Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales

Courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Productions

Starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brendon Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley
Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Rated PG-13
My Rating: ****/5

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is the latest installment of the long-running film series, based on the Disneyland ride of the same name. While the film may not be the best entry in the series, it is a marked improvement over the previous sequels and a film that hews closer in style and tone to 2003's "The Curse of the Black Pearl."

The film follows Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) in search of the trident of Poseidon, an artifact that will grant whoever possesses it control of the seas; as he tries to reverse his bad fortune and clashes with an old adversary known as Captain Salazar (Bardem). He is also joined by a young woman known as Carina Smyth (Scodelario) and a young man known as Henry Turner (Thwaites); the latter being the son of Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann-Turner (Knightley), who appear in brief cameos. As they're pursued by Captain Hector Barbossa (Rush) and the British Navy, the film provides a solid piece of fun escapism in the vein of the Disneyland ride over its 153-minute runtime.

While the film does have a large amount of silly escapades in that time, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg make solid use of the film's $230 million budget as their first major blockbuster attempt (the duo were previously known for smaller independent films). The opening action scene of the film involves a bank robbery that results in the bank being physically stolen from its foundation and hauled across town before Jack even tries to steal the vault's contents! Salazar and his crew of undead pirates also feature nightmarish designs full of wispy hair and decaying faces and bodies that would not be out of place in a potential live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime and manga series "One Piece." The final battle over Poseidon's trident is a sight to behold in a cave full of rubies that glitter like the night sky.

That said, the film is not without flaws. The series is starting to show its age over the 14 years it's been around, not helped by some cartoonish British Naval officers and awkward dialogue about the film's setting. In many ways, lines about likening science to witchcraft don't seem as amusing as they did in the past. Still, the film does manage to be a solid follow-up even if it doesn't reach the heights of the first film. Johnny Depp's swaggering as Jack Sparrow still proves to be a fun antidote to the more polished cutthroats of previous pirate films. The cast also manages great performances for an admittedly ludicrous story (watch for a cameo from Paul McCartney as a whimsical bard as Jack escapes from prison).

Even though what lies ahead for the series is uncertain, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" does make a solid finale for the series as well as leave room for a sixth film should Disney and Depp desire to make one. It benefits from a style and tone in line with the original 2003 film and provides a dose of summer fun in the same vein as the theme park ride that inspired it. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!

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