20 years after Will Turner (Bloom) took the place as un-dead Captain of the Flying Dutchman, his son Henry (Thwaites) has spent his life searching for a way to break the curse and bring his father home. There is one way - seek out the Trident of Poseidon and destroy it.
However, to do that, he needs help from one man who knew Will best - Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp). He also knows of a terrible danger coming Jack’s way in the form of un-dead Captain Salazar (Bardem) who wants revenge on Sparrow and has destroyed many ships to find him, including one Henry served on and let live to tell the tale.
Teaming up with Jack to seek the Trident to save Will and destroy Salazar, Henry also joins astronomer Carina Smyth who claims she knows where the Trident is. But Salazar has struck a deal with retired Captain Barbossa (Rush) to find Sparrow at all costs. The fate of the each rests in the hands of who they can, or cannot, trust...
When ‘The Curse Of The Black Pearl’ blasted onto screens back in 2003, it shook the pirate genre to the core and gave audiences something fresh, exciting and new in cinemas. It brought new and old talent together, gave us thrills, danger and a sense of fun. Ship battles! Sword fights! Ye olde set design! More swash for your buckle than ever before. It was for the whole family to enjoy without pandering to any age.
Cue a surprised studio following a surprise success, and then milk the cash-cow to deliver two bloated hit and miss sequels that just got bigger and bigger each time to round out this “trilogy”. Then, milk the cow again to try and launch a new series of the same films, which again made big money but left many dissatisfied. The next step?
Milk the cash cow again to the point of it running dry to try and claw back some links to the originals and tie up the series that could effectively end it all there...or pave the way for more as this annoyingly does in the post-credit scene. Yes, ‘Pirates’ is now doing a Marvel.
We have another sea-faring adventure that takes many threads from the original - Jack Sparrow teams up with Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann mark 2 in the guise of Henry Turner and Carina Smyth as they set sail with a useless crew to a mystical island in the hope to break a curse that plagues Will, but also that of new enemy Captain Salazar - what better way to destroy a villain than take away his powerful curse, right? Throw in many twists and double-crossings along the way, and you have the template for the first film re-hashed and tweaked to serve this outing of ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’...or for some reason retitled ‘Salazar’s Revenge’ in the UK.
Hit and miss in our characters here. Newcomers to the series Brenton Thwaites as Henry and Kaya Scodelario as Carina aren’t as bad as the two planks of wood we had for “love interests” in ‘On Stranger Tides’. Thwaites has the baby-faced charm and acting ability to match Orlando Bloom as a credible son, but he gives it his all and evidently is having a blast here. So too is Scodelario, with more spunk than Keira Knightly ever had, and certainly has a plot to play out that gives the series an arc.
Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa, a little restrained but still having fun with his snarls and sneers and having a nice journey to take in this one. Kevin McNally is back as Gibbs, and a few other faces from the past. They just connect the dots really, acting as part of the expected template now.
Javier Bardem is our villain, the ghost pirate Salazar who is restrained to what he can do by his curse, and so Bardem has to sell the villain here with little action and just lots of exposition, seething dialogue and ruthless actions. He could have been more, but he doesn’t get to really shine. Which is a shame. In fact, he DOES shine, but only in flash-backs when we see how he came to be. The visual effects that help enhance him are pretty good, and at least try to make him someone to invest in rather than just 100% CGI like the crew or Davy Jones back in ‘DMC’.
The main issue I have with the cast is our leading man Johnny Depp who phones in his Jack Sparrow again for the 4th time now. He was a great character in ‘TCOTBP’ as we all know, with a great comical turn from Depp in delivering a memorable pirate the likes of which we have never seen nor will forget. He was adept with a blade, a ship and cunning - the best pirate we’ve ever seen, to use a quote. But, in this film, to use a quote again, he is perhaps the worst pirate we’ve ever seen.
In the few battles he is in, he spends his time running away, prat-falling, winning by accident and shouting in panic. He is, in all ways, useless. Nothing new is brought to the table with his character bar a tiny CGI driven flash-back to how he became Captain Jack...all very convenient of course... but by now he’s just a routine pantomime performer swaggering, swaying, slurring and skipping around for laughs. It’s a real shame, but to be expected after the last few films. You know what to get, and now in the 5th film it’s just running stale, as is they story.
More un-dead villains, more mystical artifacts, more ship battles, a few sword fights, more young love interests, more double crosses, more CGI. More, more, more. They try to get bigger and better in their action set-pieces, and just when they seem to achieve it, the CGI comes out to enhance everything and ruins it to become silly and far-fetched. The guillotine sequence for one has a nice little comical moment, but it’s ruined by the sloppy aftermath.
And to that extent, our villains are all CGI menaces who we’ve seen before. We’ve seen it all before, really, so don’t expect much to the plate that is new or matters save for one character trying to make their screen-time worth it and add some layers. Bar that, then, yeah - it does what you’d expect. Maybe that’s good, maybe it’s not. I don’t know.
It’s not the worst ‘POTC’ film, but that doesn’t say much. More akin to the original than the sequels, but still as bloated and far-fetched as them. I would love them end it there now as things seemed to be tied up, but knowing Disney and if this makes serious cash, then they’ll crank out a 6th in no time I expect.
Oh, keep an eye out for our next OAP rock star making a cameo as another of Sparrow’s family following Keith Richards. This time, Paul McCartney pops up, who actually looks like he’s having fun for the pay-check he probably received for popping up for no reason at all to advance or slow the story.