scene from Pirates of the Caribbean

Image courtesy Jerry Bruckheimer/Walt Disney Pictures

New Pirates Film Sails Tall

| published June 3, 2017 |

By Maggie Nichols, Thursday Review contributor

As the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have noted, Baywatch has been a dismal failure so far, and almost from the moment it hit theaters. The big budget TV big screen reboot is falling flat with critics, and flatter with fans, as word spreads through social media and word-of-mouth that the raunchy, fleshy, sunburned retooling fails to elicit many laughs or nor spark intrigue. Some have noted that its only funny moments come in outtakes interspersed into the end credits, which happen to be among the raunchiest.

We should have been warned: even the trailers and marketing promos weren’t funny, a sad omen for a comedy. Like CHIPS before it, this reboot of a decades-old TV show is falling flat. Indeed, Baywatch is foundering at the box office as moviegoers school instead to see Alien: Covenant, or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which topped the weekend—and all of last week’s—receipts. Wonder Woman (which I have not yet seen) may yet topple Pirates over the next week, but Pirates may prove so formidable that it survives the summer near the top.

The Pirates franchise, based almost entirely upon an attraction at Walt Disney's theme parks, has been a treasure trove for years now, a bankable series built upon the starpower and charisma of its principal stars, especially Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, but to a lesser degree other stars as well—Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy, Kiera Knightly, to name but three.

Dead Men Tell No Tales—part five of the so-called “trilogy"—takes audiences into the Bermuda Triangle, where one of Jack Sparrow's long lost, arch-enemies and maddened, monstrous crew reappear upon the seas with vengeance and mayhem on their minds. This introduces a new villain, Captain Armando Salazar (played with delicious wickedness by Javier Bardem, best known for the humorless icy cold killer-for-hire of No Country For Old Men, and as the achrest-of-arch-villains in the James Bond thriller Skyfall). Dead Men also introduces us to Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth (daughter of Hector Barbossa) and Brenton Thwaites as Henry (son of Will Turner).

Despite a few critical darts thrown by a few well known movie critics, I liked this Pirates very much—a huge leap above the fourth film in the “trilogy,” and more closely resembling Parts One and Two, generally still considered the two strongest movies of the franchise. And without spoling anything on THAT point, there will most assuredly be a sixth movie—stick around to the end of the seemingly endless credits for the 70 second set-up for Part Six.

It can be impossible to sum up these plots without turning a “short” movie review into a 12 thousand word essay. And what would be the point of that? Either you like the kind of humor and the entertaining visuals now prevalent in the Pirates series, or you do not. Furthermore, either you accept the baroque complexities and superstitions of the old life upon the seas as practiced by pirates, or it seems pointless. Suffice it to say the plot revolves more-of-less around young Henry attempting to find a way to break the dreaded curse imposed upon his father, and possibly break all such seaman’s curses for good. This pits him—after as a prisoner he travels into the Devil’s Triangle—against Captain Salazar, once of the Spanish navy, and his crew of undead pirates. It also means he has to outwit and outmaneuver the always jovial but self-serving Captain Jack Sparrow, aka Johnny Depp, whose adventures and mishaps are always front and center, and always worth a good laugh.

Speaking of laughs: this film avoids at least a few of those incessant sea lore complexities and curses of the previous two movies in the series, and thus concentrates on the comic aspects, elaborate stunts, snappy witticisms, and funny character interactions instead—all while still keeping the big shipboard cannon fire and sword fights intact.

Look for many familiar faces of the crew and cast, along with plenty of references to previous plot devices (in this sense it shares this style with the new Alien), while also introducing a few new faces, including “Uncle Jack,” played by none other than Paul McCartney (McCartney's brief appearance can be likened to Keith Richards' appearance in previous movies). This newest Pirates also sparks a love interest between the young Henry Turner and the young Carina, which also undoubtedly sets us up for more sequels—you can’t just leave them there on that island kissing without a follow-up, as we saw when the young Will left his bride behind as he returned to the sea for seven more years of piraty behavior and bad dental hygiene.

Entertaining, fun, with lots of hearty laughs and pirate-versus-pirate shenanigans. I highly recommend you see this one on a large screen. As always, you can’t go wrong with Johnny Depp at the helm.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Alien Covenant Delivers the Goods; Cameron Dale; Thursday Review; June 2, 2017.

Kong: Skull Island; Cameron Dale; Thursday Review; March 14, 2017.