Guest Review – Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales (2017)


Directed By: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Written By: Jeff Nathanson
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 minutes

When I saw the first trailer for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, I nearly sprained my eyeballs from rolling them so hard. While the first movie was enjoyable and still holds up as a fun adventure flick fourteen years later, the series has overstayed its welcome. The second and third were decent, but the fourth made it clear that these movies are pretty much just vehicles for Johnny Depp to ham it up as Jack Sparrow over and over, which I have issues with for a couple reasons. First is the domestic abuse allegations that came to light last year, which completely destroyed his likability for me-and for anyone who comments that Amber Heard is lying or it’s her fault: SAVE IT. While the allegations have changed how I feel about Depp, they’re not what this review is about, but if you insist on going there, I will fight you. Personal feelings aside, Depp’s acting hasn’t impressed me in a long time. His performances have become very one-note, not helped by playing the same character since 2003, which Disney has used as the primary marketing ploy for this movie. Because of this, I worried that they were compensating for an overall weak movie by putting most of the focus on its most popular character. With the fourth movie being so forgettable, my hopes weren’t high for this one.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales introduces us to Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of original trilogy hero Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Henry has been spending most of his life searching for the mythical Trident of Poseidon, which could be the key to rescuing his father from The Flying Dutchman’s curse. Hoping his father’s old friend Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) can help him, Henry teams up with the pirate, along with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a scientist trying to navigate a mysterious map her father left her with when he abandoned her at birth. Along their journey, the three are pursued by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghostly crew, who want to prevent Jack from using the Trident to escape their revenge.

This movie’s main problem is that it tries to fit too many individual backstories into two and a half hours, leading to fan-fiction levels of bad, clunky exposition. We have Jack’s history with Captain Salazar, Henry’s lifelong mission to rescue his father, Carina’s mysterious parentage and struggles as a female scientist in the mid-to-late 1700’s, and even previous Pirates villain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) gets a forced backstory shoved into the last half hour. The magical item the characters are searching for is poorly explained; it’s just supposed to “break all curses,” which is incredibly vague. If this had been the start of a new trilogy, the pacing could have been better, but because this is (supposedly) the last film, everything is crammed into one movie, and it’s a mess.

That said, the writing isn’t completely hopeless. There is a surprising amount of genuinely funny dialogue, especially among Jack’s crew. I also enjoy that the main female character’s defining characteristic is her scientific prowess and having to deal with men not taking her knowledge seriously. It’s refreshing having a leading lady who’s more than just the romantic interest; her intellectual expertise is instrumental in reaching their goal.

Regarding the acting, I have mixed feelings. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow was…fine. He plays the character the same way he always has, so while he doesn’t bring anything new to the role, at least he’s consistent. The two young leads, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario, are decent but not especially memorable, although Kaya shows a little more promise than Brenton. Geoffey Rush is always fun to watch and gives an enjoyable performance here, brief as it is. My favorite, though, is Javier Bardem, who is so good at making anything sound menacing in that deep, gravelly voice. Hearing that he was playing the villain made me a little more excited about seeing this movie, and he did not disappoint.

There are other positive aspects of this film as well. Like its predecessors, Dead Men Tell no Tales is a visually interesting movie. The action is good and the fight choreography is fun, although it gets buried in some of the larger crowd scenes. The character design and CGI for Captain Salazar and his crew is truly spooky; even his ship looks scary. The costumes, hair, and makeup are beautifully detailed. The soundtrack is as epic as ever; although Hans Zimmer isn’t the main composer for this film (his protégé Geoff Zanelli is), his famous theme is prominent throughout the movie, and I will never get tired of hearing it.

Overall, this is a decent adventure movie. The storytelling is poor and some of the acting is underwhelming, but some of the dialogue is fun, and it’s pretty to look at. Good job, Disney. You made a better Pirates movie than the last one (although that bar wasn’t set very high). Now, please, for the love of God, stop.


Have you seen ‘Pirates 5’? Well, what did you think? 

9 thoughts on “Guest Review – Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales (2017)

  1. I don’t even remember what happened in the last Pirates film so I’ll probably pass on seeing this one. I used to be a fan of Depp but it seems his career is going down like Nic Cage’s, he doesn’t care about what kind of movies he appears in now, it’s all the money for him. I also hope Disney won’t make anymore Pirates film but if this one makes another $1billions then they’re going to keep milking it until people stop caring about Jack Sparrow.

    1. Haha, I didn’t either. My friend who saw the movie asked me if I did and I was like “All I remember is Penelope Cruz and mermaids.” And I totally agree. The guy has no standards regarding the roles he accepts now. They advertised this one as the last and I hope they’re right, but they did the same thing with the third movie, so we’ll see.

  2. Great review Laura! I have to admit, I can’t even remember if I’ve seen all the other installments. How enjoyable do you think this latest one is without having the knowledge of the plots of the other movies?

    1. Thanks! Seeing at least the third movie might be necessary to understand part of this one, since there are a couple bigger plot points from that one that are important to this one.

  3. Hi Laura, thanks for reviewing this. I gotta say I’ve never been interested in the Pirates franchise. I think I only saw the first one at a friend’s house years ago and never cared to see any of the sequels. I like Depp in his subtler roles like in Finding Neverland and such, but like Ted says, I think those ‘real acting’ days are behind him.

    1. Anytime! It was a fun one to write, even if the movie was pretty lame. 😀 I still like the first movie, and I have a nostalgic fondness for the third one (Holly, her cousin/my friend Karl, and I got dressed up and went to see it instead of going to our senior prom, haha), but the overall series isn’t worth the hype. And yeah, I used to think Depp was an impressive, versatile actor, but that’s really changed.

    1. They really should have just left it as a stand-alone movie. The second and third weren’t the worst, but they were unnecessary. And the last two were extra pointless.

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