Friday, May 26, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

It occurred to me recently that I have yet to talk about a "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie on my blog yet. For some reason I thought that I had written a review of the fourth movie in the early phases of this blog, which in turn covered my thoughts of this franchise. But nope. "On Stranger Tides" was released all the way back in 2011 and I started this blog in 2012. It's been a full six years. Crazy. That also means its been 14 years since the first movie debuted in theaters back in 2003. That make you feel old yet? It was a bit of an odd idea from Disney to make a movie based on a theme park ride. But sometimes odd ideas actually do work out because I think this franchise is fantastic. For the most part. I love this world they've set up. I love all the characters. I love the fun, pirating adventures that we go on. I love the visual effects and the action sequences. I love the mythologies that we dive into. Overall it's a very fun franchise that has churned out some great summer blockbusters. I also think a lot of critics have been way too harsh on these movies, especially the most recent two. I was rather abhorred as to how much undeserved hate the fourth movie received back in 2011. Looking at the Rotten Tomatoes score for this fifth, it looks like I might be fighting the same battle again.

If I'm diving into specifics, I think the first movie is a masterpiece. I have watched and re-watched that movie so many times in my life and I have an absolute blast each time. The second movie I don't think is a bad movie, but I do find it slightly underwhelming when compared to the first and I've rarely if ever gone back and watched it after my first time through. The third movie is straight up awful, but it has nothing to do with the actual universe, characters or action sequences. It has everything to do with the plot itself, specifically there being way too much of it. It's nearly three hours long and has so much story crammed into one film and it was hard to follow what in the heck was happening. I think I mentally checked out like a third of the way into the movie. And that's why I actually liked the fourth movie. It was way better than the third and even a slight step above the second. They went in a completely different direction while cutting out most of the side characters and gave us a fun, simple adventure with Jack wanting to find the fountain of youth, running into Blackbeard, mermaids and Penelope Cruz along the way. It wandered a bit in the middle, but overall was able to recapture much of the magic of the first movie.

My personal theory as to why the fourth movie got so much hate is that people were simply done with "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. So when we got a fourth movie four years after a bad third movie and average second movie, that had very little to do with the plot of the first three movies, people either flat out skipped the movie or went in with preconceived notions that it was going to be trash and weren't able to drop those, being extremely nit-picky with its imperfections. A Rotten Tomatoes score of 32 percent for "On Stranger Tides" is flat-out embarrassing. Yet these are the same critics that only gave the first movie a 79 percent and I think that one belongs in the mid-90 range, so the critics aren't necessarily the best judge when it comes to this franchise. I can understand the 54 percent of the second one, even though I think that's a bit low and only the 45 percent of the third one I think is fair. Enter "Dead Men Tell No Tales," which currently is around the same score as the fourth movie. We'll see exactly where it ends up at when the dust has settled, but as of me writing this review, it's the worst reviewed movie in the franchise at 30 percent. I think a proper score would be in the upper-70 range that the first one got. So yes, I'm going to tell you to ignore the critic's consensus here and go decide for yourself.

As far as the plot of this movie goes, if anyone uses the word "convoluted" to describe this movie, I'm going to slap them in the face. That word accurately described the third movie, but not any of the others and certainly not this movie. The major thing with this movie is that we're on the hunt for the trident of Poseidon. The reasons we're searching for this I don't think would be considered a spoiler, but I didn't know why going in, so I'm not going to say. I will say that it does relate to the first trilogy in a clever way that I really appreciated and that a few different people are searching for it for slightly different reasons. One of them is Will Turner's son Henry. Another is our main villain of the movie, a creepy, cursed ghost dude name Salazar, a former captain who, much like Barbosa in the first film, was bested by Jack Sparrow in the past and has a major curse placed on him and his crew that has caused him to hunt down Jack to get his revenge and remove the curse. In fact, in the U.K. the movie is actually called "Salazar's Revenge" instead of "Dead Men Tell No Tales." Even though I do think the U.S. title sounds cooler, that U.K. title might actually be a more accurate description of the movie. Don't know why they couldn't be consistent with the title, but it's whatever.

