If you happened to miss one or two of the previous installments of Pirates of the Caribbean, don’t fret: with the fourth sequel to the original Curse of the Black Pearl film, you’ll feel for the most part that you haven’t missed a thing. In fact, if you’ve taken a break from the franchise, you’ll probably enjoy this bloated swashbuckler more. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales takes everything we loved about the first movie to wretched excess. Johnny Depp takes Jack Sparrow’s classic rum-infused stagger, slurred speech and cluelessness to extremes. It’s almost a parody of the original, if that’s possible.
Yes, you can have too much of a good thing, and Disney’s antidote to tired storyline in this case was to throw money at it. And strangely, when it comes to the visual effects in Dead Men Tell No Tales, it worked, because they are fabulous. For instance, take Javier Bardem’s deliciously wicked villain Captain Salazar, whose bits of decomposing flesh floating in midair take on a life of their own. Black ink (or blood?) spills from his lips as he spews his hatred for Jack Sparrow, who caused his Spanish fleet to meet its doom, trapping them forever in a liminal ghost state in the Devil’s Triangle.
I enjoyed the magic compass element of the story, though we’ve seen it many times in other movies. In this rendition, Jack Sparrow gives away the compass that was meant to stay in his possession in exchange for a bottle of rum, somehow (and inexplicably) releasing Salazar’s ghost fleet. All are seeking Poseidon’s triton, which holds the key to breaking various curses, including Jack Sparrow’s. To me, the triton served the plot of The Little Mermaid much better (not a great sign when a franchise is forced to recycle the best plot points from animated classics).
A new and attractive hero and heroine emerge in Dead Men Tell No Tales in the form of knavish seafarer Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and gorgeous astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). They unite with Jack Sparrow to lead him to the triton. But whether they will reunite for yet another sequel to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has not yet been determined.
Here’s to hoping that the filmmakers’ compass will lead them to the wisest choice: letting the Black Pearl and its crew sail into the sunset.