DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES? IF ONLY…
Well, my fears were well-founded.
As I type these words, it’s 7:17 PM on the same day mentioned in this article’s predecessor. It’s been around two hours since the curtain fell on the final scene of Dead Men Tell No Tales (which, for those who might be curious, takes place after the credits have rolled). I’m not nervous anymore, or excited. I am — without hyperbole — devastated, stewing in disappointment laced with frustration.
Because Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is, by a considerable margin, the worst entry in the series.
I don’t say that lightly (and am more than willing to let my opinion evolve with subsequent viewings when the film makes its way to home media), but, as it stands, it’s the least the series has to offer — which is really saying something given that it’s bookended by a compelling opening and an excellent-in-concept, if not quite there in execution, ending.
I’m not exaggerating about that opening. It has a glaring, baffling issue —
— but with its beautiful reprisal of one of At World’s End’s most impactful themes and the sheer emotional weight of what’s going on on-screen, said opening coaxed a single, solitary tear to slide down my cheek. I relaxed a little at that point, thinking that the rest couldn’t possibly be as bad as the majority of reviews and teaser clips suggested, but it was, sadly, all downhill from there.
As I feared, Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow has devolved even further. Already a caricature of his former self in On Stranger Tides, he is, here, a complete and utter cartoon. I spent 80% of the movie wondering just who in the hell Depp was playing, because with an incredibly strange new accent and a distinct lack of appreciable wit, it certainly wasn’t Jack Sparrow.
In fact, the cast on the whole fails to offer anything to write home about — with the exception of Geoffrey Rush (a reliable highlight of each film), whose best scenes (like the beginning, end, and a few of those featuring Captain Salazar) feel as though they belong to a much better movie — but given that many of the returning actors turned-in decent performances in the previous entries, I don’t think any individual member can be saddled with blame for this. Whatever the quality of the overarching story, it becomes very clear, in very short order, that a considerable number of Dead Men’s issues stem from its shockingly poor script, which calls for some of the most blatant stating the obvious I’ve ever encountered, a smattering of Hollywood’s signature brand of heavy-handed feminism, attempts at humour so infantile that — though they do draw the rare smirk — are far more likely to cause some severe cases of eye-rolling rather than laughter, and gets multiple previously-established details of the story wrong.
And then, of course, there’s the soundtrack…
Going in, I was incredibly excited to hear various elements of previous scores in woven in amongst the new stuff. Unfortunately, though, with two notable exceptions, the various references were, in practice, frustratingly incomplete, often stopping abruptly just as they began to kick-in, or sounding sloppily edited together — and I can honestly say that, hours later, I can’t recall any of the truly new stuff at all.
I may have been bouncing off the proverbial walls with excitement beforehand, but now, looking back on it through the cynical lens of disappointment, I can’t help but wonder if the soundtrack relied so heavily on the themes of the past in order to trigger memories of former glories, to distract from the insipid mess that Dead Men Tell No Tales actually is.
I won’t go into why the beginning and end of its tale are so significant — you’ll understand when you see the film — but I will say that the story they belong to deserved an infinitely better, more weighty film than the one Disney has delivered, a film you’ll catch glimpses of as you watch Tales, but that never quite breaks through the near-complete train wreck of the rest of it.
Early-on, Salazar informs Henry that dead men tell no tales. If only they hadn’t told this one…