Based on that description, if this sounds a lot like the first movie, well, it's because it kinda is. I think when they did "On Stranger Tides," they were initially planning on a second trilogy, but I think they abandoned that idea once they learned of the general reaction to that movie as "On Stranger Tides" included an end credits sequence that set up a potential premise for the fifth movie that has nothing to do with this final result of "Dead Men Tell No Tales." Instead we have a movie that parallels the first one quite well. We have an angry sea captain mad at Jack that is trying to reverse a curse placed on their crew. We have a new version of Will and Elizabeth tagging alongside Jack. We have people who need Jack's help for certain reasons as well as people trying to kill Jack for certain reasons. And we're on an adventure to find a mythical object/treasure. Throw in Gibbs and Barbosa as our main supporting characters as well as an opening scene that has Jack trying to escape the government and almost getting himself executed. While I will say that they could've been slightly more creative with this, I instead found this to be an overall net positive as this was able to recapture much, but not all, of the magic of the first movie, making it the best movie since that first one.

Regarding character specifics, I do think Jack Sparrow was a bit more of a parody of himself in this movie than he was in the other movies. In the first movie, he was a bit of a bumbling idiot, but he was also super clever and unpredictable, making him a fantastic character well deserving of the Oscar nomination that Johnny Depp received. This time around he's more of a bumbling idiot who's not super clever, but ends up getting out of each situation due to shear luck, thus he wasn't the most interesting character in this movie, surprisingly. Our new Will and Elizabeth of the film were Henry and Carina. I actually liked both of them quite a bit. While Elizabeth was essentially our damsel in distress that Will spent the majority of the movie trying to save, Henry and Carina are a lot more interesting. Carina is most certainly not the damsel in distress. In fact, she's the brains of the mission that is helping everyone else out. She so smart that most people around her are calling her a witch. Henry is on a specific mission where he thinks he needs Jack Sparrow, but he ends up needing Carina a lot more. And instead of spending the whole movie expressing his undying love for her, he actually spends most of the movie denying he has any feelings at all, because he's trying to focus elsewhere.

I won't say too much about our other characters, but Javier Bardem plays Captain Salazar in the film and he is rather excellent. His look isn't as creepy as Barbosa and crew and in the first movie when they're in the moonlight, but he is sufficiently creepy and awesome, enough for me to knight him as the second best villain this movie has had. Certainly better than Blackbeard in the fourth and squid face in the second. And I don't even remember who the main villain in the third movie is. There are times where Javier Bardem goes a little overboard with his character, but for the most part he is just having a ton of fun with the role and I really enjoyed it. Stealing the whole show for me was actually Barbosa, but I'm not going to say why. His character has come quite a ways since his turn as a villain in the first movie and it's been a great arc that is given a huge emotional turn in this fifth chapter that I really bought. I will say that I was hoping for a slightly more epic final showdown in this movie and I also kinda wanted more ghost sharks because those were sweet, but we did get a pretty good finale that did a fantastic job of wrapping this franchise up if they decide that this is our final chapter. I wouldn't mind a sixth film, but it would probably be best if it doesn't happen.

Overall, if you are a fan of this franchise and are slightly nervous about this awful critics score this movie is getting right now, then I am going to confidently assure you to simply ignore what is being said and go give this movie a shot because chances are you will probably enjoy it. No, it's not on the same level as the first, but that wasn't my expectations going in. I wasn't hoping that this would be the best movie of the summer, but rather I just wanted another fun "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie and that's exactly what I got. If you're not a fan of this franchise and you hated movies two through four, well, I don't know what to tell you because I am not in that boat, but my prediction is that this won't be the movie to covert you back to this franchise. But I will say that if you loved the first one, but hated the second and third one and thus decided to skip the fourth one, then go give the fourth one a chance. Because you might enjoy it. And then go give this movie a chance. The final scenario I can think of is that if you did in fact enjoy the second and third, but weren't a fan of the fourth, I'm guessing that you will enjoy this movie. The moral of the story is that you shouldn't skip this movie. Give it a shot. I had a blast with it and thus my grade for "Dead Men Tell No Tales" is an 8/10.

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