What is the threat Captain Jack Sparrow has to face this time around? Might I remind you that he fought Captain Barbossa and his crew of pirates to retrieve the Black Pearl in ‘The Curse of the Black Pearl’, found treasure containing a beating heart in ‘Dead Man’s Chest’, faced his inner madness and later fought Davy Jones in ‘At World’s End’, and went on a quest with former jilted flame (played by Penelope Cruz), and the ruthless Blackbeard in ‘On Stranger Tides’. Here, at first, he is nowhere to be seen until – 15 minutes in – he is found sleeping with a governor’s wife while napping off one of his drunken hangovers in a giant bank, which causes a funny chase that kicks off the fun, high-octane action that the series held on to for so many years. While that may not be the actual challenge Sparrow has to face, ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ seems to focus on the humor more than the quest written out for the heroes: Seeking out Poseidon’s ancient, all-powerful trident with the power to get rid of any curse placed on everyone, mostly pirate.
With its satisfying ending, ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ makes you believe that this could be the end of the successful ‘Pirates’ franchise which impressed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Johnny Depp’s eccentric, and hilarious performance as Jack Sparrow, though he has never won yet and the Academy tends to overlook his performances (I am still upset at the Academy’s exclusion of Depp’s performance as real-life gangster, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger from ‘Black Mass’, which I still see as his best performance since ‘Edward Scissorhands’). With five movies in the series, Depp looks to be having fun playing this character; making me think and producer Jerry Bruckheimer come to the conclusion that any ‘Pirates’ movie – if the series shall continue – will not be the same without this character. Jack Sparrow is more than the surprising comic relief, he is the injection of fun and seems to be the weight of the franchise.
I was first introduced to the Captain when I saw ‘The Curse of the Black Pearl’ at 9 years old, when Disney received its first PG-13 rating, which could have been controversial, had the film not been so fun. I expected intense terror and scares, but never as much fun as it ended up being. From the moment he was introduced, I bet the whole theater was amazed as much as I was seeing Jack Sparrow hold on to his mast majestically, while stepping off his sinking ship to the harbor; with Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt’s epic score easily comparable to the great John Williams.
Now we are five movies in, and the series is still fun, yet has a jumble of potential plot devices to deal with; although not too major of a flaw, it feels like things could be under the surface. In its first act, we are introduced to new characters. Javier Bardem (in a combination of makeup and digital effects) plays a new villain named Captain Salazar, who is on the hunt for Jack after an incident caused him and his crew to die. Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario look to be the new Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley (Who make appearances as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, trying to make us forget that ‘On Stranger Tides’ existed) as Henry Turner, the son of Will and Elizabeth, and Carina Smith, an astrologist/horologist who is accused of being a witch by the British empire (Even though, when an actual witch sets foot in the jail where our heroes visited, nobody seems to bat an eye). Geoffrey Rush returns once again as Captain Barbossa, who is forced by Salazar to show him where Jack is located at each turn they make.
‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ may be a bit flawed – with some decent dead guy CGI and said plot devices – but it is still a fun, and funny movie that feels like a satisfying conclusion that I have set sail on over the years. Side Note: Be sure to stay through the credits for more scenes.