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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales by Joachim Rønning,  Espen Sandberg (dir), Jeff Nathanson and Terry Rossio (wr)
Review by Drew Bittner
Walt Disney Studios Movie  
Date: 02 June 2017

Links: Imdb Record /

The next generation takes the stage as Henry Turner seeks a way to end his father's curse, even as a ghostly Spanish captain demands revenge on Capt. Jack Sparrow.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, we are introduced to Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), who as a boy cast himself into the sea in order to visit his father, the cursed mariner Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Will is captain of the Flying Dutchman and cannot set foot on land more than one day every several years. Needless to say, Henry is not happy with that.

Years later, aboard a British warship chasing a pirate, Henry attempts to warn the captain of a terrible cursed site--and is thrown in the brig for his troubles. The ship is then attacked by ghostly sailors under the command of Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), who lost his life battling pirates in those waters. Henry is given a message for Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Salazar promises that he will break free of his prison--the waters where he and his ship were destroyed by magic--and then seek vengeance on Sparrow. Henry agrees to deliver the message to Jack, who, it turns out, might be able to help him lift his father’s curse.

Cast into prison once ashore, Henry meets Catrina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a woman of science whose diary may hold the secret Henry needs: the location of Poseidon's trident. This fabulous artifact is said to have the power to break all curses--including that upon the Dutchman and its crew. He persuades Catrina to help him, despite her skepticism. His pleas are assisted by the fact that the British consider her a witch and want to kill her.

Jack has problems of his own. With no ship--the Black Pearl itself now trapped inside a bottle by Blackbeard's magic—--and a restless crew, he's fallen upon bank robbery. This leads to an action set piece where Jack and his crew smash their way through a port city, evading (and sometimes running over) British soldiers. Disgruntled by Jack's bad luck, the crew casts Jack aside, causing him to hock his precious magic compass.

With all parties seeking the lost trident and converging on an island that lies on no map, will it be a pirate's life for Jack or the watery depths of Davy Jones' locker?

Depp once again breathes boozy life into Jack Sparrow. He is much as we've always known him, quipping relentlessly, full of rum and ego. Depp does not have much opportunity to add greater depth to Jack, but that's well enough; Jack isn't all that deep. But he is a master pirate and it's nice to see him do what he does so well. (We also find out how Jack got his improbable surname.)

Thwaites and Scodelario make an appealing couple as Henry and Catrina, who bicker over their different views of the world—--Henry is more mystic, while Catrina is empirical--even as they discover value in each other's worldview. They are, in more ways than one, the next generation of this story and carry it forward well.

Bardem brings great menace and intensity to his role as Salazar. He tells us his father and grandfather were both lost to pirates, so he dedicated his life to hunting them--a pursuit he continues after cursed waters destroy his ship. He is murderously playful and definitely fun to watch in action.

Geoffrey Rush brings back a Barbossa who is both at the peak of his success and unbearably world weary. And it turns out that he has a secret that becomes rather important late in the story.

This film feels very much like a closing of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga; it is full of wonder, spectacle, frights aplenty, and real heart. There are a LOT of moving pieces, however, and some promising bits are clearly downsized or even relegated to the fringe to make way for the main story. I'm thinking mostly of David Wenham's British commander Scarfield, who pursues Catrina for being a witch ... and that's about it. We learn nothing of his motivations, even when he learns of the trident and decides he wants it for the British Crown. He seems to exist only to be a nemesis to our leads, rather than a character with his own agenda. Ah, but such is life in a large movie.

Despite an after-credits scene hinting at more to come, those ready to say farewell to Jack and company might very much enjoy this movie. It truly does pay off all that came before. (Including a special cameo at the end.)

Recommended.

A draft of this review was previously published on idobi.com

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