‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ is actually… good!?

A confession: I have hated every single sequel to the utterly delightful and apparently accidental Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It just seems that, no matter what Disney tried to throw at the wall, they just couldn’t get lightning to cram itself back into a bottle again. I know these movies have their fans and, if you love them, I’m happy for you and I mean that with no sarcasm at all. I think it’s great that people can derive pleasure from something I can’t. To me, though, the sequels became unnecessarily convoluted and complicated when the original was light, simple, and fun.

That being said, Dead Men Tell No Tales is actually my favorite sequel. Granted, it’s not as good as Black Pearl, but it’s got this wonderful feeling of getting back to basics and getting simpler with the story. In a way, it’s got a lot in common with Black Pearl… a ghost ship, a curse, revenge… yet, it doesn’t strike me as derivative which is nice too.

This time around, the son of the Turners is looking desperately to break the curse that is keeping his father on board The Flying Dutchman (and, really, this is about as complicated as the continuity gets). Over the years, he searches for Captain Jack Sparrow, the man who he feels can help him. Sparrow, on the other hand, is hitting rock bottom. He has no ship, no crew, and his plans are all gone amiss. Could be an analogy for Johnny Depp’s career? Probably not.

In any case, the Turner Boy ends up coming across some ghosts on the ocean who want to track down Captain Sparrow for the more murdery revengy reasons and, from there, we’ve got a race against time and the supernatural to find Poseidon’s Trident, the McGuffin of all McGuffins that can end all curses. Which, if you ask me, begs the question… why aren’t all these people working with each other? A little cooperation would not be out of order. I mean, sure… Captain Salazar, the ghost captain, wants Jack Sparrow dead, but couldn’t that wait for a little while until they break the curse? Seems like a win win if they all just pooled their resources but, then again, it would be a boring movie.

Dead Men Tell No Tales may not have bottled the lightning again, but it’s perfected a fake extract that’s close enough. Javier Bardems’ Captain Salazar is an intimidating and scary bloke, Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Barbarosa who really should have been the star of this movie if you ask me. Johnny Depp seems to only be paddling along with half a rudder, but he’s still fun to watch. Attractive Man #1 and Attractive Female #2 initiate a romance which is about as interesting as you would think it is. I don’t understand why Pirates movies always insist on a romance to slow everything down. Can’t we just have a high seas adventure where no one wants to kiss anyone else?

It’s not as good as the first, but it’s leagues better than the other sequels. Dead Men Tell No Tales has a strong villain, a simple adventure, several interesting action pieces, and enough fun to keep the whole thing light and interesting. If this is indeed the final Pirates movie – which I doubt due to the after credits scene which actually kind of annoys me – it’s a full circle ending that leaves everyone happy and in a good place.

I enjoyed it. I’m happy I enjoyed it. Since it doesn’t look like they’ll ever get another Transformers movie to work, I’m at least glad that I got to see one more good Pirates of the Caribbean movie before I die.

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