Movie Review: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” – Rough Waters

Written by Matt Butler June 01, 2017

pirates of the caribbean

It’s not enough to say a movie is bad anymore because there are several types of bad. There’s the Alice Through The Looking Glass type movies that are an eyesore to look at and a headache to think about. Or there’s the sensory assaults like Transformers: Age of Extinction. Or things like Irrational Man, where you enter the theatre with no expectations and leave with fewer expectations of life. This is just a handful of the worst kinds of bad. Thankfully, Dead Men Tell No Tales is not one of them. It’s a predictable, tolerable, almost forgivable kind of bad. And much of that comes from setting the lowest expectations.

As I relayed with Ben a few nights back, I haven’t caught up with the Pirates franchise. Nor do I really have the patience to. From every review I’ve seen, matched with Ben’s standing as a fan, Pirates has been on a continuous decline in quality. However, the money these movies rack in (Stranger Tides brought in over 1 Billion) is what keeps this armada afloat. And despite my sincerest hope that I could call this one Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Franchises Bring No Booty, this ship seems due for the same course.

“Pirate’s life.”

All cynicism aside, I did have a fair bit of fun with this one. Though most of that comes from the first act. The sequence of Sparrow and Co. literally robbing a bank uses gigantic practical set pieces to adventurously silly effect. Despite choppy action editing, which burdens the film as a whole, the first act is Dead Men Tell No Tales’ high point. Especially since it begins with a fairly promising premise. From then on, it’s a bloated substandard action adventure story. I’d say it’s by the end of the Paul McCartney cameo that the tides truly turn.


It’s at this point that the winds calm, so to speak, and the film loses its narrative propulsion. Which is a shame considering it has a decent start. Within the first 15 minutes, we understand the conflict. Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) wants to free his cursed father (Orlando Bloom) but needs the Trident of Poseidon to do so. As with all these adventures, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is somehow connected to it all and brought along for the voyage.

“Guillotine? Sounds French. I love the French!”

Really, all you need is Henry and Jack. One’s a burgeoning buccaneer, the other’s a drunken washout. Their meeting makes perfect sense to me. It echoes Black Pearl, the simplest, most straightforward film of the series. But any potential for a fresh start is floundered by a bombardment of uninteresting plot threads that fail to tie together cohesively. There’s the villain that wants revenge (Javier Bardem), the attractive yet adventurously capable love interest (Kaya Scodelario) and the mystical object that everyone is after. It’s a series of characters doing things and events happening in a chronological sequence. I don’t know, I guess I was just hoping for some thematic unity to tie things together. This felt like three pirate movies smashed into each other.

Pirates of the Caribbean

I felt disengaged throughout large parts of Dead Men Tell No Tales, but I can’t say anything about it annoyed me. Even in the last act, where the movie gives up and abandons ship, I was more amused by the badness than put off by it. With these movies, I guess there’s just not much else to expect. I mean, does anyone go to these movies expecting a return to form?

“I once knew a Spaniard named…something in Spanish.”

Like Pirates as a whole, Dead Men Tell No Tales works best in the first portion, muddles in the middle and falls apart by the end. (Again, all by external opinions. Feel free to write in the comments all about how the Pirates franchise is secretly genius!). The upside to all of this is that Dead Men Tell No Tales only clocks in at 2 hours (the shortest of the series), so if you get seasick by the last third, it won’t be long till you reach shore. Or you could always abandon ship after the first act. All in all, it’s a Pirates fans’ life, but nothing to sway new recruits. PIRATE PUNS!

If you’re still itching for a decent adventure on the high seas, I thoroughly recommend Kon-Tiki. This biographical adventure drama is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who went on to direct Dead Men Tell No Tales, though arguably with less… direction. It’s a simple, effective, visually stunning piece that echoes Life of Pi and Castaway. From this movie alone, it’s easy to see why Disney hired them to helm a Pirates movie, even if there’s little of them to be found in the final product.

My Rating: 5/10

Pirates of the Caribbean

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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