At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action/ Stars: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Orlando Bloom, Paul McCartney/ Runtime: 129 minutes

A long time ago in the year 2003, Johnny Depp would sign on for a role that, unbeknownst to him, would be the role that would come to define both him and his screen persona in the 17 years following. Indeed Captain Jack Sparrow really exploded onto the cinematic stage courtesy of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and from that moment on this series of films has managed to ride the waves of his rogue charm ever since. With that being said though we have now come to the 5th film, and I am sorry to say, but the shtick has finally run dry, and this is one series which seems to have run aground. With that being said, even though this latest movie in the series is a genuine try to get this series back on track, it sadly only manages to show that this is one series which needs to retire with the riches it has managed to acquire on the movie seas.

The plot is as follows: About 6+ years have passed since people have truly last laid eyes on that infamous scallywag known as Captain Jack Sparrow and suffice it to say that those years have not been even remotely good to him in the slightest. Indeed it truly seems that this once iconic in every way buccaneer really has been demoted to not even half a shadow of who he used to be right down to bungling up even the simplest of jobs with a smaller crew and giving way to drink more than ever before. However, through an ever-escalating group of not so fortunate circumstances our notorious Captain Jack finds himself fleeing from a bewitched ship captain known as Salazar who has a serious ax to grind with Jack following a truly fateful encounter a long time ago. In his attempts to escape Salazar’s horrific wrath, Jack finds himself teaming up with an oddly familiar young man named Henry and an incredibly intelligent young lass by the name of Carina on a hunt to retrieve the fabled Trident of Poseidon which is the only thing that can truly stop Salazar. However as this unlikely team set out on their quest, they will not only reunite with Captain Barbossa, but they will also have run-ins with some horrific creatures as well as pay witness to a world that slowly but surely is not as tolerant of the life of a pirate as it was before….

Now Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales may contain a story that is quite simplistic and easy to chart, but it is also at the time a complete and total slog-fest. Indeed this is a film which has a narrative that has been glued in place by the most pathetic logic imaginable yet also has enough obvious plot pitfalls that this whole thing looks more like a golf course due to all the holes. Indeed certain narrative elements that are absolutely crucial to the overall story of the film are left, by the time the credits roll, with no answer whatsoever and specific scenes containing a fair amount of exposition literally play like someone hit fast forward on the Blu-Ray player again due to needing to regain crucial time that the action-filled moments take up. Now to be fair there is a nice sub-plot dealing with Henry’s dream to be reunited with his father, a nice throwback to the original trilogy, but every other plot point in this film just feels like it’s being forced to abandon ship with no idea where any land to come onshore to truly is located.

In addition to that aspect, I also feel that this movie really doesn’t possess that feeling of urgency that aided immensely in ensuring that the previous films in the series were engaging for an audience. Indeed even though there are moments where the movie does try to reacquire the attitude and passion behind Jack’s infamous “I’m a dishonest man” monologue from the end of the first one, these moments honestly are void of the style or emanation that these moments used to possess thus giving us sequences that really bring film down horribly. Indeed what’s good about this series is present, it’s just that it’s not able to be as effective after being used on time too many by the franchise over the years.

Ultimately however, if I had to put my finger on it, I would say that one of the most significant dilemmas that this series has had come to the forefront is the reality that the pirates of the title don’t really give off a buccaneer vibe anymore. Rather I would go so far as to make the audacious claim that Captain Jack has turned into an unfunny swashbuckling version of John Belushi’s Bluto whilst the rest of his shipmates seem more like the rest of the bumblers from the Delta Tau Chi fraternity in the classic college comedy Animal House. Indeed this is one group that has horrifically devolved from roguish with a heart of gold to mischievous but highly inept pranksters. Indeed it really truly does feel like this movie deliberately made the decision to toss on the burn-pile just who these characters honestly are on the inside in exchange for some inexpensive chuckles that really aren’t that funny. Indeed Depp’s Capt. Jack really truly has been lacking that distinct roguish charm that ensured his character was highly lovable and watchable in the first movie and in exchange the series has gone overboard in their acceptance of the character’s quite lively facial expressions, a true talent and gift for slapstick comedy, and the seemingly astonishing gift to slur his words whenever he feels like it. Suffice it to say the instant your series’ hero has become an unamusing parody of themselves is the instant that you should realize your series has gotten horrifically lost in the process.

Now do not take this as an indicator that there isn’t anything of entertainment value in this. To the contrary; there are a few legit entertaining instances in the movie. For example there is a moment that combines Jack, a guillotine, and the scientific concept known as centrifugal force in a manner that is actually quite engaging. Also there is a scene that involves zombie sharks, which definitely deserve their own SyFy Channel Original Movie that actually is one of the most chilling moments since the undead crew in Curse of the Black Pearl. Indeed when it comes to these points in the film, I have qualm with them in the slightest. However because they are so poorly roped into the rest of this film’s clunky narrative, it is extremely difficult to possess any genuine positive emotion towards them in any way.

I feel you should also know that even with all of this movie’s significant issues that the support cast somehow & against all odds actually do astonishingly decent work with what exactly they are provided. Indeed as the new kids on the high seas, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario do wonderful work both together and separately and really offer up a fun dynamic in the same vein as a tamer version of the one from Romancing the Stone and, in his return as the wily Barbossa, Geoffrey Rush still manages to walk away with every single scene that he is in, but that’s because he’s Geoffrey Freakin’ Rush. I mean this is a guy whose 20-30 minutes of screen time in Gods of Egypt is the best chunk of the movie. Therefore I think it’s safe to say that he knows how best to liven up material like this. Also I feel you should know that although there are instances in the movie that will make you smile and chuckle, there are so few when put side by side with everything that doesn’t that it really isn’t even worth fully mentioning.

All in all Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales really truly does give off the vibe of an over-the-top in the worst ways, caused from drinking too much rum nightmare that I honestly think was not really seen as the highlight of anyone’s movie watching schedule. Indeed this is a movie which contains a razor-thin narrative that then proceeds to aimlessly wander with barely any strength to move the action onward, and its positives are nowhere near enough to really balance out this film’s numerous weaknesses. Indeed audiences most likely will always look back with a degree of nostalgic fondness when it comes to the Jack Sparrow that we all came to know and cherish back in this series’ heyday, but as it stands right now, Dead Men Tell No Tales is most certainly in no way, shape, form, or fashion the return that this series needed or that the audience really desired. On a scale of 1-5 I give Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales a 2.5 out of 5.