The fifth installment in the franchise, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” is another mess of a sequel. And this is from someone who mostly enjoyed “At World’s End” (yes, it’s true). It’s bloated with more of Jack Sparrow’s nonsense, jokes that aren’t funny, plot points that can’t be explained no matter how you spin it, and a villain who’s a cross between Barbossa in “Curse of the Black Pearl” and Davy Jones, only far more boring and ineffective.
Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is on the search for the trident of Poseidon. After years of obsessively researching and becoming knowledgeable in all things related to the sea, Henry is positive that the trident is the only thing in myth that can break the curse of his father, Will (Orlando Bloom), who’sbeen sentenced to captain the Flying Dutchman forever. Joining him on his journey is Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a scientist who is on a mission to find the trident and honor her father as well. She is also on the run from being accused of witchcraft, allowing several characters to disrespect her at every turn. Henry seeks the help of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), believing he can get him to the trident, but Jack is going through a crisis of his own; His crew having abandoned him (again) and the Black Pearl still stuck in a bottle. And trapped in what can only be called the underworld of the sea is Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Once a man of distinction and known for hunting pirates, he seeks vengeance on Jack for having stolen his compass and defeating him at sea. Salazar and his undead crew end up in a chase for the trident, which will reverse the curse and help bring him back to life.
Ever since Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom’s departure from the franchise, the “Pirates” films have been trying to fill the hole that was left. They’ve tried to bring back that spark by having other romantic relationships, but it’s never stuck. Honestly, it was their absence that highlighted how much they held the films together. They’re back for “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” but it’s only for a very small moment within the film’s two hour run time. Their son’s plight is honorable, but he isn’t given enough to become a fully developed character aside from being a Turner. There attempts at building a romance, but the efforts are half-hearted. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is terrible. It feels like the film’s desperately trying to recreate the magic that has been lost for quite some time.
The film further ruins Barbossa’s character. First by trying to make him ruler of the sea and second, by trying to make him a good guy. Jack Sparrow, after over two decades, hasn’t grown as a person and is still doing the same things, having lost his life’s compass both literally and figuratively. It’s this lack of character progression that is partially responsible for the diminished story. In the film, Henry seeks Jack out for help, but I suppose the real question is why? The basis is that Henry has been raised on the stories of a pirate’s life and all, but why go to the one man who is more reckless than useful, more selfish than he is sympathetic to anyone’s cause that isn’t his? If “Dead Men Tell No Tales” had taken Jack out of the equation, I guarantee the film would have been better off. As it stands, Jack Sparrow has become nothing but glorified comedic relief, and a terrible one at that.
Javier Bardem’s talents are wasted on a character that is one dimensional and whose existence is poorly explained. Typically, of course, he has a vendetta against Jack, but the struggle comes when trying to make us care. Jack has never been a sympathetic character, so his ability to carry a movie on his own is an issue and the lack of cohesiveness and all-around inconsistencies suck all the life from the film. It isn’t fun, entertaining, and the scenes and character relationships fall flat, while the plot is questionable at best and horribly incoherent at worst. The one highlight of the entire movie is quite literally when Will and Elizabeth show up onscreen, and even then it’s a brief glimmer of light in a film plagued by nonsensical and pointless redundancy.
"Dead Men Tell No Tales" isn't fun, entertaining, and the scenes and character relationships fall flat, while the plot is questionable at best and horribly incoherent at worst.