BY ROGER THOMAS
Movie-lovers have traveled with Captain Jack Sparrow for the last fourteen years. It is almost hard to believe that the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film opened in 2003. That one was subtitled as “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” The film was fun and who would of thought that a film based on an amusement park ride would actually be clever, but it was.
Four sequels later, the “Pirates” stories seem to be wearing thin. But let’s cover the artistry of the new film first. “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the fifth movie of the series has some moments. The phantom sharks are quite creative. The scene when Jack Sparrow is about to be executed by a guillotine is strong comedic moment. The flashback, which offers a younger version of Jack played by Anthony De La Torre, explains in thrilling fashion the story that previously has not been told. So there are some moments when the film works well.
Technically, almost all the visuals impress. However, effects cannot carry a film if the story is lacking. Early on in the film there is a scene dealing with a bank vault. This whole scene is excessive. There were a lot of laughs in the theatre when I saw the film, but I kept thinking, “The filmmakers are going too big too soon.”
But that is just one example of excess. There is a wedding scene that plays for laughs but produces few chuckles and the wedding does nothing to enhance a film that is already collapsing. The cameo of former “Beatle” Paul McCartney contributed nothing to the film, except to excite fans of the singer.
Then there is the young love between Henry Turner and Carina Smyth, played by Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario respectively. Neither of these characters demonstrated the passion that existed between Henry Turner’s parents, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann in the first three films. The cameos of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who have now played Turner and Swann in the “Pirates” films four times, do not produce a strong emotional moment either.
In the midst of all this criticism, I would offer praise for three performances. First, Academy Award winning actor Geoffrey Rush is back as Captain Hector Barbossa and he is great. However, a more menacing pirate is Captain Salazar played by Oscar winner Javier Bardem. Bardem is not quite as menacing here as he was in his award-winning role in “No Country for Old Men.” Third is the work of Brenton Thwaites. I have watched Thwaites in the films “Oculus” and “The Giver” and keep hoping he is going to find another good role. His early scenes work well, but as the film spirals downward there is less quality moments for any of the actors to shine.
Which leads us finally to the climax of the film. I will not attempt to describe it, because I am not sure I could. It is very busy and very loud, as is most of the film. At least one character loses his or her life, but not even that brings a sense of peril. The film simply does not capture and hold one’s attention completely for very long.
There were advertisements claiming that “Dead Men Tell No Tales” will be the final “Pirates” film. My guess is that will be determined by how much treasure the “Pirates” rake in in the coming weeks. I, for one, say let’s let the series end. The five films have given us some “highs and lows.” And one character most will never forget: Captain Jack Sparrow. May he always bring a smile to us when we remember him, but it is time for us and Disney to let him sail into the horizon.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.