Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Director: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki, Bandidas)
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer
Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, Paul McCartney
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 129 min.



My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd


Remember 14 years ago when there was a movie coming out based on the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride and everyone thought it was going to be terrible and then it ended up being pretty darn good? And now all these years later the fifth one has been released and everyone assumed it would be terrible and it really, really is? Funny how that works. There are so many reasons why Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is one of the worst movies of the year, and the absolute nadir of this franchise that has milked the goodwill of its one good entry to death and very far beyond. There’s the diminishing returns of seeing the exact same procedure of some new mythical MacGuffin that suddenly every pirate on the seas is determined to get. The equally diminishing returns of the endless parade of over-elaborate and drastically over-long action sequences that start dumb and end maddeningly dull.

Of course there’s also the bitter taste of watching professional scumbag Johnny Depp sleepwalking his way through another bland performance on his way to reclaiming his title as the most overpaid actor in Hollywood. The unfortunate pain of seeing Javier Bardem continue to squander his talents on roles that turn him into a joke in movies that sully his filmography. The cruelty of Golshifteh Farahani following up her delightful role in one of the best movies of last year (watch Paterson if you haven’t) with a wasted part in one of the worst movies of this one. The hilarious realization that in casting the son of Orlando Bloom’s character, the makers of this movie somehow managed to find an actor even more boring than Orlando Bloom (in ten years everyone will have trouble remembering who Brenton Thwaites was). The hilariously dumb and ridiculously convenient reveal that could only be considered surprising by taking into account the fact that the audience would surely never think that this movie would pull something so random and silly out of its ass, and then they double down by immediately trying to milk it for maximum sentimental value (it doesn’t work).

Dead Men Tell No Tales is a movie with no shortage of flaws, and really no existence of positive qualities, but the biggest offense of all is the way that they cheaply teased the audience with the promise that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley would be returning in this movie. After the sour reception to the fourth movie raised a black cloud above the franchise, they knew they needed a reach like bringing back the fan adored lovebirds to build some goodwill here. The return of the two was hyped up plenty, and even featured in the marketing. Which makes it an egregious insult when you watch the movie and discover that Bloom only appears in a flashback scene that opens the film and then not again until the very last scene. As for Knightley? Well, I hope you enjoyed her brief appearance running up that hill in the marketing campaign for the movie because that’s literally the only appearance she has in the movie. I struggle to think of any way that a movie this year will be able to insult its fans more significantly than Dead Men Tell No Tales has, but in 2017 I won’t put it past anything. They’ve certainly set a high bar, though.


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Having only seen the first two PotC films, I have to say that I liked the second film far, far more than the first one.

The original entry has so much ‘stick to the formula’ boredom to it. The second film is an unhinged fever-dream, and much more on-location film-making, making it a much prettier film besides.

Matt Brown

Ok. I know I’m exposing my flank by even asking this question, but… what “formula” do you think Pirates 1 was sticking to??