Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

How does a movie based off an amusement park ride end up with four sequels? Taking a page out of the book of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the latest entry into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise goes back to the beginning to try and recapture the magic of its best film. Although it delivers not much more than a pale imitation of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, borrowing heavily from every major plot point, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is easily the least shitty sequel in a franchise that knows something about shitty sequels.

See if any of this sounds familiar: A man (Brenton Thwaites) with a pirate father and a woman (Kaya Scodelario) too independent for her time befriend the crazy pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) while being pursued by a ship of undead cursed souls seeking a treasure that can save them and led by a captain (Javier Bardem) who hates Jack.

While all a bit too familiar, the choice to allow Jack to be more part of an ensemble rather than the central character certainly helps the film. Although even with less screentime the character grows tiresome at times.

Our new characters are Henry Turner (Thwaites) who searches out Jack for a cure to free his father Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) from his curse. An expert in curses and sea folklore, despite being raised in the middle of nowhere with limited resources, Turner befriends female scientist Carina (Scodelario) mistaken for a witch for her way of thinking. Together the pair will help each other search for Neptune's Trident, a prize that legend says no man may find. The plot is a bit clunky at times, having Carina and Henry have to win Jack over, but there's a fair amount of good action this time around including zombie sharks and the film upping the ante from the most famous robbery from the best film in the Fast & Furious franchise.

Jack and Will, the later in more of a cameo performance, aren't the only familiar faces the franchise brings back. We get Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) and his monkey along with some of Jack's makeshift crew such as Gibbs (Kevin McNally) and Marty (Martin Klebba), but sadly no Anamaria (Zoe Saldana). And there's one other notable return which I won't spoil for you here. The plot goes a bit too far for my liking in tying Barbosa to the latest troubles, but the movie allows these characters to offer up more of the same one last time as the entire tone of the film feels like a swan song (pun intended)... at least until the final scene teasing the possibility of more to come.

Along the leading trio's misadventures, the movie will offer up a few nuggets about Jack's past including how he got his favorite compass and the events which led to both Jack's ascendancy to captain and made him an enemy out of Captain Salazar (Bardem). While explaining Salazar's reasons to hate Jack, the flashbacks fail to offer any reason behind how or why he and his men were cursed. Yes, the curse in the first film was a bit goofy, but it was well thought out with explicit rules. That can't be said for things this time around. The flashback to a young CGI Jack also looks creepily unnatural on an IMAX 3D screen. And, because the movie can't have any original ideas, we also get a British Naval Officer (David Wenham) with a hardon to take down pirates who gets thrown into the mix without really having a purpose (other than the fact that there was on in the first film).

Honestly, you would be better off staying home and watching Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl on home video. While this isn't quite the trainwreck every other sequel has been, there's not much here that makes it stand out on its own, and quite a bit of deja vu. But, if you really want a new Pirates movie this is your first opportunity to see one that, how can I put this, doesn't completely suck. Dead Men Tell No Tales at least stays afloat the majority of its running time. Sure the movie eventually devolves into massive action set pieces in the final act, as these movies do, but there is some fun to be had in franchise which still hasn't come close to living up to the potential of the the original entry. And for a franchise that has been this unbearably disappointing for more than a decade I guess that's enough for me, at least this time around.

No comments: