PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES: Grab The Rum – You’ll Need It
Overloaded with action and lacking in strong character moments, Dead Men Tell No Tales is an unworthy addition to the Pirates franchise.
After watching the 4th instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean (On Stranger Tides), it was affirmed that the pirate franchise should have remained a trilogy, for the 2011 exploit appeared to be blatantly more commercial. If only it were different for the latest film, Dead Men Tell No Tales (or Salazar’s Revenge for the UK viewer). There was a lot of hope for Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønninghis’ crack at the franchise, as it was publicised that Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) make a comeback – albeit not full throttle, however it gave hope to the fans that the film was going to potentially regain an aspect of what it lost.
If you were (or like me, still are) obsessed with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and wish for a nostalgic experience filled with thrilling action, complex love-hate characters, amazing scenography, epic music and ingenious dialogue… I suggest you watch the first 3 movies on repeat, because Dead Men Tell No Tales does not tick all the boxes.
Questionable Characters and Casting
English actress Kaya Scodelario (known for her previous roles in The Maze Runner and the British teen TV series Skins) plays the character Carina Smyth; an astronomer trying to hunt down the trident of Poseidon. It is clear to see that the casting directors have strived for a Keira Knightley replica, to visually match her love interest Henry Turner (played by Brenton Thwaits) – the son of Elizabeth and Will, and of course, he looks exactly like his father. It seems as if Scoledario’s appearance is the main reason for her casting, as her performance is noticeably amateur. She comes across as patronising and a weak link in the pirate chain, especially when working with the likes of Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem.
It can be said that quite a few characters in this film posed questions for concern, not just with their dubious acting or lack of chemistry (like Carina and Henry), or even their unnecessary role to the story (like the overrated witch Haifaa Meni), but through their entire characterisation – Hector Barbossa is the perfect example of this. From the very first movie (The Curse of the Black Pearl), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) has always been perceived as a villainous character; even when he eventually becomes an ally to Jack Sparrow, he still managed to retain a unique, comedic hostility.
However, the heinous pirate audiences all know and love is unrecognisable this time round. It was clear to see from On Stranger Tides that Barbossa was undergoing a transformation in style, wearing elaborate coats and wigs; however, attitudinally he is no longer so frightening and dominant. Instead, the character appears fearful and submissive, obliterating his notorious trait, which feels rather alien and strange to watch.
(Side note: once again the movie includes a rock star cameo to play a member of the Sparrow family, and this time it’s Paul McCartney. I could practically hear the audience sigh when they saw Paul so clearly fulfil his pirate fantasy.)
There was a lot of action in this movie. A lot. It could even be said there was too much. There wasn’t really any break from the chaos; it just appeared to be one thing after another in terms of conflict. Everything felt condensed and forced into 2 hours, and because of this, there appeared to be a lack of simplicity. The story-line grew to be rather complex, and as this film’s target demographic is children, it seemed somewhat strange for there to be so much going on without breaks between the bolder scenes.
Dead Men Tell No Tales became exhausting, as the long-winded scenes are not met with calmer moments which could be used to build a character/give them more depth. It appears the directors do not agree with the saying ‘less is more’. A film needs calm and reflective moments just as much as it needs action in this genre, and because of this we do not see chemistry develop between Carina and Henry, so at the end when the obvious kiss between them arrives, it is rather uncomfortable to watch.
Mediocre Editing, CGI and Soundtrack
This time round, Dead Men Tell No Tales carried more as a comedy than anything else. Yes, it had action and adventure throughout, but most of the action felt very farfetched. Obviously, audiences have to suspend their disbelief when watching a film about ghost pirates and magic tridents; however, when the budget is $250 million, viewers should not have to put so much work into immersing themselves into a cinematic world.
It appears as if Dead Men Tell No Tales spent most of their budget on set, for the CGI and editing appeared to be rather sloppy. As seen in the trailer, Dead Men Tell No Tales shows Jack Sparrow as a young boy (which shatters the illusion that Sparrow is an ageless, timeless pirate), and whilst there are some effective up-close shots of young Jack, the quality disappears when he speaks and walks around the deck, for the visual turns rather cartoonlike.
Something the Pirate franchise consistently provided audiences with was a killer soundtrack. Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer’s scores for the previous films set up some of the most epic scenes in cinema (the kraken attack in Dead Man’s Chest, for example). This film does contain samples of the typical pirate soundtrack; however, the new musical additions to the non-diegetic sound by Geoff Zanelli are unfortunately not as moving or exciting as one would have thought.
Jack’s ship at the start of Dead Men Tell No Tales is aptly named the Dying Gull, and in my opinion that summarises most of the 129 minutes. Aside from the criticism, the film does carry well as a comedy with a lot of funny one-liners throughout, and obviously it is nice to once again be reunited with these well-loved characters. The return of Elizabeth and Will and the minute exploration of their story did regain a slight aspect of the traditional trilogy-feel, and it does provide hope for the next film in the franchise (especially when the post credit scene infers the return of a particular iconic character).
If you were to ask me if this movie strengthens the franchise, I’d say I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request, however as a lighthearted standalone action/adventure film for the younger viewer, Dead Men Tell No Tales does provide some worthwhile moments. Pirates of the Caribbean may be lacking its unique and classic flare in this motion picture, but it still contains small fragments of why audiences loved The Curse of the Black Pearl in the first place, with Jack’s comical remarks, creepy mythological creatures, and aesthetically pleasing shots of the sea.
Unfortunately, as Disney strive to create a more commercial film, the story-line has evolved to feel forced, immature and generic. One can only pray for the next film to be a vast improvement, but it appears as if the franchise has unfortunately lost its mojo.
If only it had remained a trilogy.
Do you think Pirates of the Caribbean should have remained a trilogy? What are your thoughts on Dead Men Tell No Tales? Share your thoughts and comments!
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales comes out on the 26th of May.
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.