I Tell Tales Even If Dead Men Don’t
I remember the very first time I saw a trailer for the Pirates of the Caribbean. It was the winter of 2002. There were some names flashing across the screen: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush. Johnny Depp was a known commodity. Most of his roles skated on the edge of crazy and brilliant. Orlando Bloom was concluding another pretty big series coming to a close. It dealt with a ring and some short guys. You might have even heard of it. And then there was Geoffrey Rush. While often a brilliant actor, and Oscar winner for Shine, I had no clue how he was going to be in a pirate movie. And a pirate movie based upon a ride? That’s crazy talk.
So here were three well-received actors who were going to be in a Disney movie, based upon a ride. I did not think that this was going to end well. All I could see was a disaster. And then I watched the movie. Geoffrey Rush was the perfect comic book type villain who often droned on for too long but was very watchable. Then there was the cute romance between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly. There were also side characters like the two people part of the British navy. And then there was the pair of ner do wells that were on Sparrow’s crew.
But Johnny Depp as a Pirate stole the show. Despite the fact that Captain Jack Sparrow seemed to wrong foot everything, he absolutely knew what he was doing. Everyone else played checkers, and he seemed to be playing chess. He might have had some luck go his way, but he always had a means for getting out of scrapes and getting to what he wanted. But at the same time, you always felt like he was drunk, or that he was putting on the affectation so that others would take him less seriously. He seemed to be just on the edge of tipping over, wherever he went. Johnny Depp delivered a magnificent performance, and the Academy nominated him for best actor that year. And Disney went on to sign the group up for two more films.
Fast forward fourteen years to today and Disney decided that they could keep making money from this pirate franchise. They didn’t just stop with a third or even a fourth film. They actually have reached the fifth film in the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Johnny Depp is supposed to be taking his final curtain call in the role of Captain Jack Sparrow, and as a result, they pulled out all of the stops. Disney decided to give the audience one final thrill along this voyage in the Caribbean.
*** Pirates of the Caribbean Spoiler Alert***
At the very beginning of the picture, they introduce us to a young Henry Turner (Lewis McGowan). It hearkens us back to the time of watching the first movie, as they introduced us to a young William Turner, rescued from the aftermath of a pirate attack. We don’t realize that Henry is a Turner, and Will is his dad until he sinks himself to the bottom of the ocean using a pile of rocks. When he hits the ground he finds himself on the deck of what appears to be a sunken ship. This ship immediately floats to the surface. Once at the surface, Henry Turner stares in awe as we realize that we are on the deck of the Flying Dutchman. And Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) steps from below decks to scold his son for trying to find him.
One can imagine that years have gone by as Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightly), Henry’s mother and Will’s wife, have regaled him with tales of the past. Jack Sparrow must have played a prominent role in many of these tales; and, as such, Henry believes Sparrow can save his dad from this horrific fate. You can tell that years have passed on Will’s face as his skin has taken on a few barnacles from being the head of the Flying Dutchman. He warns Henry that his plight is hopeless, and seems even more affronted that he would seek Jack Sparrow’s help to get him.
Fast forward nine years and an older and more mature Henry (Brenton Thwaits) sits aboard a ship that is out in the treacherous waters of the Caribbean. He sees them headed for serious trouble. As he has spent much of his youth studying the curses of the sea and its dangerous characters he knows that the ship is heading for certain death. The crew does not heed him and when they head into this rocky cove they are quick to discover another ship there waiting for them.
The Ghost Captain Salazar(Javier Bardem) heads up the crew of the Silent Mary and they attack the ship, leaving but one person alive as a warning to all those who come up against them. But as he reaches the last man, Henry, he realizes that Henry seems to have some connection to Jack Sparrow. He begs Henry to give Sparrow a warning from him. He tells him to inform Jack that they are seeking him after all of these years and will hunt him down.
Then, they introduce us to our other major new character Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). The people accuse her of witchcraft, to which she protests that she is a woman of science. She escapes the clutches of the men who would harm her and runs away, straight into Jack Sparrow. As we meet Jack he is as lecherous and drunk as ever, being inside a locked safe with a woman and a bottle of rum, barely able to recognize where he is at. His men, always doing the dirty work, get themselves ready to pull the safe away with ropes. And as they do, all hell breaks loose as they pull the entire bank with them. Comedy ensues and eventually Carina and Jack separate.
Quickly we discover that the years have not been kind to Jack and his men. Since the incidents at Stranger Tides, the Black Pearl still resides inside a bottle which Jack can’t seem to open. And when the bank job goes bust, all Jack’s sailing companions desert him. They appear to reside on a ship, landlocked and unseaworthy. Jack is so down that eventually he decides that he must give up his special compass for a bottle of rum. For some strange reason, this compass has a connection to the aforementioned Captain Salazar and it releases he and his ghost crew from this black triangle of death.
