Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – Beware the Shallow End

Where are you going, Jack?” Asked Captain Barbossa in 2007, and our favorite swashbuckler hasn’t been able to rightly answer since…

After an entire decade of the final instillation to the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, we are now on our second trilogy-ruining palooza (#5 in the series). As we enter yet again into the world of these mischievous pirates and their ever-so deceptive ways, we are this time on the lookout for the Trident of Poseidon (ambitious, isn’t it?). Only this time, we are joined by Henry Turner (the boy of our own beloved Will, no less), Carina Smyth (a smart version of Elizabeth), and a new and cursed villain in town, the vindictive Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Throw in a couple of old faces from time to time, and we’re ready for a roaring new adventure with Captain Jack, right? Well…


Let me start by saying, while I perhaps might be selling this review as an indifferent ordeal, please know that’s not the case. To be honest, while many of my friends growing up were into Star Wars and Harry Potter (two series I still thoroughly enjoy), I was always more of a Pirates fan myself. While other kids grew up on Indiana Jones, I preferred Jack. While some had the Millennium Falcon, I chose the Pearl. And when most nerd-friends raved about John Williams, I stuck with Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt for constant repeat. I stuck with the series through the rocky 2 and 3rd years (and still return faithfully, I might add), and even gave the atrocious 4th installment a more than deserved chance. There have been few rewards for sticking with this series, save the first film. Could Dead Men Tell No Tale be the pay-off return to form we loyal customers deserve? As my rhetoric’s have alluded to, not necessarily.

Let me start with the good. I felt as though with the music, mood, characters, and new found energy that we were finally transported back into the word of Pirates of the Caribbean. No joke, unlike the fourth installment, this atmosphere just felt like it belonged. The film is visually dazzling to look at (though some of the CG I found off-putting or distracting). I found, while limited in development, Harry and Carina made for a suitable and likeable couple, one that felt authentic. There were a handful of nice character moments, specifically by Barbossa. There is a call-back noose-escape scene that I found to be quite fun and entertaining. Paul McCartney’s cameo was a hoot. And finally, after thinking about it for a bit, and while it may have been a stretch, the choices made in the first and last scenes were my very favorite parts of the film!

Pirates 3

Now, as you may have guessed, there are problems abounding. For starters, this film is perhaps the most crass of the installments. While #3 and #4 had perhaps more sensual scenes, the innuendos here were being flung right and left (and as per usual, the women in these films wear plunging necklines constantly). Which doesn’t make much sense, seeing as though (a likewise complaint), many times this film gave a more animated and younger geared feel, which makes the content a bit more frustrating. Next, Captain Salazar. While Javier Bardem was formidably scary (this is Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men, after all), the character was incredibly stereotypical and shallow. And to be quite honest, he felt almost non-relevant. When you consider the fact that the film was billed as a Johnny Depp vs Javier Barden event (and that it was titled Salazar’s Revenge in other countries), this isn’t necessarily the results one would expect. Then of course, one of the biggest complaints to go around, the writing, pacing, and direction were all together somehow over the top, unceremonious, campy, cliché, and dull. How a script, direction, and story can all somehow be these at the same time is beyond me, but somehow, they managed. I feel as though what it comes down to is that it follows all the over-bloated sequel tropes; it goes bigger and more bombastic. Yet, in this case, the new director was trying to carbon copy the original, and ended up making it feel small and tedious. Add into the mix that the British enemies feel overtly familiar, the jokes rarely stick, the zombies feel unoriginal (or in the case of the sharks, just weak), the marvelous (and underrated) Golshifteh Farahani and her character were underused, and there was an unshakable “smallness” to the film that was very much present. But, as I feared, the most tragic predicament we faced is that of Jack Sparrow himself. Long gone is Johnny Depp’s zany yet restrained, suave & unpredictable, and Oscar nominated performance and character. Long gone is the Jack who, while malicious and self-centered, was still surprisingly and perhaps ashamedly human, clever, and loyal. No, that Jack is gone, and has been replaced by one who is only drunk, cowardly, idiotic, and a caricature version of our Jack. Also, don’t go in hoping for a reunited Jack and Will scene neither…

Pirates 2

As we here at Christian Entertainment try to do, I sat there looking for some theological application I could summarize likewise for you people at home. These films have always had a knack for (usually cheap and out of context) religious symbolism. And while pagan curses and running on water are elements of the film, they are all in relation to the villains. The film has some very nice family oriented moments, specifically about fathers and their roles. Also, there is an ongoing debate about science vs faith, and how they can coexist (though this film makes it glaringly out to be a magic faith, nothing more). But to be quite frank with you, I feel as though I’m stretching. I believe the point I’m summarizing is this, Dead Men Tell No Tales was a shallow ordeal. I feel as though the lack of ole’ Jack’s ambitions and sense of direction are symbolic of the series itself at this point. And while it mightn’t be as bad as the 4th film, we definitely haven’t made it back to land yet neither. In the end, this once teen die-hard of the series is at the point where he wishes it would all end. While this film places a heavy emphasis on curses, perhaps the real curse is the series itself. It just won’t die. But perhaps the real curse is that if they don’t drop the anchor anytime soon, this poor dead reviewer sitting here will still be going to installment after installment, out of obligation and a false sense of hope, until Judgement Day and trumpets sound. Or, perhaps I could surrender…

5/10 (worth a watch specifically for the opening and closing scenes for fans of the originals)

Andrew Warnes

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