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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (aka Dead Men Tell No Tales) movie review: yo ho no

Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar's Revenge Dead Men Tell No Tales

MaryAnn’s quick take…
The franchise finally overstays its welcome with this cacophony of CGI spectacle, a contrived and confusing plot, and a newly cruel and stupid Jack Sparrow.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): loved the original trilogy…
I’m “biast” (con): …but started to lose a little patience with the fourth film
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Okay, make it stop. This amusement-park ride has gone on long enough. It is no longer any fun. I’m feeling a bit nauseated, in fact.

I adored the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy: they were smart, fun popcorn flicks that worked as clever updates on the classic Hollywood swashbuckler, all adventure and movie-movie romance and total, wonderful nonsense. With the third installment, 2007’s At World’s End, the series even managed to whip up some satirical zing, in its plot about gig-economy independent-contractor pirates versus big bad corps looking to solidify their rule of the world.

Okay, make it stop. This amusement-park ride has gone on long enough. It is no longer any fun.
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I tolerated 2011’s On Stranger Tides even though there was little fresh or surprising about it, even though Jack Sparrow was no longer shocking, even though it was far too earnest to achieve the fleet fantasy of its predecessors. But it still had hints of what made the original trilogy great. Or maybe that was wishful thinking on my part, a longing for Tides to measure up.

No such luck here. My blinders are off. With this, the uncalled-for fifth chapter in the franchise, Pirates has officially outstayed its welcome. Salazar’s Revenge — inexplicably called Dead Men Tell No Tales in the US — is a cacophony of CGI spectacle that assails the senses but forgets to give us a reason to caretweet about the people caught in the middle of it. It is desperate for your attention but has no idea what to do with it when it occasionally grabs it. It is pandemonium, and incredibly boring. It is full of the supernatural, but it has no magic.tweet

“Huh. This tiny diminished Black Pearl is a surprisingly apt metaphor for my latest adventure...”

“Huh. This tiny diminished Black Pearl is a surprisingly apt metaphor…”tweet

This is especially mysterious because POTC 5 avoids one of the signature problems of blockbusters of recent vintage, in that so few of them seem very interested in crafting something new for our eyes to behold when it comes to tossing people and vehicles and buildings around in ways that are meant to be exciting. A lot of the action we witness here isn’t like anything we’ve seen before… and almost none of it actually entertains, like a joke with a great setup and an unfunny punchline. One early sequence involves a bank robbery by Jack Sparrow and his crew that goes very badly wrong, and it should be absolutely hilarious in that same way that, say, the A-Team movie made you believe that a tank could fly. And yet it falls completely flat. It’s loud and kinetic and crashy, but it has no pizzazz whatsoever. Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg aren’t only new to the Pirates series, they’re new to big-budget FX extravaganzas, and it shows. They don’t seem to know how to connect their characters to the CGI, or even to grand escapades driven by practical FX, as the heist sequence would mostly seem to be. (Their biggest previous production is low-budget real-life historical adventure Kon-Tiki, which may take place on the ocean but is very grounded in unfantastical reality.) They closest they get is with a comedic guillotine sequence — that’s right, I said “comedic guillotine sequence” — that makes you wonder if Disney is hoping to turn that into a new theme-park attraction. Which is horrifically wrong and icky.

The kinetic and crashy action sequences are like jokes with great setups and unfunny punchlines.
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But lackluster action takes a backseat, problemwise, to lackluster characters.tweet One big flaw of On Stranger Tides is that Jack Sparrow was missing the Bones and Spock to his Kirk, the Ron and Hermione to his Harry, which he’d previously had in Orlando Bloom’s straight-arrow Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s proper-girl-eager-for-adventure Elizabeth Swan. A bigger flaw in POTC 5 is that the new sidekicks Jack (Johnny Depp: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Alice Through the Looking Glass) gets saddled with are incredibly dull both separately and together. Brenton Thwaites (Gods of Egypt, Son of a Gun) — as Henry Turner, Will’s son — and Kaya Scodelario (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Now Is Good) — as Carina Smyth, woman of science — share one expression between them (a slack-jawed, dead-eyed befuddlement), some cringeworthy banter, and a painful lack of chemistry. Their attraction for each other is inevitable even though it’s not required by the plot, and yet constitutes one of the least convincing onscreen romances ever.

