Dead Men Tell No Tales (but I do)


Spoilers ahead for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Not exactly a review, but a discussion and thoughts on different aspects of the film.

I saw the fifth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean (hereon called PotC for expediency’s sake) and you know what? It wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it.

First things first: Why did I see it, given that the franchise is kind of dead in the water (no pun intended), especially after the preceding release, On Stranger Tides (about which the only good things were the amazingly gorgeous and kick ass mermaids who are simultaneously hair and swimming goals)?

  • Because I’ve seen all of the films in the theater, excepting the first one.  So basically tradition and loyalty.
  • Because it was Dad’s birthday and we wanted to go out and see a movie but Wonder Woman was’t out yet (TOMORROW GUYS! All the reviews I’ve seen have been positive! (The embargo on reviews was lifted just last midnight).

Speaking of reviews, as I saw reviews crop up of Dead Men Tell No Tales, they got steadily more and more negative.  And my hopes for this film went down and down and down.
Maybe I was so happy with this movie because my expectations were essentially at rock bottom. Couple that with some nostalgia and you’ve got a pretty good chance for even the most average of movies to succeed.  And I worry that by writing this post I’m going to awaken someone’s expectations who will then see the film and be utterly devastated by the fact that it’s, well… not great.
So spoiler numero uno: the film isn’t great. Okay? Read on for more.

