Review – Jack’s Back! (“Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales”)

It looks like the newest trend in Hollywood is recycling original movies and repackaging them as new. Witness The Force Awakens and the recent Alien: Covenant, both films with the same original plot, but retooled and retold for another generation. Well, it looks like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has done just that.

Remember Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly) from Pirates #3? Well, you better go back and watch it again, because this movie picks up ten years later when their young son, Henry (Lewis McGowan) vows to end the curse that trapped his dad aboard the Flying Dutchman. But the mythical and lost Poseidon’s Trident can save him and, consequently, break all curses. And, of course, only Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) figures in finding the fabled fork.

We fast-forward eight years and adult Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is still searching for Sparrow, but instead finds the super-nasty and soul-trapped Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), a vicious ghostly-like man that, along with his damned crew, were tricked by a very young Sparrow into their present state. Only the pocket compass that Jack carries can free them from their personal Hell and, wouldn’tcha know it, that sorta thing happens the very next day! Yes, Jack and his motley crew are at it again, pillaging a town (in a riotous Buster Keaton-style “steal a safe” chase) and meeting up with a sassy young astronomer named Carina Smith (Kaya Scodelario).

Carina, who is being hunted for being a witch (“I’m not a witch! It’s science!”) holds the key to locating the Trident with the Map No Man Can Read (“Lucky for me I’m not a man”). Henry rescues Jack and Carina, but just as things are smooth sailing, Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) enters the picture with hopes of saving his pirate fleet from Salazar’s high-seas decimation. Promising Jack as a carrot dangling in front of Salazar’s black-drooling lips, the hunt is on and the double-crosses begin. Jack and crew get their beloved Black Pearl ship back (remember it being shrunk in a bottle?), the British Navy enters the fray, and Salazar is getting closer every moment.

Following a huge night battle at sea (worst part of the movie), Carina takes over the Black Pearl and locates the whereabouts of the Trident, but will it be too late? Will Salazar finally get his revenge on Jack? Will Henry break the curse on his father and have him reunite with his beloved Elizabeth? Will Carina learn who her real father is? And is that really ex-Beatle Paul McCartney as Jack’s uncle??

A hit ‘r’ miss screenwriter, Jeff Nathanson (Rush Hour 3, Indiana Jones/Crystal Skull, Catch Me If You Can) has done good and, apart from some unnecessary padding here and there, has taken the POTC origin story and spun it into a fast-paced, fresh-looking movie that rivals the original one with all the key elements of fun, adventure, a ghost-story, romance, Jack’s hijinks, and some past faces to remember. Sure, one could argue the title should be: POTC: Fantastic Coincidences and Where To Find Them, but the film moves at such a quick-clip that you hardly notice. The other factor are the two directors, Joaquim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. A tag-team that only did two other films you never heard of, Bandidas and Kon-Tiki. Hardly résumé material to jump-start one of THE most lucrative film franchise out there, but apparently Disney thought so.

It shows on the screen that the Ronning/Sandberg duo has style and quite a bit of flair. The village chase scene and the execution rescue are just an example of their well shot controlled mayhem. The only major hiccup is the deplorable night sea battle in the second act. Shot with loads of CGI effects and fighting, nothing can be seen or even  appreciated due to the extreme low-light. Did no one even see this in post? C’mon, people! You’re spending major $$$ on SPFX, at least show the audience!

Kudos for the actors here: Depp does not fail as Sparrow and just relishes his part; like slipping into a comfortable pair of shoes. Same for Rush as Barbossa and Kevin McNally as Mr. Gibbs. High praise for Thwaites and Scodelario; they really inhabit their respective roles and have alot of fun with them. And finally Bardem who plays Salazar as a creepy, frightening, unpredictable villain that you can be afraid of (unlike that silly Blackbeard nonsense from #4). Best of all, this is a stand-alone film that doesn’t promise a part six… although a post-credit tag does suggest one.         

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
The one that started it all. Johnny Depp, perfectly cast at the swaggering, clever, and ever-loopy pirate Captain Jack Sparrow made this his forever iconic character after this movie. With his guyliner, red bandana, and penchant for rum, he played both sides, never missing an opportunity to cheat someone out of their fame and glory.

Based on the popular Disneyland ride, screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot didn’t dumb-down this movie, like other Disneyland ride-based movies did (The Country Bears, The Haunted Mansion), Instead, they came up with a truly fun, fast-paced, and family-thrilling action packed movie that sailed past the others at the box office.

It all hinged on a golden pirate medallion coin that is hung around the neck of a little girl who sees a ghost ship one night. Years later that little girl grows up and becomes Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly), daughter of the Port Royal governor. And that golden medallion? It drops in the ocean and sends out a signal to the cursed ship, the Black Pearl, manned by a damned crew of skeletons.

With Geoffrey Rush as the cantankerous (and undead) Capt. Barbossa, the damsel-in-a-dress Elizabeth is captured, believed to be the off-spring of Will “Bootstrap” Turner. But! The real offspring is dashing Will Turner, jr (Orlando Bloom) who frees Jack from prison to save Elizabeth from the clutches of the undead. A terrific ghost-story mixed with a mysterious lost doubloon is the key behind turning the skeleton crew human again and Turner’s blood is the key.

However, that lovable scoundrel Jack parlays his way into the not-so-good graces of Barbossa to get that coin and the adventure begins. There’s action, double-crosses, delicious references to the Disneyland ride, and a shocking revelation at the end

All this with director Gore Verbinski’s terrific direction and Klaus Badelt’s & Hans Zimmer ripping musical score. Also, you gotta love the comic relief of wooden-eyed Raghetti (Mackenzie Crook) and bad-tempered Pintel (Lee Arenberg). These two are great together!

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