“Worse things happen at sea, they said. They were right.”

“Worse things happen at sea, they said. They were right.”tweet

The plot? Dear god, what a mess. Another problem of the 2010s blockbuster is too much plot, and POTC 5 cannot escape that one. Screenwriters Jeff Nathanson (Tower Heist, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and Terry Rossio (The Lone Ranger, National Treasure: Book of Secrets) seem to think that more is better, but it’s just more, and in this case, the story’s attempt to find footing is confusing, convoluted, and crammed with too many characters.tweet Jack, Henry, and Carina are all seeking a mythical object called the Trident of Poseidon, which is said to break all curses of the sea. Henry needs it to free his father, who, you recall, was cursed in the third movie, At World’s End, to endless service on the Flying Dutchman. Jack needs it because pirate hunter Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem: The Gunman, The Counsellor) — whom Jack long ago condemned to a sort of zombie-sailorhood — has vowed to get his revenge. And Carina needs it because… well, that’s never entirely clear, but it has something to do with “Galileo’s diary,” which she inherited from her unknown scientist father, and which, as an object, seems impossible. (It doesn’t seem as if Galileo could have had anything to do with it, and as labyrinthine as the plot is, it fails to account for the diary’s presence here.) And Jack’s old frenemy Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush: Holding the Man, Minions) is also hanging around, for completely unnecessary reasons until a ridiculously contrived reason for him to be present pops up, so he has to be shoehorned into the story.

Not so much anymore, actually...

Not so much anymore, actually…tweet

As torturous as the writing is, it’s also lazy, with abuse passing as wit and coincidence as fate.tweet Worse, it doesn’t even seem to appreciate the balancing act that the previous films managed to pull off, in making pirates romantic and heroic and making us forget that in reality, pirates are cowardly brutish criminals. For here, it’s really difficult to accept Salazar as a villain: he is portrayed as an honorable Spanish naval captain whose mission was to clear the seas of the scourge of pirates. And it’s really difficult to accept this latest version of Jack as someone we should feel any sympathy for (and that’s without even taking into account the unpleasant person Depp has recently shown himself to be offscreen): Jack is cruel to his friends, comes across as stupid rather than cunning, and lacks all the crafty charm he once had. We should be rooting for Salazar, and mostly I was.tweet

One of the trailers for POTC 5 blares that this is “The Final Adventure,” which is as it should be. But no such luck. Pirates of the Caribbean 6 has already been announced. It should be buried at sea immediately.


see also:
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (review)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (review)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (review)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (review)


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Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (aka Dead Men Tell No Tales) (2017) | directed by Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
US/Can release: May 26 2017
UK/Ire release: May 25 2017

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate fantasy action violence)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Danielm80

    That wanted poster just makes me want to find Jack and tell him, “You’re no Anne Bonny.”

    The American title is a pretty good description of the movie, though. Dead men come back to life and are given no interesting stories to tell.

  • Bluejay

    One big flaw of On Stranger Tides is that Jack Sparrow was missing the Bones and Spock to his Kirk, the Ron and Hermione to his Harry

    The flaw in On Stranger Tides was that Jack was never supposed to be the main character, the Kirk or Harry, to begin with. The original trilogy worked because it was the story of Will and Elizabeth and followed their heroic arcs, with Jack as the unchanging trickster who just kept throwing wrenches into the works. The new movies, with Jack at the center, turn out to be much less interesting.

    One of the trailers for POTC 5 blares that this is “The Final Adventure,” which is as it should be. But no such luck.

