#FilmFriday: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (2017)



Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) was the film that inspired me to pursue a career in filmmaking. Now, 14 years later, the adventure continues with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017). In all honesty, Pirates 5 should have been the fourth installment of this blockbuster series. On Stranger Tides (2011) created an abrupt halt in the primary storyline of the stapled trilogy while also not adding any significant characters or progression. For those of you hoping the series would return to its quirky originality, think again. What was once a genuine, witty, and visually creative series, Pirates of the Caribbean has officially turned into a caricature of itself.

Dead Men Tell No Tales led to a disappointing start with rushed editing that left no room for significant development of new characters, such as Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scoldelario). Instead, the film was primarily driven by extensive action sequences which were all in good fun but narratively hollow. The lack of character development makes the new romance of Henry and Carina act as failed surrogate for Will and Elizabeth. Its forced intimacy and lack of natural chemistry between the actors creates a relationship with no emotional connection for audiences. Not even the beloved Captain Jack Sparrow could save this film from walking the plank. Depp’s performance transformed from whimsical slapstick to incoherent drunken gibberish, making for a boring rendition of Jack Sparrow. (And let’s be honest, we all know Jack can handle his rum better than that). Even the haunting new villain, Captain Salazar, failed to impress. Only fueled by vengeance, Salazar was one-dimensional and a waste of Javier Bardem’s talent. Salazar is also a knock-off combination of all the previous antagonists as he is a ghostly hybrid (Barbossa), his crew cannot touch land (Davy Jones), and he has mystical control of his ship (Blackbeard). A plot point that I found the most distasteful was Barbossa’s death. Although bad-ass, the scene didn’t even make me shed a tear. Barbossa’s last verbal exchange was with his newly discovered daughter, who asked “What am I to you?” In which he replied: “A treasure”. How could you send off one of Pirates‘ best characters with the cheesiest line ever?! I got more emotional from Norrington’s death during At World’s End… there’s a problem there. Aside from all of this negativity, Paul McCartney’s cameo as Uncle Jack, with stereotypical ‘uncle’ jokes, was delightful and added some of the most genuine humor in the entire film.

What truly drove Pirates 5 overboard was Jeff Nathanson’s lazy screenwriting with a clear disrespect of researching the narrative details of the original series. Littered with loop holes, disjointed timelines, and unexplained origins of supernatural forces, the film has no supportive structure and lacks substance. The frequency of continuity errors turns this sequel into a mockery. Five of the largest inconsistencies and unanswered questions include:

  1. In Dead Man’s Chest (2006) Tia Dalma says she bartered Jack his compass, but Dead Men Tell No Tales provides a false backstory of young Jack Sparrow receiving it from his dying captain.

  2. Will should not be physically cursed like Davy Jones. As long a Will fulfills his duty to pass souls lost at sea to the other side, he should not be punished by physical deformities.

  3. When Will’s curse is lifted by Poseidon’s trident, how is his heart (which was removed) miraculously placed back into his body? By the conclusion of At World’s End, Elizabeth is left to bury the chest (and Will’s heart) on a recluse island. Without a heart still intact, Will should logically drop dead.

  4. Where is the heartfelt family reunion? Will and Elizabeth’s long awaited homecoming was met with an awkward hug and then a secluded kiss. They never have a impactful moment together with their son. Also, why is Bootstrap Bill not present? He has 100 years of service to the Flying Dutchman and should still be a part of the crew.

  5. Why is Elizabeth no longer the Pirate King? Did she have to sacrifice this authority just to be a mother?

Regarding the cinematic techniques of the film, Dead Men Tell No Tales loses the visual beauty of the originals. The film’s color corrections and cinematography lost its standard grit and grime imagery of  pirate life. Instead, we are provided with a vision of a clean caribbean paradise that is nothing but the freedom for adventure. I thoroughly miss Gore Verbinski’s exquisitely composed shots and thoughtful depth of field. Much like On Stranger Tides, Pirates 5 (aside from Salazar’s minor thematic score) rehashed and reprised the soundtrack from the original trilogy. The musical score that was once admired for its originality has become a remixed mess that adds confusion to its paired images. This is most evident with Davy Jones’ thematic score being paired with other villains. Audiences associate the musical theme with his character and it should not be utilized just because it sounds good.

Although riddled with errors, Pirates 5 should be taken lightly as a popcorn movie that serves as mindless entertainment with swashbuckling action sequences and playful humor. Despite Pirates being near and dear to my heart, Dead Men Tell No Tales receives a disappointing 3.5 out of 10 rating. This adventure can wait to be viewed comfortably in your home on DVD or Netflix.


The post-credit scene suggests that Pirates may continue with a reunited Elizabeth and (un-cursed) Will. However, Turner remains haunted by his time on the Dutchman. In bed with his long lost lover, he dreams of Davy Jones shadowing above them. When he awakes from said nightmare, the camera pans to barnacles and puddles of sea water at the foot of the bed. Does this suggest that Jones will return in the next installment? And with Poseidon’s trident destroyed and the curses of the sea along with it, will he still be the tentacle-bearded miscreant we love? Only time will tell with another agonizing sequel… (Disney, please stop the franchise while it can still stand with the little dignity that remains)

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