Many years ago, there was a trilogy of movies that focused the lengths people would go to in order to save the ones they loved. They explored the moral dilemmas of possibly betraying your friends in order to save your loved ones. They were also about forging your own path in the world. Where you came from did not matter. What mattered was your drive to accomplish your goals. And when things were going to hell around you, hold on dearly to the ones you love, because you do not know what the next moment may bring. Oh, and there were also pirates in this movie.
As I am certain you could guess, of course I am talking about the first 3 Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Those first 3 movies had wonderful stories, and memorable moments. On Stranger Tides had neither. It is difficult to remember anything that stands out in that movie. I remember there were mermaids. I remember being disappointed with how Blackbeard was used. I remember feeling that the movie was sorely missing the heart that you got with Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner. It felt as if the character of Jack Sparrow had not had any type of development. Would Dead Men Tell No Tales be able to capture what the first 3 movies had? Partly. Spoilers ahead.
The movie focuses on Henry Turner and Carina Smyth. Henry is the son of Will and Elizabeth, and we are introduced to him very early on when he is trying to drown himself so that he sees his father. Will saves him, and tells him that he must not try to free him of this curse. Years pass, and of course Henry does not listen. It would have been a pretty boring movie if he had.
Then there is Carina, who is trying to find some location in memory of her father, who she has never met. There is a journal, with instructions for a map. That sort of thing. The ongoing joke with her is that she’s smarter than most, if not everyone else in the movie. So of course, she’s a witch. She keeps trying to make the distinction that it’s not witchcraft, just science.
And of course, they both encounter Jack Sparrow. Who is out of luck, drunk, and without a crew after a ridiculous bank robbery results in nothing. It really is quite ridiculous. And not a good ridiculous, like the sword fight on the wheel in Dead Man’s Chest. It is a ridiculousness that had me in a state of disbelief. They try to steal a decent sized vault from a bank, but pulling it with horses through a wall. Instead, the entire building comes with them, and you see the building going down the street. In a series that includes walking skeletons, fish-looking people, mermaids, and ghosts, it is an utterly ridiculous moment.
Captain Salazar did make for a better villain than Blackbeard. His backstory was explained, while also giving a bit of history to Jack Sparrow. Salazar was a Spaniard who had made it his life’s mission to rid the world of pirates. Simple enough. Him and his crew are accomplishing that, when a young Jack takes over for his fallen captain (and gains the compass). Jack is up in the crow’s nest, goading Salazar on. In the end, Jack outsmarts him, gains the nickname “the Sparrow” because of his antics, and Salazar and his crew die. But then something possess them, and they are trapped in the Devil’s Triangle. That is, until Sparrow gives up the compass many years later. Which is ridiculous, and well sums up the movie.
The movie wants the emotional connection to the previous movies, but it doesn’t want to live in the world created. First off, Tia Dalma is the one that gave Jack the compass. Secondly, Jack has given up this compass before. Why should him giving it up now partly break the curse on Salazar and his crew. I say partly, because they are now able to leave the Devil’s Triangle in their ridiculous looking ship.
The main mission for everyone in this movie is to find Poseidon’s Trident, so that they can rule the seas, or break their respective curse. And it is a treasure gained with what seems like not a lot of effort. Carina knows where to go without a lot of effort. Sure, they run into Salazar a couple times, but neither really takes a lot of effort to overcome him. Both times, they just beat him to land. And sure, Salazar gains the Trident, but they quickly figure out that breaking the Trident breaks every single curse. So thankfully, the main weapon of the god Poseidon is a fragile thing that is easily breakable.
I really want to like this movie and recommend it to everyone, but I can’t. It does hit some good emotional notes. Tying this back into the Will and Elizabeth story was a good idea. It provides emotional weight, and at least some motivation for one of the characters that you can get behind. But the rest of it just seems superfluous. At this point, it seems like they’re just putting Jack Sparrow through the motions. There is really no point to have him, other than the writers just want him in the movie. The character is no longer being developed. He’s just there, doing his antics. In the end, I do think if you enjoy the previous movies, you should at least find some enjoyment in this. I don’t know if I’d recommend that you see it in theaters, but maybe if it hits Netflix.