movies: pirates of the caribbean - dead men tell no tales

pirates of the caribbean - dead men tell no tales aka salazar's revenge
Just when you think it's safe to go back to the Caribbean, here comes Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales... or as I like to think of it, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Next Generation.

And I'll dig into the why later, but even for this series, this movie seems lacking in both plot and character motivations. And maybe that's because the guy who wrote the screenplay also wrote the Indiana Jones Crystal Skulls movie... so do with that information what you will.

Series regulars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally (as well as a few of the other background pirates) and even Orlando Bloom are back, although Bloom only shows up at the start and *I guess maybe it could be a spoiler, but it's kind of obvious* end of the movie.

The main reason I think of this as "The Next Generation" is that taking over Bloom's role in the story is the son of his Will Turner and Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swan is the very pretty Brenton Thwaites (and the fact that he's actually 27 has blown my mind a little... he still looks like a teenager) as their son Henry. Although I did think more than once that there appears to be more of his asskicking mother in him the few times we see him in action.

And taking Swan's role is the lovely Kaya Scodelario (of Skins and Maze Runner fame), playing a very enlightened 18th Century woman (not to mention astronomer and horologist), Carina Smyth.

David Wenham fills in the Commodore Norrington role from the first movie... but without much real motivation beyond duty or maybe revenge... I mean Norrington was trying to rescue Swan initially and just got mixed up in all the rest of the plot... and Beckett from the sequels was looking for power. I'm not really sure what drives Wenham's Scarfield. In fact I couldn't even have told you his name, as I don't remember anybody actually saying it.

Also, I think I can now put Javier Bardem on the list of actors I just don't like... part of the problem here is that he just doesn't stand up when compared to the other villains in the franchise (he doesn't really seem to WANT anything... I mean he does, but it seems like reversing his curse isn't high on that list), the other is that between his very thick accent and the combination of whispering and shouting that he does throughout the movie, I'm pretty sure I only understood about half of his lines.

And the reason that he and his crew are undead/ghosts or whatever they are... it's never explained. In the first three movies, you know... Barbossa and his crew stole the cursed gold, Jones and his crew didn't do what they promised to do and were punished with fish parts. This time, there's some establishing backstory and then some moving red light, and that's it.

On the plus side, the visual effects in this movie, particularly on Bardem's Salazar and his crew is outstanding. They've taken the "replace all the actors in mo-cap suits with CG characters" thing from the second and third movie and ramped it up to about 100.

And the costumes and makeup are, as always with these movies, amazing. The level of weathering and detailing that they do on both faces and clothes always impresses me. Especially on a character like Rush's Barbossa... but also Wenham has a level of detailing on his face that's subtle but incredible.

The story/plot is where this one really falls on it's face. Most specifically in the character of Jack Sparrow.

In the previous movies Jack feels like an active character, he's got some plan up his sleeve even if you never know what it is until it happens, he's actively searching for something (to find the Black Pearl, to rid himself of Jones's curse, to find the Fountain of Youth), but here it really doesn't feel like there's a reason why he's along for the ride. Yes, Salazar is "hunting" him, but it feels like a bit of a hollow threat that doesn't really go anywhere (compared with what feels like the same story from Dead Man's Chest).

He's not the one who's looking. Henry is (he wants the McGuffin to remove the curse on his father), Carina is (she's looking for the McGuffin to connect with her lost father), but Jack not so much. And he doesn't have a plan... there's no cross, double cross, triple cross... no wheels within wheels within wheels that on the surface seem like pure fluke but by the end of the movie seem like he'd somehow planned it all along. There's no moment of him putting the clues together, no crazy like a fox moment.

And I think the movie suffers for it. Whether that had anything to do Depp and his behaviour during the making of this movie, I don't know, but this is not the Captain Jack Sparrow we know of old.

Also, the plot does feel a little like a shake and bake remix of the plots from the previous movies combined. Take one part Barbossa and his undead pirates, one part Davy Jones can't walk on land, but there's a McGuffin that must be found, mix liberally...

There's also a couple of points where the plot feels like it derails itself with minor details for fans of the series... they introduce a whole new personality trait for Jack, only to pay it off as something that relates to his past, but we've never seen him do it before... and there's a character who's very existence depends on the internal chronology of the movies that may just work depending on how well you do your maths. And the last section of the movie leaves you asking "well, what about that plot point you haven't mentioned yet, because if this is happening, that HAS to happen"... and it does, they just get there well after the rest of the audience.

It's also interesting that they've clearly set this movie up with the potential for more, given that the McGuffin (slight spoilers) wipes out "all the curses of the ocean"... so either that allows them to say "no more movies, we have no more curses" or "lots more movies, because all of these things that were held back by curses are now free".

I'll also admit that I was kind of disappointed with the action scenes in this movie... there's a initially ridiculous but overall fun sequence that starts the movie, but I'm kind of drawing a blank at anything else... yes there is the penultimate sequence which has a lot going on, but it doesn't feel like a proper action scene (like for example, having two ships locked together on opposite sides of a whirlpool while characters swing between them and fight in the middle of a rainstorm). I think part of that feels like it comes from the lack of real confrontation between the heroes and the villain... it just feels a little limp.

For fans of the series and fans of nitpicking, this article from The Verge is an interesting read.

yani's rating: 2 ghost sharks out of 5

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