The premise: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is pursued by an old nemesis, Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), who along with his Spanish Navy ghost crew has escaped from the Devil’s Triangle and is determined to kill every pirate at sea. Jack, aided by a new ally Carina (Kaya Scodelario), must seek the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas, to defeat Salazar. At the same time, he comes across Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of his former crew member Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Henry wants to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman so he can reunite his parents, Will and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley).
The film opens with a short scene introducing us to the young dashing Henry Turner (Thwaites) vowing to reverse the curse on his long banished to the bottom of the sea father. Mission established. But where of the fan fave Captain Jack Sparrow? Cut to an unnamed Caribbean island where we see a bunch of posh Brits holding court on the island with nary a native in sight. That paused me, seeing a nonchalant indulging of what would have been British Colonialists dominating the island, with no visual reference to the slavery and culture annihilation that came with having that many white people so heavily populating a land supposed to be inhabited by predominantly black people.
I paused again when we see a sign on a tavern saying No Dogs; No Pirates – obvious reference to Jack Sparrow and his ilk, but which immediately reminded me of the infamous No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs signs which were rumoured to have been put up in windows in the UK back in the 60’s to warn off people looking for somewhere to live. I felt that was an ignorant, insensitive and unnecessary set detail. But is it fair to expect a fun comedy adventure set in the country of, and era when, a particular race of people were raped pillaged and forced to work for free, to reference it in any way? Yes. How do you do that? Not sure. But with fantasy fictional romps, especially ones where a bank is dragged across the island by Jack Sparrow’s horse-riding crew of pirates… it shouldn’t be hard to repurpose the visuals accordingly. Should it?
It’s not until the end of Jack Sparrow’s rather dramatic and silly bank heist do we then get to see a black character – the much loved British Black actor Delroy Atkinson (better known for his on stage work – I Can’t Sing! X Factor the Musical; Avenue Q) in the role of Pike, a disgruntled member of Sparrow’s crew; tired of their Captain’s run of bad luck and recklessness. Atkinson gets to say lines and is the only authentic Caribbean you’ll hear/see … in a film … set in the Caribbean and Caribbean waters … with Caribbean in the title. But let’s move on…
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a lot of noise and CGI dramatics to get all the main characters to their end goal. A few funny and clever moments aside, this particular instalment seems a tad film franchise 101. What we love about Depp as Sparrow, now comes across tired and lazy. His drunken buffoonery seems un-evolved. His managing to get away with accidentally getting things right is eye-rolling. It’s to the point where Jack Sparrow is like the drunken uncle who used to make you laugh, but now with age and wisdom you see him for what he really is, an alcoholic desperate for love and much attention – from anyone.
As for the general plot there are enough holes to sink the Black Pearl. But it’s all covered up with epic scenes and quick gags and for some of us, that’s all we want. To be taken into a world of unrealistic CGI and adventure; consistency and common sense be damned.
Bardem’s Salazar with added CGI visuals is quite a good villain. But as always, and not exclusive to Pirates of the Caribbean, when the villain’s anger and in this case, long planned revenge is a major reason for the film’s existence only for it to be resolved in such a basic way… The feeling I’m always left with is like those times you spend days, weeks and months talking your girlfriend off the ledge because her bastard boyfriend did it again, only for her to announce their engagement the day after you’ve convinced her to leave him. Like really girl… all this drama for it to end like this?
(See Bane’s reason for unleashing his insane wrath in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)… really Bane; like really?)
Thwaites and the UK’s Kaya Scodelario are definitely in line for more work after this. Scodelario’s Carina is a funny one. She’s not bad but the inevitable ‘thing’ which arises between Carina and Turner jnr. is a bit obvious and again unnecessary. Did they have to have a ‘thing’? Couldn’t this ‘thing’ have happened in the next one? Are they even signed up for the next one? Is Pirates of the Caribbean a career making franchise to be attached to?
There are so many legends of the sea to be told, Pirates of the Caribbean can explore them with candor without dumbing down. Nothing wrong with Jack Sparrow being a bit more serious. The franchise didn’t start out at as a farcical nonsense. It had the right amount of darkness and light with comedy being more natural than planned. A return to this format will ensure me being front of the line for part 6.
Pirates of the Caribbean is in UK Cinemas from today Friday 26th June 2017