    As I recall, the trailer blares those words one at a time, which got my hopes up that this would be the end of it. But the final word it blares out is “Begins” — as in “The Final Adventure Begins.” So those of us hoping for a last movie may instead be treated to a last trilogy. *groan*

  • Owen1120

    Could you please elaborate on what was wrong with the guillotine sequence? A few negative reviews that I read mentioned that scene as funny.

  • vegeta solo

    I watched Pirates 5 & I enjoyed it. Like many of you, I was a huge fan of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. Johnny Depp was brilliant and Gore Verbinski’s swashbuckling tale was both a good homage to the classic Disneyland ride while also being just a kick-ass film. While the first two sequels are held in low esteem by most filmgoers, I think they are better than many people remember. Sure, they have convoluted plots, but the action set pieces are fun, and I still enjoy the characters and world-building. However, the fourth Pirates movie, which was more of a spin-off focusing on Captain Jack Sparrow rather than a proper continuation, was not good by anyone’s estimation. With that out of the way, here’s my spoiler free reaction to the fifth movie. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a pleasant surprise. Even though none of us were asking for another Pirates movie, I think most fans of the franchise will be happy we got this one.

    What makes this new Pirates movie good is that they went back to the roots of the series and concentrate on the characters we love and their legacies. The main villain’s story is intimately tied to Captain Jack Sparrow’s past and the central MacGuffin that everyone is chasing has very personal stakes for the characters involved. The result is a more heartfelt adventure that you actually care about.

    I can’t say yet where I’d rank it in the series, but it’s a much better film than the last installment and has many improvements over the first two sequels in the original trilogy. If I have one complaint, it is that I miss Gore Verbinski’s over-the-top action sequences. Don’t get me wrong, the action from newcomers Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg is solid, but it’s different than the original trilogy. This one has a fun, elaborate opening set piece, but it never quite manages to top it.

    Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t worry about building a trilogy of films (there is no cliffhanger) and takes the time to tell its own story on its own terms. The story is easy to follow (which is saying something for this series), the action isn’t confusing, and the situations are often fun and funny. You can’t say any of that about the previous sequel. Series newcomer Kaya Scodelario is a stand-out, and Javier Bardem does a fine job as the film’s villain.

  • vegeta solo

    That scene was funny. don’t let her review put your hopes down. go watch Pirates 5 & enjoy it. this movie is not BAD

  • catinthebrain

    MaryAnn, though I can’t for the life of me explain why they keep churning these films out, I can explain that “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a famous line from the ride at the Disney parks. A creepy talking skull says it as the ride begins.

  • Bluejay

    I think I remember Gore Verbinski saying he missed an opportunity to use that line. In Dead Man’s Chest, after Davy Jones’ crew captures a ship, one of his crew members asks him, “What do we do with the survivors?” and he coldly replies, “There are no survivors.” Verbinski says he now wishes Jones could have said “Dead men tell no tales” instead.

  • Danielm80

    I would have more faith in your opinion if you didn’t upvote all your own comments.

  • Bluejay

    Or if they didn’t copy and paste text from Slashfilm and pass it off as their own.

    http://www.slashfilm.com/pirates-of-the-caribbean-dead-men-tell-no-tales-reviews/

  • I deleted the entire review you plagiarized from elsewhere and posted as a comment here. Don’t do that again.

  • I’ve deleted that comment.

  • Bluejay

    Oh! Feel free to delete mine, to declutter. :-)

  • Danielm80

    But keep mine up. I think it needs to be repeated as often as possible.

  • I’m not sure what you mean. I specifically say that it’s the best action bit in the film. It’s the idea of turning it into a theme-park ride that is problematic.

  • So then why only use “Dead Men Tell No Tales” as the subtitle in the US?

  • Apart from the mouthful that *Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales* is, it’s also destined to be confused with *Dead Man’s Chest.*

  • No, I’m gonna leave it to let idiots know that cutting and pasting *other people’s words* and passing them off as your own will not be tolerated. (Quoting others — briefly — is fine, of course.) Nor will using this site as a soapbox. Anyone who wants to post their own feature-length review can get their own damn web site.

