Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales movie poster
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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales movie poster

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Avast ye maties, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is surprisingly, shockingly, mystifyingly sort of good. In a dumb, “exceeded my extremely low expectations” kind of a way.

There’s no real reason for this movie to exist other than money. The 2003 original was and still is a lot of fun, but the following three movies were an exercise in futile excess and waning intrigue. Johnny Depp isn’t as popular as he once was, physical abuse charges notwithstanding. In short, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise could end and no one would give it more than a shrug.

Going in, Dead Men Tell No Tales appeared to be a desperate cash grab. And it is. But as cash grabs go, it’s a moderately entertaining one, and easily the best movie since the original. That might not be saying much, but if you go in expecting nothing more than a cheesy swashbuckling adventure overloaded with special effects and a semi-nonsensical story involving yet another batch of dead pirates that hate Captain Jack Sparrow, you won’t be [too] disappointed.

Depp, for whatever reason, is a little less annoying as Sparrow this time around, perhaps because he doesn’t hog the screen the way he did in 2011’s On Stranger Tides. And the movie, which is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (who made the excellent water-based tale Kon-Tiki), features some decent set and action pieces, most notably a bank robbery to kick things off that properly grasps what made the original Pirates movie so entertaining in the first place.

Where the movie struggles is its ability to develop its core characters who aren’t Johnny Depp and give them meaningful things to do. Jack Sparrow was actually a supporting character in the first movie--Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann were the chief protagonists--and all three had good chemistry together. This time around, once again, the franchise attempts to establish some fresh new faces--the good-looking duo of Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario--but in reality neither is given much to do other than blow with the wind as Sparrow, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and serviceable if one-note villain Salazar (Javier Bardem) circle each other, spitting and chewing up scenery.

Without compelling protagonists (let’s face it: Jack Sparrow is entertaining but has nothing new to offer) or a story that doesn’t just exist to get the characters from Point A to Point B, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a largely forgettable affair. Yet, thanks to its fast pace, solid directors, and a few exciting action scenes, the movie serves as passable pirate grub, which at this stage in the franchise is more than I could ever ask for.

Shiver me timbers, I didn’t think I’d ever say a nice thing about a Pirates movie again.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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