Scope is a necessity when you’re trying to gauge how good a Pirates of the Caribbean film might be. The first three films felt like they had tremendous scope, while the fourth trimmed it down just a tad. Scope, if you’re not familiar with it (and it’s not the thing you clean your mouth with) is how big the world created is onscreen and how the audience perceives it. When you’re putting together an epic adventure, such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales or any Pirate film, you have to have scope. Otherwise it’s tough to appreciate what is going on in this pirates tale when compared to the previous. A big world goes a long way for a pirate adventure.
The rip-roaring adventure—packed with humor, suspense and jaw-dropping special effects—finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea—notably Jack.
Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg seemed to take a different route with this Pirates in comparison to the last four. A tighter direction that featured less of the sea and landscape, and the scope of the world, looked like the route they really wanted to travel to change things up, and it doesn’t necessarily equal out to a bad decision. I think by Pirates 3 and 4, most people were getting a bit exhausted from the same old story line (something magical is lost, evil detects it, Jack Sparrow’s life is in danger, rush to reacquire it before the world perishes somehow), so there had to be a change and a chance taken to make the series interesting again, even if it meant trimming and tightening the world and story. For the most part, the change didn’t work out so well, as the smaller world equaled out to a tinier adventure, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t redeeming value you in it. The big issue here is that it has the Spider-Man 3 syndrome where there is way too many storylines, characters and loose ends to introduce and wrap-up by the end of the two-hour film in such a tiny world constructed. It’s tough when you have good ideas, but sometimes you have to pick and choose which ones can develop in the proper amount of time, especially when your environment you’re placing them in is so small.
On that note, let’s dig right into it.
The first act of the film introduces us to one of the many storylines in the film, Will Turner has made a return. Well, sorta. Turner is still the captain of the Dutchman, which means he is eternally at sea except for one time every 10 years. His son, Henry, has sworn to help break his father’s curse from the Dutchman, even if it takes him forever. Henry’s only solution to do so? Finding the Trident of Poseidon, which can only be acquired through the help of Captain Jack Sparrow. Leaving us with Henry’s dilemma and goal, the movie shifts to Sparrow’s story of a broken pirate that has no other adventures to get on with, which means he spends his days drinking until he is broke. It also means his crew has abandoned him. Anyway, Sparrow gets to the bottom of the bottle of life quick and caps it off with exchanging his compass for a bottle of rum. This one action randomly sets free ghost sailors that Jack made ghosts when he was a young lad, pre-captain days. As a flashback informs, the compass, which MUST be with Jack at all times, gets angry with its departure from its master and is the catalyst for a Spanish captain named Salazar coming back to life-ish. The first act ends with Salazar, an old pirate hunter, breaking out of his volcanic confinements, with his crew, and setting sail to find Sparrow to punish him for murdering Salazar and his crew.
The first act is complicated. You do get a sense of a solid quest for Henry Turner, as fans of the series are familiar with Will Turner’s situation, which should ultimately be driving point of this film. Sadly, the film only spends a small amount of time with Henry’s quest and chooses to refocus itself towards the end of the first act with Jack Sparrow and his misadventures. Honestly speaking, I think Henry’s story would have made a better reason to set sail in this film, but I get it. I get going with the main star, the main reason why people love the first few Pirates, Jack Sparrow, is something you would want leading the way. Johnny Depp’s character is a money maker and if you’re making a film, outside of entertaining your audience, that is the goal. That being said, the connection between compass, Jack and Salazar is oddly shallow, even to a point where it’s not really explained; they just want you to accept it. What’s even tougher is selling the point that Jack and Henry have to cross paths and how that is accomplished. The trident is used to connect the duo, but how they get to each other is just random happenstance. It’s a messy beginning. Nostalgia certainly helps smooth the rough waters of plot points a bit, but nonetheless it is a messy way to start.
The second act begins with a daring escape from the jaws of death, specifically an execution for Jack and a presumed witch named Carina, someone that pops in briefly in act one, by the likes of Henry and Jack’s old crew that was paid off by Henry to help. The escape leads everyone back to the ocean, which leads everyone to Captain Salazar’s clutches, while they are trying to find the trident. To add more characters to the bunch, Captain Barbossa shows up, after striking a deal with Salazar, to help find Jack, which he does, but ends up turning on Salazar to help Jack, Henry and Carina find the trident to get rid of the Spanish ghost. There are a lot of beautiful fights in act two, as well as some interesting details on how Salazar, much like Will Turner, can’t actually touch land or he will crumble into dust. In the midst of avoiding Salazar, everyone finds an island to land on, minus Barbossa, to avoid dying by the overpowered ghost captain (and crew). The heroes run into a scurvy colony, where Jack is almost married, and then are rescued by Barbossa, who also needs rescuing from Salazar. The end of the second act wraps with Barbossa, Jack, Henry, Carina and crew finally heading the right direction, in a special ship that is familiar to fans, towards Poseidon’s Trident, though Salazar is hot on their tails.
The second act is entertaining, definitely entertaining, but has a rather difficult time maintaining the character and plot point juggling act it haphazardly started in the first act. It actually is a complicated juggling act by act two. It does its best, though, to connect all the characters into one goal and even throws in some humor, endearment and drama to keep you on the edge of your seats. It feels tight and limited in scope and storytelling capability. For example, the world seems too easy to navigate, Salazar’s ability to track down anyone is quick and unexplained, as well as Barbossa’s ability to show up to save the day without rhyme or reason. It’s a bit of a messy second act that doesn’t feel the need to stop and explain itself, but it’s, again, entertaining. Sometimes entertainment can overcome messy or at least provide some movie viewing bandaids.
The third act begins with a tremendous firefight between good and evil on the high seas. This, of course, leads into the acquisition of the trident and then things get notched up to 11. While I won’t give out many details, I will point out that there is yet another storyline introduced (you read that right) in the third act that is asking for audience engagement, believability and emotion. It’s oddly placed and sticks out like a sore thumb. I won’t dare spoil it, but you will know it when it happens. The end of the film does have some redemption, especially the very end, so stick around.
Overall, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t a terrible, unredeemable mess that some critics have made it out to be. It’s just a bit disorganized and packed with too many stories and characters, while not having enough minutes to wrap any of it up properly. It has some fun moments, great lines and solid performances from the players involved, but it’s simply too small to hold the amount of tales it wants to tell. Rest assure that it’s far better than the fourth, but can’t live up to the original trilogy.
Good lord, it looks gorgeous. When the CGI isn’t obviously in place onscreen, you’re going to find a beautiful and colorful adventure in 4K waiting for you. The colors were incredibly vivid, while the lighting shined through spectacularly. Everything just looked balanced, even and what you would expect from a 4K movie. I had a helluva time with it visually and would love to see the previous films remastered in 4K to go along with this one. Again, it’s simply beautiful to look at and it’s worth the extra dough, if you have a 4K ready player and television.
Here’s what you’re getting with this 4K release:
– Dead Men Tell More Tales: The Making of a New Adventure
– A Return to the Sea
– Telling Tales: A Sit
– The Matador & The Bull: Secrets of Salazar & The Silent Mary
– First Mate Confidential
– Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks
– Wings Over the Caribbean
– An Enduring Legacy
– Bloopers of the Caribbean
– Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary
– Deleted Scenes
The amount of features you get with this release is impressive. The quality ones are in the ‘making of’ featurette and the Return to Sea. The Wings Over the Caribbean is neat because you get a bit of Sir Paul McCartney in there, so if you’re a fan of his then you’ll enjoy it. The Ghost Sharks featurette is neat for kids, if they don’t mind sharks or seeing how they were made. My son sat and enjoyed that one.
The rest of the features are nice, especially the Salazar feature, where you get to hear a bit about Salazar via Javier Bardem (great actor). As a package, you get some solid features with this 4K release.