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Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The Pirates franchise has seen a fair amount of abuse from film critics, and I had seen many poor reviews before going to see the latest instalment. The problem for me is that this franchise happens to be my mother’s favourite, so of course I have seen all four previous entries multiple times.

Captain Jack Sparrow is played by the returning and always humorous Johnny Depp, who is being hunted by Salazar (Javier Bardem), a ghost who is also a pirate hunter. Jack thus tracks down the trident of Poseidon with Will Turner’s son Henry (Brenton Thwaites) in order to defeat Salazar.

Javier Bardem as the man searching for revenge, Salazar!

While you may believe that every copy of this film should be put right at the deepest point of Davy Jones’ locker, an attitude which many seem to hold, I really enjoyed this film. My expectations for the action, humour and adventure were met.

The essence of the character of Jack Sparrow is humorous, as shown in his introduction in this film. We see him waking up in a bank vault with some booze and a woman. This tone is kept throughout as a clumsy pirate past his best has to try getting out of this scenario alive. His interactions with other characters in more serious moments are less well done, however, and not once does he ask about Henry’s relationship with his father in any significant depth, which the film could have benefited from.

The swashbuckling action was also there to be enjoyed, the bank robbery at the start offering an especially memorable scene. There are skeleton sharks to boot which, along with the rest of the ghost crew, certainly spook me.

The ghost crew and ship are both very well designed, with suitable creepy effects (especially the black liquid seeping from their mouths and the ghost ship seemingly eating other ships). Bardem offers a similarly eerie portrayal; however, his motives of revenge are very reasonable, especially considering he is only in his position due to having sided with the law, making him a hero in the eyes of most.

I didn’t expect the humour to be as effective as it was. I imagined it would be cheap and immature laughs aimed at the youths in the audience, but it seems to stem off of the fact that there are some really bad and pessimistic people that we’re rooting for. A highlight is Gibbs’ (Kevin McNally) dry humour, or Jack just being generally incompetent. The comedy didn’t even fall into that modern blockbuster trap of being misplaced and annulling any emotion or humour intended for the scene.

Always worthy of mention is Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa, whose tale takes unexpected twists but is still heartwarming and humorous when called to be

One might argue back that the execution scene is an example of that modern blockbuster problem; however, I think it teaches us a good lesson in tone. We have seen these characters to be completely ridiculous and Captain Jack is shown clearly to be incredibly senseless to what is going on around him. The tone is set up, however, that such a scene could happen in a film which has already seen an entire building being dragged by horseback.

You could easily accuse me of trying to get onto a Blu-ray cover with such an anomalous star rating again, but in all honesty I enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I would, even stopping to think: “why aren’t people enjoying this?” The dry wit in the writing and the over-the-top action pieces made me appreciate this much more than most recent blockbusters. And, although my mother and I are prone to diverge on our taste in films, on this occasion I was happy to agree with her that it was a success.

★★★★☆