One of the things I like about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies is they aren’t trying to be something they aren’t. These are not “deep” movies with anything to say, but simply spectacles to be enjoyed, amusing adventures, and this entry in the franchise is no different.
As the story opens there is a caper involving a massive bank safe and we are introduced to Captain Jack Sparrow in a manner of which is painfully obvious yet still amusing. We see it coming but still enjoy it. That’s what this franchise does well, when it plays up to expectations and doesn’t try to broaden itself (the metaphysical stuff in the third film fell flat) we have a lot of fun.
The opening sequence is a bit of a ride (literally for the lead character and metaphorically for the audience) and sets the tone for the film to come. There is a fair amount of “up and down” for Sparrow and his crew, as is to be expected, including a stint in jail where we get to see Paul McCartney as Uncle Jack singing “Maggie Mae” (which has a history before The Beatles sang it). While this scene is completely superfluous and could easily have been cut, it shows just how much fun the franchise is having with itself and we are invited along for the ride.
Javier Bardem plays the heavy in this film, a sort of personification of Death who is after Captain Jack Sparrow for trapping him in the Devil’s Triangle. There’s a plot about Captain Salazar (Bardem) seeking not only revenge on Sparrow but also to finish his original mission of eradicating piracy in the Caribbean. Then we also have another plot about Will Turner’s son searching for a way to lift the curse tying his father to the Flying Dutchman. There are other character points to discover, but those are best left to be discovered as the film unfolds rather than have them spoiled.
Geoffrey Rush returns of course as Captain Barbossa and his character really brings something to the story here (regardless of the reveal late in the film). What happened to him between the previous film and this would certainly make for an entertaining spin-off. then there is Gibbs, the first mate who is the only other character to appear in all the films. His makes for a decent sidekick/foil to Sparrow. Pintel and Ragetti, the two crew members who acted as comic relief and Greek chorus are still missing, which is a shame.
At two hours this is the shortest of the films and that’s a good thing. one of the biggest criticisms of the franchise was how each film (particularly the 2nd and 3rd) drug out the story needlessly. Dead Men Tell No Tales is still long but does not over stay its welcome.
Alright, so the film isn’t perfect. It does feel like we’ve been here before, with Captain Jack Sparrow’s past coming to haunt him (literally and figuratively) and we have another troubled pirate crew after what he has. While this could easily have been trimmed down to 90 minutes, and there’s a fair amount of retread going on here, the fact remains Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t trying to be something it is not, so you go into it with a certain set of expectations and they will be met accordingly.
The special features, however, are a disappointment. Almost everything feels superfluous. There’s 5 minutes on Paul McCartney’s appearance in the film, which is actually longer than he is on the screen. A few minutes with returning cast about the making of the film and returning to the franchise, a few minutes with new actors, a few minutes on the special effects, etc. Nothing of any real substance is provided. No audio commentary, no extended “making of”, and it almost feels as if the special features were cut mid-production when the box office did not meet a certain expectation.
Still, if you enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, then you need to pick this one up as well, it’s not the best of them, but not the worst and certainly still enjoyable.
By the way – I got the Blu-ray version for review, not the 4K as pictured, but the cover image is still the same.