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

by Keith Hill

Rated M. Starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario. Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales proves that the Pirates franchise is a ship that has well and truly sunk.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth film in the franchise, and sees the return of Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp), more than slightly-sozzled, and landlocked on St Martin. He’s lost the Black Pearl, his crew, and his luck. Resigned to drink his sorrows away, Jack betrays his compass by trading it for a bottle of rum, thus unlocking his worst fear – the Spanish Navy Captain Salazar (Bardem). Salazar had been the most feared pirate hunter on the high seas until Jack trapped him in the Devil’s Triangle, undead and seeking revenge.

The film introduces some new blood into the franchise, too. Henry Turner (Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), allies himself with Jack in a quest to free his father from his cursed existence on the Flying Dutchman, while Carina Smyth (Scodelario), a ‘woman of science’ who doesn’t believe in all these nautical legends, joins them for reasons that are never made particularly clear, apart from the fact that she has the map for the one thing they all seek – Poseidon’s Trident. Whoever possesses the Trident has full control of the seas, and will undo the curses that afflict them all.

The shortest film in the franchise so far, Dead Men is an attempt to get back to the action and excitement of the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl. But the film seems to go for style over substance, so while there are some impressive moments of CGI swashbuckling on the high seas, there’s not much by way of character development that invites us to invest in any of these characters. Thwaites and Scodelario lack the chemistry of Bloom and Knightley in the earlier films, and given reports of Depp’s behaviour off-set, you have to wonder how much of a stretch the drunken sailor role is for him. And Paul McCartney’s cameo as Jack’s pirate uncle doesn’t hold a candle to Keith Richards’ appearances as Jack’s father, Captain Teague.

Jack’s compass points to the deepest desire of the heart of whoever holds it, but in Dead Men, the compass isn’t needed. Everyone’s desire is for Poseidon’s Trident, for the hope that if they hold it, they can break the curses that afflict them.

Like each of the characters, the Bible tells us that we are all under a curse – the curse of sin and death – and freeing ourselves from the curse is more impossible than possessing Poseidon’s Trident. But the hope of the gospel is that we don’t have to part the seas to rid ourselves of our curse. Rather, the one who holds the power of all creation in his hands surrendered himself to the consequences of our curse in order to set us free.

The Verdict: After Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, its probably time that Disney put the Pirates franchise to rest in Davy Jones’ Locker. 2/5

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opens on May 25 in Australia and May 26 the USA.

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