Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – 2017

Directors Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Screenplay by Jeff Nathanson
Starring  Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightly

It’s been forever since they pumped one of these films out. Okay, well not that long ago. But since 2011 Depp’s star has fallen. Good thing I don’t care about that crap. For the most part, I have enjoyed his Pirates‘ movies. I saw none of the earlier films in the theater, but I bought them all. And watched them once. For some reason, I never felt have been able to want to watch them again over repeated viewings of Master and Commander. Okay, it’s because the Russell Crowe / Paul Bettany epic is one of my favorite films. I always was a little jealous that the first film took the wind from the sails of the clearly superior Peter Weir film. By now, when its clear that there will be no 2nd film for the Patrick O’Brien series, it’s all water under the bow.

I have learned to appreciate the films, first for their inclusion of Geoffrey Rush as the initial antagonist and eventual anti-hero. He was made to play Barbosa in every way possible. The only other character that I like better is his Walsingham from the classic Elizabeth films.  That the story is somewhat centered around Barbosa only helps, in my view.

The story is a tad convoluted, nonetheless. Will Turner is a bit too old to play the naive hunk by about a decade, so instead we have his son, played by Thwaites. The dutiful son is dedicated to bringing his father out of eternal curse of sailing the Flying Dutchman. In order to do this, he needs a MacGuffin held onto by Depp’s Jack Sparrow. That MacGuffin will lead to another MacGuffin which leads to…well, you get the point.

In his search for Sparrow, he comes across a new young babe (Scoldelario) who bases her life on the belief of science and stuff. I say stuff because some of this is based on the true tale of Poseidon’s Trident.

Meanwhile, Sparrow is being chased by Salazar, a former Pirate hunter who was obliterated by a curse at the hands of a young, digitally enhanced Sparrow. So now he’s some kind of ghost.  He is unleashed the moment that Jack Sparrow does something with one of the MacGuffins, but this is not the last time he’ll be set free. If you think that is good for him, you haven’t seen many of these movies.

The thing about this plot, it works real well with the effects and the effort feels halfway cohesive. Sparrow flits and farts through the film, using his super power of being too drunk to take any hit straight on, yet sure-footed enough to get the benefit of every bounce.

Will the plucky youths come out on top in the end? Will those who have died in a curse live to die again? Does Barbosa find a purpose after so much looting and plundering? Will that little ghost of a monkey be as adorable now as ever? Will we get to listen to Knightly speak or does she charge by the word?

One thing is for sure, Sparrow will remain unchanged, astern The Black Pearl by the end of the film. And the next one too.

There will be no preaching about this film one way or the other. I can tell you that as the series goes, this is one of the better efforts, if for no other reason the youngsters are different from in films 2 and 3. Why that matters is of personal taste. I just liked seeing the wheel turn to a new generation there as we view the constants of Sparrow and Barbosa in the center.

Bardem does a fine job of being disappointed in his efforts to ruin Jack’s day. His perverse speaking style has a fear of failure built-in along with his joy in killing whatever he deems to be bad.

All the peripheral Pirate characters you’ve grown used to but still don’t know the names of are all here, except for maybe a few that died in earlier films. I mean that died and weren’t re-signed for this film.

The best thing about the film, not one mention of a voodoo curse by someone speaking with a reggae infused accent. It’s almost makes up for the biggest disappointment of trading Keith Richards for Paul McCartney. No problem with Sir Paul, but he’s no Keef.

So I think I will finally go back and partake of the rest of this series. There is probably some fun to be had…again. If not, I am sure I will have another chance to see another sequel in a few years.

(***1/2 out of *****)


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