Surprisingly, Pirates 5 is quite good…
To say that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has gotten progressively more disappointing over time would be an understatement. Dead Man’s Chest was a fun ride, but a bit too melodramatic; At World’s End was a cluttered mess; and On Stranger Tides was just a mistake on all fronts. Suffice to say I went into Dead Men Tell No Tales with hesitation. And yet, I’m proud to say I left feeling excited about the Pirates franchise again.
Henry Turner, son of Will Turner, seeks to free his father from his sentence aboard the Flying Dutchman. To do this, he must find the Trident of Poseidon, a mythical object that can break any curse of the sea. With the help of the infamous Jack Sparrow and aspiring astronomer Carina, a young lady currently accused of being a witch, Henry must find the trident of legend while also evading the menace of Captain Salazar, an enemy of Sparrow from the distant past whose revenge is finally at hand.
What the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise needed after the convoluted mess of previous films was a return to simplicity.
Fortunately, with a few regrettable exceptions, that’s exactly what we get. Much like Curse of the Black Pearl, this latest film is a self-contained work that only relies on previous films in sparse doses.
With new characters like Henry, Carina, and Salazar, this is a huge benefit. Henry’s goal of freeing his father is straightforward and easy to empathise with, and he’s more than likeable enough to want him to succeed. Likewise, Carina’s pursuit of knowledge left behind by her father makes her more endearing than just being another girl swept up in adventure.
Of course, it’s Salazar who really steals the show as the best Pirates 5 villain since Barbossa’s debut. Javier Bardem’s performance is terrifying and captivating, from his stammered speech to his psychotic grin. His back story, tied to a young Jack Sparrow, is expertly directed and makes Salazar one of the best characters in the franchise thus far.
Unfortunately, Pirates 5 is far from perfect.
I’ve been avoiding the elephant in the gallows for as long as possible, but this might be the least interesting that Jack Sparrow has ever been. While previous movies have put at least some restraint on Depp’s performance, here he’s gone almost completely unhinged.
Occasionally he gets a pretty funny line or witty comeback, but a lot of the time he just feels like a blithering idiot who relies on luck more than skill to escape trouble.
The plot itself also has quite the rocky start, especially with comedy. The subplot with the British Navy goes nowhere, the joke that Carina is a witch gets beaten so furiously into the ground that you’d think it was a railroad spike, and dozens of tiny details start to stretch the opening act to its limits. It’s not all bad, but there are a ton of super groan-worthy moments, including what is possibly the worst celebrity cameo I’ve ever seen.
And here’s a brief note that this film has almost no concept of physics whatsoever… Yeah, I just kinda needed to say that.
What’s most surprising though is that the camerawork hardly feels like a Pirates of the Caribbean film at all.
I get that a new director (Joachim Rønning) means a new style, but that new style just feels like a generic action movie. There’s a scene where something flies just a few inches over Jack’s head, and it’s filmed with the exact same slow-mo panning shot that you’d see in any other action movie.
The only thing cinematically that makes it really feel like a Pirates movie is the score, this time with Geoff Zanelli giving his take on Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt’s original themes. It’s exciting, adventurous, and really hits you hard with that wall of brass that Pirates of the Caribbean is known for, so thankfully that part of the franchise is still in tact.
There’s quite a bit of nonsense in this film that makes it not as great as it could have been, and it’s very disheartening to realise that Jack Sparrow is now the least exciting part of his own franchise.
However, Pirates 5 is still a decent enough summer blockbuster. I cared about the rest of the characters, and the action set pieces are creative and blood-pumping… when they aren’t breaking physics of course. This is probably my second-favourite Pirates film to date; still leagues behind the first, but definitely more fun and engaging than its sequels.
My Rating: 7/10