The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is one of the most beloved in the last two decades.
From The Curse of the Black Pearl, people fell in love with the incredible scenario Verbinski put up (well, it basically is Monkey Island, so take it as you wish). People fell in love with the characters, one in particular, Captain Jack Sparrow, who turned out to be a double-edged sword: although it became Depp’s most famous and beloved character, it actually hurt his career because he could never go back to drama in a serious fashion.
I honestly don’t think is Depp’s fault, but Disney’s.
In the first Pirates of the Caribbean, the protagonists were Will Turner (Orlando Boom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) with Sparrow being an over the top, very present comic relief.
However, because of the consequential popularity, Sparrow was made the protagonist for all the sequels.
While mine it’s not the most popular opinion, in terms of writing and entertainment I honestly think to have Sparrow in the spotlight actually hurt the franchise itself (as well as, like I said before, Depp).
Mostly because he doesn’t have an arc. Or better, he had one in the first movie, but it was limited into the ‘make the right choice’ kind of thing. However, as it becomes the same arc for all the following movies, it became clear that Sparrow is a drunk pirate, but a good man at heart.
Ergo, no arcs at all but there for the supposed sake of entertainment.
Dead Man Tell No Tales does not differ at all from the previous 3 movies in this sense. While not the first character presented to us, he clearly is the protagonist of this story, as the villain wants him dead (hence he is the one influencing the plot the most).
The movie is quite entertaining, like all the other entries (yes, even On Stranger’s Tides), with some very beautiful visuals. The Dead Pirates are a really unique feature, as they provide some action that is able to stand on its own while reminding us of the previous installments.
Also, their look is pretty badass. Above all Javier Bardem’s Salazar is actually a state of the art mixture of makeup and CGI (most of the other members of his crew are plain CGI), which provide a great sense of authenticity.
All the new entries suffer really poor writing. While Kaya Scodelario character results interesting because of a plot twist, Brandon Thwaites’ Henry Turner is a really flat and annoying presence throughout the movie. Yes, we are presented with his noble intentions at the start of the movie, but he doesn’t change a bit after the prologue. Hence, we just have a monotone performance from the actor.
What about the rest of the cast?
We all stopped judging Johnny Depp by this performance: yes, he’s awesome, but it’s the same arc-less character over and over again. Which, once more, it’s not his fault, but the writers (in comparison, Marvel Studios managed to keep Downey Jr’s Tony Stark so fresh because of the writing). Don’t get me wrong, he still entertaining and Depp’s is professional to try his best, but there’s not much to work with anyway. And, again, that’s a problem if you are the protagonist.
Javier Bardem is another writers victim: his character actually has some depth and, in a way, we sympathize him, and some of his dialogues are pretty good. However, everything good goes screw itself when in the climax we see his demise. Yes, I know, his demise was put on a second layer to favor the twist, but that does not cancel the useless buildup of the character. You know, Bane docet.
Don’t get me wrong, it still is a good thrill ride. But that’s what it is: a theme park ride told as a narrative, with very few moments to remember in terms of characters.
And to prove that is the absolute truth about this franchise, just take a look at the Pirates of the Caribbean continuity, which is being dismantled movie after movie. This one in particular. Clearly, Disney and Bruckheimer do not care about a coherent narrative, they just want a thrill ride.
Again, I have no issue with that. Pirates of the Caribbean is entertainment more so than Transformers if you ask me. But there’s a reason if the best one is still the very first one.
If there will be a sixth chapter (and given the post credit scene, it’s not a matter of if, but when), I only have two requests: put back Jack Sparrow as a secondary character, and bring back Gore Verbinski.