Eventually, through some side exposition with Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), we discover that there is a Trident from Poseidon that can save Captain Jack from Salazar’s clutches, help Henry break his father’s curse, and somehow be connected to Carina as it was the wish of the father who orphaned her that she should find it. Everyone needs to make a mad dash for this Trident. And as with every Pirates movie, hijinks ensue.
There are many different revelations along the way, both big and small. From the origins of Jack’s name to Salazar’s motivations to who Carina’s father is, we discover some incredible things, both past, and present which adds to the richness of the tale. And eventually, everything comes to a head. But I am not going to spoil the rest of the story.
**End Of Spoilers**
So what did I think of the movie? On some levels, I don’t think that I can help but enjoy these movies. It’s like a family that I have grown to love. Despite his zaniness, or maybe because of it, crazy uncle Jack is welcome at every family dinner. From his drunken lechery to his misunderstanding about horology, Jack makes sure that we never take things too seriously. This makes the piece very family friendly despite some of the bawdy behavior of the crew.
However, I think that some of the lines have grown a little tired over time. I’m not sure whether this is a factor with the character or how they have allowed Jack to evolve. I think they stripped some of the innocence from Jack. His zest for life no longer inspires us. And the ultimate unforgivable sin is that Disney has made it so we are no longer sure whether Jack is brilliant, with some kind of a game plan for everything. It’s like the moment where our crazy uncle goes from funny to just plain drunk. When we stop laughing, he is no longer welcome.
Also, some of the plot devices involved seem a little too thin and a little too convenient at this stage of the game. I don’t mind taking a trip to some crazy place. And I definitely don’t mind some zany inspired madness along the way. But some of the connections they make seem a little too convenient. As well as the fact that villains from the sea cannot seem to go on dry land. Maybe I should blow it off as a plot device but it seems to happen so frequently to Pirate villains that it feels like it has outlived its usefulness.
This does not mean that the film has nothing going for it. It’s really trying to take us back to the first movie in many ways. From its exposition to a daring executioner rescue, it’s obvious Disney wanted to bring back some of the magic that it felt like was lacking in a previous couple of films. While many of new “old” scenes did not work as well, some worked quite well. And, it’s obvious that the filmmakers at Disney learned a big lesson from Pirates 4. The audience still craves to know about Jack. So they included some CGI and some backstory to Jack to give us a little more of the history behind the man who is Jack Sparrow.
Furthermore, you cannot but love some of the inspired comedy from Jack. It’s hard not to laugh as Jack takes the young Henry Turner under his wing and plays father figure to him. It was a little like that in the original Pirates, but Depp was too young and Bloom too old for Jack to be a dad figure. Jack mentored Will. But here the father figure works. He’s like a messed up Polonius trying to give Henry advice about the world. We know Henry should take everything with a grain of salt, but you are curious how much he takes in.
So overall what do I think of the film? I think that it’s still must watch filmmaking. Depp knows his character and has lived in it for so long that there is enough brilliance there to still appreciate it. And while I know many of you will be tempted to pass it off as something you should see at home, Pirate movies work better when they are on the big screen. It does not matter the size of your TV screen, it feels like TV binds up the world of the Caribbean. On the big screen, it explodes in all different directions.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of four stars
Continue The Conversation
I think I have two little addendums to this review today. One, do not leave when the credits start rolling for Pirates. I know that you want to get out of there, but as any Marvel Comic movie fan will tell you, there is much to be missed when you leave early. And as Disney owns Marvel, they seem to have taken a page from their playbook. Dead Men Tell No Tales has an additional ending at the very end of the credits. I won’t spoil it.
But I have one big question afterward. Is this really the end of the Pirates franchise of movies or is Disney giving us a big “Psych” after all of the lead in for this film? For those of you who have seen the movie, please tell me what you think. And for those who haven’t, what do you think of those additional or alternative endings which seem to be a big thing in movies these days? What is your opinion?
Second, I know that many of you are looking forward to my usual Fitness Friday post. I just wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten you. Given the release of the film, I felt like this post needed to be timely. I promise that on Sunday I will recap my fitness week and let you know how things are going. I had a crazy week, and as always, this involved madcap adventures. Stay tuned.
Thank you for stopping by at the Guide. If you loved this review, please check out additional ones on the site as I do love movies and review them from time to time here. Also, please sign up to follow me here at the Guide. All subscribers via email will receive access to the Dad Rules. These are ten rules that every father should know. And maybe a few mothers as well. I hope to see you all again soon.
Until next time, “where has all the rum gone???”
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life