when there’s focus on the characters.  These is when you have some truly endearing moments.  These are few and far between, but the witty and subtle use of dialogue helps provide a sense the directors are not completely ‘dumbing down’ every element of the story.  Once you get to the final act, it is a fragile dance of story development within the aspect of beautification.  It is as much eye candy as slightly emotional, but it helps ground that enjoyment you were promised in the beginning.  Once we get to the climax, it is the common ‘race against the clock’ moment, but it is enjoyable to see some closure happening for characters we have come to love (from the past).  Even as the epilogue ends on that same old ‘Pirates life for me’ mantra, it still provides closure to some things in this world.

The visuals will take you into another realm of awe and delight.  Even for a lot of cliché and repeated elements, it is that ‘wide open’ aspect of sailing the seas that never gets tiring.  For the vast panorama of the ocean and the Caribbean, you feel as if you’re on the ship with Jack and crew, sailing for a new journey.  Including the landscapes of some of the islands (including a recreation of St. Martin), you feel a grounded aspect within this fantastical world.  The one thing that might seem like a deterrent is the CGI created villain and his crew.  The ghastly aspect doesn’t always seem right on screen, but it never takes you out from the overall aspect of the world.  The score is the basic elements you have had from previous films.  With a resounding orchestra and repeated use of the ‘pirate’ soundtrack, it isn’t something that you will find different.  It is the same old stuff from before.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a film filed with a lot of fun, but also a rehashing of the same old shtick.  For all the grand and returning elements of this ‘Pirate’ world, it doesn’t feel like there is enough for that grand spectacle you hope for.  If you are a fan of the franchise and want to go on this journey, check it out.  At most, this is a matinee watch for everyone else.

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