In a moment of perfect absurdity, a technical glitch cut off the theater’s audio as the words “earth-shattering sound” scrolled across the IMAX screen at the Regal Majestic in Silver Spring, Maryland.
And the fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales carried the comedic absurdity for the next 129 minutes.
The newest Pirates film follows Jack Sparrow — sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) — as he teams with Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), who Sparrow calls their “demon spawn.” Bloom and Knightley reprise their roles while new character astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) helps with a hunt for the Trident of Poseidon.
The catch? Jack is being hunted by an army of undead pirates, led by Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), that he trapped in the Devil’s Triangle as a boy.
The film’s visual effects are captivating. The appearance of the undead pirates in this film are similar to that of the skeletal pirates in The Curse of the Black Pearl, but it is their ship that sets them apart.
When doing battle, Salazar’s ship literally opens up and devours other ships, giving the impression that the ship itself is a living organism. Each time Salazar defeats another ship he leaves just one person alive because, in his own words, “dead men tell no tales.”
Besides Bloom and Knightley, other notable returnees include Geoffrey Rush as Hector Barbossa, Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs and Jack the monkey.
Dead Men Tell No Tales also includes an enjoyable cameo from the legendary Paul McCartney as Jack’s uncle, Uncle Jack, who the characters encounter in a British prison.
At its core, Dead Men Tell No Tales is about desire. Poseidon’s trident holds the key to each of the character’s deepest desires.
For Jack, it’s ruling the sea. For Henry, it’s breaking his father’s curse (if you’ll recall, at the end of At World’s End, Will takes up the mantle of Davy Jones and is confined to the Flying Dutchman for all eternity.) And for Carina, it’s realizing her destiny by “reading the map that no man can read” in the book that her father left her.
While Dead Men Tell No Tales is not the best film in the Pirates series — that title goes to The Curse of the Black Pearl — it is the best since the first installment.
With this newest film, the franchise finally finds the right balance between the mystical and the comedic. Ghost pirates and magical tridents are balanced by a scene of a bank being pulled through a town and lines like “a one-legged man with 18-pound balls? No wonder he walks funny.”
While Dead Men Tell No Tales will likely not be the last film in the franchise, it finally gives Depp and the other returning actors and actresses a film they can proudly end their Pirates careers on.