“Dead Men Tell No Tales” – How about not make movies?

Okay, the people who are behind this latest entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise aren’t dead, but my wish for them to not make movies has never felt more pronounced than it did after seeing Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Since this is the fifth film in the Disney franchise we see a lot of returning faces, but sadly we also see a lot of returning story ideas, and that’s been this franchise’s biggest failing. However, not all of the returning characters are entirely unwelcome.

The opening sequence of this film was one of the biggest surprises in bringing back a beloved character from the first three films, but it’s bittersweet as it turns out that all is not well for this individual. That becomes the chief reason for this story to be told. Along the way we are introduced to a new character, another very strong female very much in the vein of Keira Knightley’s role as Elizabeth Swann. However there is a very unusual wrinkle with her character, as it appears that any woman who shows any modest level of intelligence (competently played by Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth) is immediately branded a witch. I can’t speak for any accuracy of this period, but the manner in which that is played out felt more like a plot complication than any possible editorial statement on the culture of that day. We are also introduced to another very important player, that being Henry Turner (as in the son of Will Turner as played by Orlando Bloom). Unfortunately his identity is a bit confusing at first as the film time shifts and jumps around several years. However, when he first really starts to speak I instantly thought this might be a young Will Turner because his voice, accent, and speech pattern was almost a dead ringer for Orlando Bloom. Through him we finally meet the last new player to this little story, and that would be the very much dead pirate hunter Captain Salazar, played slightly creepily by Javier Bardem. He has a score to settle with a certain pirate, and that’s the last major piece to make up this film’s plot. Sadly, that is nowhere near enough to sustain this movie.

This film feels like a regurgitation of the first film Dead Man’s Chest. The manner in which we meet the true hero of that film had the same measured beats as we do with meeting Henry Turner here. The circumstances in which we meet them are quite different in each of these films, and yet it feels uncomfortably familiar. Even the scene in which Captain Jack Sparrow first shows up has that same theme of incompetence that the beloved pirate constantly exudes. What differentiates this film from the first is that he never seems to escape it. In Dead Man’s Chest we see that he’s actually quite cagey, but here he is just a bumbling idiot, and while Johnny Depp plays that aspect of the character brilliantly well, in this movie that is all we get. There is no further depth or development to Sparrow, which sadly makes him a one-note character. Throughout all of this the film has it’s cliché quest for some special object, only this time the McGuffin is an item of such enormous power that it stretches the story so much that it becomes impossible to suspend disbelief. This is probably the greatest failing with Dead Men Tell No Tales. This movie is nothing more than “theme and variations.” Everything is very familiar, from the cast, to some of the setting, to the swashbuckling adventure. This is probably why director Seth Gordon fell in to the same trope that so many adventure directors become trapped in, and that is make it all BIGGER!!! However someone should have told Gordon that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better!

This film isn’t a complete loss. One returning character that I was very happy to see was Captain Hector Barbossa, played by the always-awesome Geoffrey Rush. His character clearly shows how he is back at where he was when we met him for the very first time… He’s very much a pirate! However, his character undergoes a rather small, but very significant arc as something about his past is revealed to us, and towards the end of the movie he is no longer the same Barbosa. Another aspect of this film is its visual effects. They are absolutely spectacular. We saw the movie in IMAX in 3D, and did it sparkle! With most films that are in 3D the viewer tends to forget the 3D aspect and it just becomes another movie. Dead Men Tell No Tales is the first film we have seen in a long time where the 3D aspect stays with you. Then there are the CGI visual effects. The ship that is commanded by Captain Salazar (Javier Barden) is almost terrifying. When Salazar and his crew attack another ship there is something alive about his ship that makes you feel you are watching something out of your own worst nightmare. For these reasons and more, if you do choose to see Dead Men Tell No Tales, please do so at an IMAX and in 3D. As far as that is concerned you will not be sorry.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a terribly disappointing movie. The movie feels like another chapter with its theme and variations. Even when a new concept is introduced, it’s stretched so thin that you basically end up with a movie that has lots of amazing visuals, but without a proper story to drive those scenes. In short, even with the few positives that I listed, this movie is nothing more than Style Over Substance.

I give Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales only Half a Bottle out of 5 Bottles of Rum.

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