  • The film doesn’t feel like so much as a return to form as a return to content.  The most significant storylines are picked up from 3: At World’s End, and very little is mentioned re: 4, which is excellent because I seem to have selectively forgotten most of that film.  Like, Blackbeard put The Black Pearl in a bottle? When did that happen? But other than that, you could skip 4 and be all caught up for this one.
  • You can drown yourself to visit the Flying Dutchman? And it’s not permanent and you don’t have to stay? Is that why Will is trying to hide his kid from the crew when he visits?
  • Will Turner doesn’t believe in the Mythical Trident of Poseidon? Seriously, has he learned nothing?
  • How did Henry end up with all of these papers about Jack Sparrow and maps and such? He’s got a shrine. Was Elizabeth not a little concerned?
  • Speaking of bad parenting… Will is going in the direction of exactly taking after his own Dad (speaking of which, where is Bill?), in that he’s distancing himself from his child so that Henry doesn’t become a pirate. Because yes, that worked so well with Will himself.
  • Did they really rip people’s sleeves for treason/attempted mutiny in the British Royal Navy? Are than any British Royal Navels who could tell me?
  • Can we talk about Javier Bardem as the villain, Captain Salazar?  Javier Bardem is generally a pretty excellent actor and I appreciated getting to see him dive deep into this very melodramatic character. And I think the PotC movies are at their best when they do campy gracefully.  He has a lot of CGI going on, but I like the CGI as applied to himself and his crew. His hair is beautiful and slow motion flowy, kind of like Ariel’s from the Little Mermaid. I think this is because his crew has all been preserved in their original state of death. So Salazar looks like a drowned man (with water permanently flowing through his locks) and many of his crew have been significantly eaten away by fire. Neat.
  • Is this not the fourth enchanted/ghostly pirate crew they’ve had to deal with now? 4 ghostly pirate crews in five films. The other enemy being… the British/ Cutler Beckett. Anyone have any good villain ideas? I personally would like more sea monsters, but they can’t do sword fights, so that could be a problem (but the again PotC could use fewer sword fights, IMO).
  • The whole bank robbing scene in the beginning could have been and should have been cut. It’s just over the top. Like every film the up the Captain Jack introduction ante. And it remains true that the one in the first movie, with the unforgettable soundtrack, where he steps onto the dock from a rapidly sinking boat, is the best.
    Also that bank is clearly on wheels.
  • Can we talk about Carina Smyth? I actually do quite like her as a character because she’s intelligent and motivated by something other than a boy.  Well, actually, she’s motivated by the remembrance of the father she never knew, who is most likely a boy. See? Patriarchy.
    But she’s more often thinking and figuring than swooning. And also sarcasm. Always an excellent trait in a woman.
  • Henry Turner/ Brenton Thwaites actually does look like the offspring of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Kind of eerily so.
  • One of the big complaints I had seen regarding this movie is that Jack Sparrow comes off as a caricature of a caricature, as a joke version of his former self. And I kind of agree, but I think in some ways this was a conscious decision (while in other ways it was surely not).  Particularly in the beginning of the film, I think Jack is meant to be seen as a washed up alcoholic, down on his luck and long past his glory days. This only really changes when The Black Pearl comes out of the bottle (which plot-wise makes sense, considering Jack’s already-established attachment to the Pearl).  But even then, Jack Sparrow takes a backseat to development of other characters (like Barbossa, the true hero of the franchise).
  • The Dying Gull is such an excellent and evocative name for a ship.
  • When Henry finds Jack in jail, why in hell has Jack made a straw man to wear his coat? Why does Jack not have pants on? What is going on here? Also, Henry asks “Do we have an accord?” which is the same thing Will asked in PotC 1 before breaking Jack out in Port Royal.
  • Cameo by Paul McCartney as Jack’s Uncle, who is also in jail. Not really significant plot-wise beyond being funny.  I like the kind of heritage and connection that has been created between the character of Jack Sparrow and hard-living rockers (i.e. Keith Richards).
  • Captain Barbossa himself does have an excellent introduction. What with his completely ornate ship, gilded prosthetic, and luscious wig. Oh, and the eating loukhoum with dainty gold tweezers.
  • The way Salazar’s ship devours other ships like a rearing centipede is… I don’t know. Disturbing? Interesting? Too much?
  • And the movie is rather predictable, but even that isn’t a surprise.
    For instance, I knew before the film was 1/3 of the way through that Barbossa was going to kick it.
  • The edition of this extraneous sorceress person may be one of the most stupid things I’ve ever seen.
  • Salazar gives backstory on how Jack cursed him, which replaced the extraneous sorceress as the most stupid thing I’d ever seen. This is where CGI baby-faced Jack Sparrow came in. (and this is how he got the name sparrow, and his hat, and his hair accoutrements, and the compass, and…) Just no. Let legend be unknown legend.
  • The undead sharks are neat. Like they’re really gross with flies swarming all over their carcasses on the boat (and really they should refrigerate them or something because that has to be pestilential) and then they heave them off and then they sink of a bit and then boom, eyes open.  They’re cool and scary.
  • And so Jack, Carina, and Henry are on an island and some random guy who doesn’t like Jack tries to force Jack to marry his widowed sister. And this was offensive and stupid more than funny. Should have been cut.
  • Barbossa, working with Salazar to save his own life, comes after Jack because the dead people can’t set foot on dry land but the he decides to help Jack. Because commentary needs some kind of plot background. They free the Pearl, there’s a skirmish with Blackbeard which stops when they reach the location of Poseidon’s Trident, which Carina has found with maths etc. Oh right, and Henry’s been captured.
  • In this time, it becomes clear that Barbossa is Carina’s father, which could be very soap-opera and ridiculous (and it is indeed far-fetched), but Geoffrey Rush plays it so well that it is instead very touching.  But only Jack and Barbossa realize, and Barbossa swears Jack to secrecy because all these pirate guys have issues with being fathers because they are commitment phones which is why they stay on the sea and never settle down.  Actually they’re saying it’s because they’re ashamed of themselves. Okay, sure.
  • The island is really pretty! It’s supposed to be a reflection of the universe and there are all of these nebula looking things and what can I say, the sky is pretty.
  • Carina and Jack find the trident at the bottom of the sea (they fell down down down and the water parted and Barbossa was left above).
  • Henry comes but it’s not really henry, Salazar is possessing him so he has a Spanish accent and drowned guy face. (WTF?) He stabs Jack with trident but his Carina’s notebook.
  • At some point Henry was unpossessed and now Salazar is there in Salazar form and he and Carina break the trident to break all of the curses across the sea. Mkay.
  • So the ghost crew comes alive, including Salazar, and come onto the dry land where the sea has pulled back because they can’t be underwater anymore. They are now alive and ready to rumble (i.e. kill everybody). The sea starts closing back in.
  • Barbossa swoops in on the Black Pearl’s lowered anchor to save everybody (the Black Pearl is floating above on the edge of the closing back in ocean). Jack, Carina, and Henry grab on.
  • So does Salazar.
  • The suspense!
  • Carina almost falls but Barbossa grabs her arm, revealing a tattoo identical in design to a celestial map in her book. And so she recognizes him as the father who left the book with her when she was an infant, asking “What am I to you?”
    To which he replies, “Treasure”
  • *Sniffle*
  • *Tear*
  • Jack picks up Henry’s sword with the tip of his boot and tosses it down to Barbossa, who, having reattached Carina to the anchor, can now jump down and stab Salazar. Both then fall to a watery grave as the sea closes back in.
  • *Gasp*
  • He sacrificed himself for the safety of Carina et al.
  • Everyone is pulled aboard the Black Pearl. Carina declares that her last name is no longer Smyth, but Barbossa.
  • My aunt’s last name is also Barbossa.
  • Henry and Carina are chilling on dry land and they kiss (I think this is the first time they kiss, which is impressive and refreshing).  Will comes, having been freed from the Flying Dutchman by the breaking of the trident. He and son are very bro-y and he’s like “Yo dawg how’d you do it?” *manly back pat*
  • And then Keira Knightley appears for the first time in the movie and she and Will run together and hug and kiss and are reunited and all that.
  • How do Will and Elizabeth feel about their son getting romantically involved with Barbossa’s daughter?
  • Jack is watching with a telescope from the Black Pearl. Both sweet and creepy. Barbara’s money joins him and hands him his compass.
  • *SOB*
  • Jack says he’s sailing for somewhere beyond the horizon. Does this mean he’s going to try to bring Barbossa back? That doesn’t sound like Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush says he doesn’t think Barbossa should return.


  • Post-credits scene: Will and Elizabeth are sleeping and a silhouette with a big crab claw and tentacle face looms over them. Will bolts awake and it was a dream.
  • But there is a wet spot and barnacles on the floor! It wasn’t a dream!
  • So Davy Jones is back? How does that make sense if the curses were all broken? So Will’s curse was broken. Davy Jones’ curse would also be broken and he would become human. Except as a human he still has no heart because he made a deal. Are deals different than curses? Does he have to go back and take Will’s place and be Captain again? Are Will and Elizabeth thus in the next movie (if there is one?). Or is it more about Henry and Carina?
  • So many questions.

So clearly I was kind of fond of this film, this franchise is so nostalgic for me and it was also honestly (at risk of seeming way too sentimental, which I try to avoid) kind of special to go to a film that had a focus on fatherhood and father-child relationships on Dad’s birthday (he cried, as he does).
Particularly because he and Barbossa both have a prosthetic leg.

And now I think he needs a gilded one.

And possibly a monkey.

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