Updated to remove spoiler warnings.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales will make a lot of money but would have made more with a coherent story. The film’s promise is lost amid various conflicting competing plot lines. It has all the feeling of being written by committee with a checklist of “scenes you must have,” “expensive special effects,” and include all the minor characters as well as the major cash cow – Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp.)
It starts with young Henry Turner (Brandon Thwaites) wanting to save his father, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a.k.a the Captain of the haunted ship, the Flying Dutchman, from eternal death. Henry can do this by finding the Trident of Poseidon which breaks all marine spells.
Over the next couple of hours, Henry works towards this goal. Along the way, he’s tripped up by run-ins with several British officers (all of whom look alike and all want to hang him,) the pirate Jack Sparrow (who is stealing gold and a building, in that order) and Sparrow’s nemesis, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), an undead Spaniard.
Salazar had wanted, when alive, to rid the Caribbean of all pirates. He dies facing off against a young Sparrow, but lives on magically through the power of the magic compass. Now, through a clumsy plot point, he’s freed from the watery depths and wants his revenge.
The many plots then descend into an endless tangle of “you must have this scene,” include “these characters,” and have a chase scene (or three), and, don’t forget to include Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who was Sparrow’s enemy, then friend, then enemy. Yes, he’s here too, and the opening plot? Oh, that sunk somewhere about the half-hour mark.
The young beautiful heroine, astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is a top graduate of the Caribbean’s 1800s-STEM courses. She’s about to be hanged (probably for spurning the advances of the British officer but that’s unclear) but she escapes the prison and ends up with Sparrow, then is nearly hanged again, and rescued again… She’s around to move things along and be a love interest for Henry as the free-spirited, intelligent Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) was for Will Turner in the first 4 films.
I came away with the definite impression that the writers are going for what they think is the “new spunky young woman” ideal but not making it really work.
All of this decorated with fabulous special effects. The pirate ships are beautiful. When Salazar’s ghostly pirate-hunter smashes down on his enemies crushing them it mind-blowing. The drowned Salazar himself is gruesome. The costumes are good for upcoming Halloween stores including Carina’s corseted gowns (of no particular period.)
So the main story is to find the Trident to save Will Turner? Or is it saving Jack Sparrow from Salazar’s revenge? Or is it making sure Henry and Carina get to get together? Or is it… well, what is it?
Now for the Biggest Fattest Spoiler and Irritation: both the friend who accompanied me and I were waiting for a showdown between the Flying Dutchman and Salazar — two lost ships full of magical dead men with competing purposes – the saving or killing Henry, Carina and Jack Sparrow. Now THAT would have made sense.
Disney had the ingredients and could have made it a worthy next film in the series. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a disappointing, frustrating mess.
Come on folks, get it together!