For every action-adventure franchise, there is a loyal fan base. But despite their dedicated followers; with each installment there is that lingering challenge to retain their attention. That means upping-the-ante every sequel with better effects, stunts and plot twists. Since 2003, Jerry Bruckheimer and his team have successfully produced one entertaining “Pirates of the Caribbean” film after another. Although the fifth installment, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” is just as thrilling with Johnny Depp at the ship’s helm, the new adventure loses some momentum as it attempts to introduce a fresh love story between two new characters.
Lucky for Disney, the visual effects, memorable score and Jack Sparrow’s newest enemy Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) make up for the film’s weak dialogue and lack of character development.
Directed by the Oscar-nominated duo, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” finds Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) down on his luck with no treasure, a lame crew and a poor excuse for a ship. In no time, Jack crosses paths with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) an aspiring astronomer and Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley). In search of the Trident of Poseidon, a magical artifact which holds the power of the sea, Jack, Carina and Henry set sail. At the same time, Captain Salazar (Bardem) seeks revenge against Jack. Years ago, a curse was placed on Salazar and his crew, transforming them into ghosts on earth for all of eternity. Blaming Jack for the evil spell, Salazar is on the hunt to kill and relies on Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to guide him to the pirate.
Fantastic effects and fighting scenes aside, the problem with the fifth sequel lies in the casting and writing. As screenwriter Jeff Nathanson said himself, “the ‘Pirates’ franchise is very tricky... it combines huge action with supernatural suspense, romance and comedy… The key is to balance it all while telling an emotional good story.” The supernatural suspense and comedy is there, but, when it comes down to the romance, it's non-existent. The sequel introduces a new love story between Carina and Henry. It’s not that Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario aren’t fine actors, but their chemistry leaves something to be desired; in part due to the script. Audiences will find themselves rooting more for the villain than the survival of these two young lovers.
With outstanding digital effects and SFX makeup reminiscent of Danny Devito’s penguin in “Batman Returns,” Javier Bardem is sinfully good as he steps into the shoes of the bad-guy, Captain Salazar. Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp are better than ever in their respective roles. If there is any emotional aspect to the film, it’s thanks to Captain Barbossa’s (Rush) storyline. As always, Depp delivers as Jack Sparrow. The humor might be cheesy at times but Depp is ol’ reliable as the leading man and comic relief.
As with every “Pirates” film, Hans Zimmer’s powerful score adds magic and adrenaline to every action scene. This time around, Zimmer passed the baton to Geoff Zanelli who incorporated the iconic theme with his musical talent.
Despite its setbacks in the romance department, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a fantastic fantasy adventure. Fans of the franchise will not be disappointed.
By Pamela Price
Running Time: 129 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content