  • catinthebrain

    Yep. Weird. Maybe trying to push our American nostalgia buttons?
    Probably would’ve worked best as a line of dialogue.

  • Owen1120

    Sorry- I misunderstood.

  • Owen1120

    I actually like it better than “Salazar’s Revenge”- “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is an expression I’ve heard before in a pirate context. I get the confusion with “Dead Man’s Chest” but I think that “Salazar’s Revenge” sounds both like a bad action movie and like we are expected to know Salazar in the first place, even though he’s a new character to the series. I seem to be the only one with the unpopular opinion, though.

  • Bluejay

    Yeah, I prefer Salazar’s Revenge.

    The first film’s title, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, was also an unfortunate mouthful*. I don’t know that anyone actually refers to it as such, rather than just “the first Pirates of the Caribbean.”

    *though at least it’s more rhythmically varied. “Dead Men Tell No Tales” equally stresses each word, which makes the phrase sound clunky and inert. But I’m getting into the weeds here…

  • It *is* a line in the film, in fact.

  • catinthebrain

    Bless you for confirming that and saving us two hours of torment!

  • Dent

    It’s a line in Pirates 2 as well. Spoken by a disembodied voice as Jack wakes up in Davy Jones’ salt flats.

  • I groaned the very first time I heard of this being made. People just need to stop going to these awful movies, and they’ll stop making them. Stop rewarding bad movies, people!

  • Agreed, actually. Salazar’s Revenge is a totally cliche subtitle, and it implies we know who he is.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Well, Bugs Bunny got humor out of a guillotine sequence. I’m guessing that he’s a hard act to follow.

  • Tonio Kruger

    It’s a famous cliché that anyone who has ever seen pirates in the movies or on TV or even in cartoons is probably familiar with even if they never visited a Disney park.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I guess it says something about how little I’ve heard about this movie that the first time I read about that title, I could not help but wonder what Jack Sparrow’s story had to do with a twentieth-century dictator from Portugal. I mean, I knew he got around but still …

  • I loved the original trilogy as well, mainly because of Keira (and another commenter rightly pointed out that she and Orlando were the real stars, which is what Gore even said himself when talking about the films). Am I right in assuming she appears in the credits? I thought I saw a rumor that she’ll be back for #6, and in that case, I am SO down for that. I’ll pass on #5, though.

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  • rick

    It is unintentionally funny that, in the same week that still another sequel to POTC appears in theatres, news come out that there is a “Top Gun 2” in the works.

  • Chika

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales OPEN NEW WINDOW >>> @XMOVIES.MUKIDI

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    This is why people accuse “Hollywood” of creative bankruptcy.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    May as well as the sun to not rise.

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  • !!SPOILER!!

    .

    .

    .

    Knightley appears in the final scene just before the credits, when she is reunited with Will, whose curse has been broken.

  • When this movie came out, I found myself assuming that I wouldn’t go. Strange in retrospect, given that I hadn’t seen any trailers or reviews for it. I liked the original trilogy; the fourth movie was okay. I just feel like I’m done with this series. Looks like my instincts were correct.

    Thanks for the spoiler, though. I’ll watch the ending if it streams on Netflix.

  • Reginald Anselm Leppik

    Very well said.

    I was really looking forward to this film, as I’m a huge fan of the series. 3 might have been convoluted, and 4 might’ve been a bit lacking, but they were still both charming, entertaining yarns.

    Here, however, Jack is basically Homer Simpson. The plot does include him being washed-out at this point, but it’s not smart enough to do anything with the idea and Depp’s performance does not improve after he gets the Black Pearl back.

    The pacing also really got on my nerves, and it felt like the movie had no climax whatsoever, because the plot was both ridiculously convoluted and dumbed down at the same time.

    But the worst part of all is that the ending made me feel like this whole mess was just a trailer for the final(?) movie with Jack, Elizabeth and Will reunited.

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