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

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) movie poster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Theatrical Release: May 26, 2017 / Running Time: 129 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg / Writers: Jeff Nathanson (story & screenplay); Terry Rossio (story & characters); Ted Elliott, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert (characters)

Cast: Johnny Depp (Captain Jack Sparrow), Javier Bardem (Captain Salazar), Geoffrey Rush (Captain Hector Barbossa), Brenton Thwaites (Henry Turner), Kaya Scodelario (Carina Smyth), Kevin McNally (Gibbs), Golshifteh Farahani (Shansa), David Wenham (Scarfield), Stephen Graham (Scrum), Angus Barnett (Mullroy), Martin Klebba (Marty), Adam Brown (Cremble), Orlando Bloom (Will Turner), Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann), Paul McCartney (Uncle Jack)


There is no better example of oversaturation in Hollywood than Shrek. Just about everyone loved Shrek so when Shrek 2 came three years later, the box office records it set were impressive but not terribly surprising.
Three years later, another Shrek sequel came and that one wasn't as loved. By the time, Shrek Forever After arrived three Mays later, the franchise was clearly done being family favorites and box office champions.

Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise began two years after the original Shrek, but it picked up the pace so that the two series aligned in May 2007, a month that also gave us Spider-Man 3. That boom spelled doom for each franchise, with each threequel coming down from its predecessor commercially and, by most accounts, artistically. Shrek stayed the course and floundered. Spider-Man 3 had its planned follow-up cancelled and replaced by a reboot that disappointed. Pirates, on the other hand, seemed to gracefully bow out, knowing its time had passed and acknowledging that its third installment had the word "End" in its title.

But in 2011, the same summer that gave us Pixar's head-scratching Cars 2, Disney released Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, a sequel that retained Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and the screenwriting duo of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (who also wrote the original Shrek), but otherwise welcomed new personnel including director Rob Marshall. That fourth installment set series lows in terms of critical approval rating and domestic box office gross, but it still earned over a billion dollars worldwide. And so, six summers later, we're back with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, a fifth installment that could not have ranked highly on many dream sequel lists.

Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) is back...again in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."

Depp is back. Rush is back. Elliott has left and Rossio only shares story credit with lone credited screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Meanwhile, the helm vacated by Marshall (and thrice previously filled by Gore Verbinski) has been assumed by the Norwegian duo of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who directed the well-regarded but not terribly well-known 2012 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee Kon-Tiki.

That mix of returning and acclimating personnel suggests Tales will offer a blend of new and old. It sort of does, in that much of it focuses on two mostly new characters, young leads Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who -- spoiler alert? -- make a cameo or two), and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brainy beauty who is accused of being a witch but is really just an astronomer and horologist.

Of course, there's also Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp), that rum-swilling rascal of a pirate. Introduced fourteen years ago to the tune of Depp's first Oscar nomination, the character's shtick was tired by At World's End. It still is, but at least it beats Depp reprising his Mad Hatter again. As always, everyone's after Captain Jack. His old crew (including fixture First Mate Gibbs and other characters from some but not all the past installments) is fed up with his ne'er-do-well ways. Meanwhile, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), the Spanish leader of a partially-bodied band of ghost pirates, has an old score to settle with Captain Jack. Salazar makes a deal with Captain Barbossa (Rush), who isn't slow to sell out his repeat adversary, sometime ally.

Henry teams with Captain Jack and Carina in search of the fabled trident of Poseidon that has the power to undo old sea curses. But danger lurks around every corner and our heroes repeatedly face the threat of death sentences.

Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his band of ghost pirates have an old score to settle with Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."

Considering how stupid and disappointing things got ten years ago in At World's End, it's kind of amazing that the franchise hasn't plummeted any further in the two episodes since. Taking its subtitle from a famous line from the original 1960s Disneyland ride on which this franchise has been loosely based, Tales doesn't do anything to convince you that this universe has more stories worth telling. As anyone could have predicted, the Kon-Tiki duo adapt to this series and summer popcorn filmmaking, rather than the franchise evolving to fit a new vision.
The production is polished, with fine effects-heavy visuals and competently staged action. With a stated budget of $230 million and a rumored actual cost of $350 million, this should be more than just a slick, high quality tentpole. At that price, it should be life-changing or at least game-changing. Of course, it's not.

It's an okay summer movie that will draw critical disapproval but not quite wrath. When the season concludes in three months, this likely won't be the one movie that people point to as the poster child for Hollywood's ongoing creativity problems. The same issues that plagued the previous movies mostly linger here. The movie is overlong. The 3D, which required a restart due to uncomfortably inaccurate projection at my screening, is pretty pointless at best and distracting at worst. The wispy Salazar is an uninspired villain who instills neither fear nor excitement. And nothing remotely resembling a new layer is unearthed in any of these returning characters, who simply behave as we've come to expect.

The boldest move the film makes is assigning a cameo to Paul McCartney as Captain Jack's uncle, following two appearances by Keith Richards as Sparrow's father. Richards made some sense, as an obvious inspiration for Depp's performance. McCartney makes only as much as David Beckham popping up scarred in Guy Ritchie's medieval bomb King Arthur.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: King Arthur: Legend of the SwordGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black PearlDead Man's ChestAt World's EndOn Stranger Tides
From the Directors: Kon-Tiki
Written by Jeff Nathanson: Catch Me If You CanThe TerminalIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullRush Hour 3
Johnny Depp: Black MassDark ShadowsAlice Through the Looking Glass | Javier Bardem: No Country for Old MenEat Pray LoveThe Counselor
Brenton Thwaites: MaleficentGods of EgyptThe Giver | Geoffrey Rush: The King's SpeechLes Misérables (1998)

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Reviewed May 26, 2017.

Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2017 Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.