The latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise hits theaters May 26th and I, ever the optimist, settled in at a press screening with a box of Red Vines and zero expectations.
If you plan to see Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, my suggestion is that you go in much the same way (your choice of snack notwithstanding). Mild spoilers follow.
Here’s the thing. Dead Men has more than a couple things going for it. Great fights, clever banter, a bank heist that literally heists the bank, male (Brenton Thwaites) and female (Kaya Scodelario) leads who are both likable and charismatic, pirates (seriously, pirates are always good), ghost pirates (again, also good), and great performances by both Javier Bardem and Geoffrey Rush.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention Johnny Depp in any of the above.
Where Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow was once charming, funny, daring, and amusingly hapless, Depp is much more caricature than character in the latest installment. Most of the plot happens in spite of him which has always been somewhat the case, but this Jack Sparrow is even more hapless and unintelligible than ever before—and that’s saying something.
There’s an excess to the film. It’s just…extra in a number of ways. Things that work are pushed a bit too far. The CGI is great, but then it’ll tip over into being too much of “look what we can do” instead of making the idea of ghost pirates even more believable. Ghost sharks are cool. Ghost sharks in slow motion while flying through the air amidst CGI water droplets? Extra.
The film also gets lost with too many storylines, which is a shame. The two main plot points, Sparrow’s quest to change his fate and Salazar’s (Bardem) quest (which I won’t reveal because spoilers) battle with an additional plot line involving the young leads that’s further tethered to other subplots.
The result is a story that doesn’t really have the time to focus on any one thing in depth and, while it all looks pretty and the action is exciting, you’re not given the chance to really invest in anyone.
That said, you’ll find yourself rooting for a particular pirate you wouldn’t expect to root for, which speaks to the skill of said actor and his ability to make the most of the moments he has.
There are a few decent shock scares (one of which elicited a pretty good shout from the kid next to me), a few jokes you may have to explain to the younger ones, and the last 20 minutes or so are genuinely gorgeous to look at. In fact, the whole film is gorgeous save for one bit of facial CGI that threw me off. By enlarge, the visuals will knock your socks off.
I was also entranced by the end of the film. It’s probably one of the simplest shots in the movie, but for longtime fans of the series, it’s a definite heartwarmer. And make sure to stick around through the end credits. It’s worth the payoff.
Overall, if you let the film be what it is and you go with it, you should be entertained. Summer movies are all about escape and this film is happy to take you away for a while.