HOLLYWOOD—When “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” first arrived in theaters in 2003, it was the sleeper hit of the summer. It came out of nowhere, was entertaining as hell, and made the idea of being a pirate a pop culture phenomenon again. Fast-forward to 2017, and we’ve now seen 3 sequels in the franchise, and audiences are now presented with the fifth chapter, “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”
Let’s just put it out there, “On Stranger Tides” was not great, but I will acknowledge I found the flick slightly entertaining, but the absence of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) was indeed felt. Well, those characters return for the fifth chapter that delivers quite a few twists and surprises along the way, as Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) continues to face-off with allies he screwed over in the past.
This time around, the story follows Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will and Elizabeth, who finds himself intertwined in a bit of drama after a ship he is onboard ventures into the Devil’s Triangle, and awakens Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who seeks vengeance against Sparrow. However, he is also after the Trident of Poseidon, which holds the power that allows Salazar his freedom. The visual effects utilized to weave this character’s menacing looks are simply majestic, but we’ve seen this trick utilized in the first film as well. While Salazar is an interesting character, he pales in comparison to Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
Things take an interesting shift with the introduction of Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), who is a feisty woman not afraid to speak her mind, but at the same time it gets her into a lot of trouble. Which leads to her entanglement with Henry and Jack, and these three are a force to be reckoned with. I almost got the feeling that “Dead Men Tell No Tales” was hoping to recapture that same chemistry that Depp, Bloom and Knightley shared in the first two installments in the franchise. It works to some degree, more between Thwaites and Scodelario, where Depp seems like the father keeping the kids from going over the deep end.
The one element that I found interesting was two enemies: Barbosa and Salazar team up to take down Sparrow. Barbossa, who was once a mortal enemy to Sparrow has motives that are questionable throughout the film rather he is a foe or is he a friend? Be warned that the appearances of Bloom and Knightley are brief; they play integral roles to the narrative, but are not front-and-center throughout the entire flick. Director Joachim Ronning does his best to craft a sea adventure that is captivating and full of action. I will acknowledge the action element is indeed apparent, however, the narrative is not as fresh or inventive as one would expect, this late in the franchise.
It seems each installment in the franchise centers around a villain seeking revenge against Sparrow, while the first two times is interesting, after the fifth time it becomes a bit stale. It leaves the spectator wanting more in a story that delivers some surprises, which we see a few along the way. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” does what a good movie does: entertains the audience, but not to exceptional levels. Don’t have high expectations and you’ll be entertained by this movie.