Sound Off! Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, brush up on your pirate speech and discuss Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which premiered in the United States on Friday, May 26, 2017.

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join Casey and Nicole as they talk about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales! [Note: aye, thar be spoilers ahead, matey!]

Casey: You must first understand that the three original Pirates of the Caribbean films were hugely important to me. A tiny Jack Sparrow plush guarded my desk in college. I watched The Curse of the Black Pearl countless times, sometimes merely as background noise while I studied. Will and Elizabeth’s wedding in At World’s End remains one of my favorite scenes in all of filmdom.

Then came On Stranger Tides, whose existence I have spent roughly six years denying, because it was just that bad. (I’ve done a good job; I can scarcely remember it.) I was prepared to completely ignore Dead Men Tell No Tales because of my disappointment from the previous installment. Then I discovered that Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom were going to be reprising their roles, so I decided, begrudgingly, to give this newest film a chance.

I wish now that I hadn’t bothered. It wasn’t the worst thing that I’ve ever seen, but I’m somewhat dismayed that I paid full price to see what felt like a remix of the first film. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few good moments. Pirates of the Caribbean has always delivered fascinating villains, and Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar is a worthy addition to that family. Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa is never disappointing (and will be sadly missed). The bank robbery sequence was entertaining and gave a good taste of the franchise’s irreverent action scenes.

Otherwise, I was deeply underwhelmed. Jack Sparrow has become a sort of parody of himself. Paul McCartney’s cameo as Uncle Jack felt like a pointless attempt to recreate Keith Richards’ delightful turn as Captain Teague. The movie was forgettable. It’s only been a few hours since I saw it, and I’m having trouble coming up with something to say about it.  This in and of itself speaks volumes.

Nicole: One of the reasons I suddenly needed to see the newest Pirates movie is because I discovered that Geoff Zanelli was handling the score. Zanelli only has two others to his name, and being a soundtrack junkie, I really wanted to know how the music would work out (although I largely suspected Zimmer would still be involved somehow). But let’s talk about the movie first.

The fifth movie is at once equal parts fun to watch and confusing, and it hits ludicrous speed a few times. The first being that apparently ten or so horses have the ability to pull an entire building through town, but at this point you think, “Well, it’s a Pirates movie,” so you don’t even suspend your disbelief so much as shake your head in disappointed amusement as you would at a dog that’s been naughty with a roll of toilet paper.

It’s enjoyable because it brings back a lot of favorite characters. Not just Jack and Barbossa, but some of the originals that even I didn’t expect to see. It’s got a ghostly Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar who you initially think is a pirate of some kind, but are told of his intriguing back story later. It’s got some classic Pirates antics that we’ve all come to love and expect. There’s Henry Turner (soak in that name for a moment) whose motivation I had no idea would be part of the story and thrilled me greatly. And there’s Carina Smith who has surprising lineage, though I was terribly disappointed that didn’t get explored because I do so love father-daughter stories of that sort.

The movie is confusing in that you’re not sure why Henry should even be after the Trident. This is because we all thought the curse he seeks to break was resolved in the third movie. Heck, we were even told why that curse existed, so it makes no real sense that it’s back. But hey, I like happy endings, so I’m glad the writers did this for us. The other issue is the number of characters thrust upon us that felt as though they were supposed to have some bearing. David Wenham’s Scarfield is a secondary antagonist that’s like a random mix of Norrington (destroy all pirates!) and Beckett (East India Trading Company shall rule the ocean!). There’s the witch that Barbossa seems to know quite well and somehow is being guarded/kept by Scarfield. Essentially there just appear to be a great number of instances and characters that skew more toward being a plot device than anything truly necessary. Oh, and you’d better stay until after the credits. I don’t know what that scene means, as it, too, makes no sense.

But overall it’s fairly easy to sweep all that under the rug (or into the ocean, I might say) and just indulge. I suspect, now knowing what I know, that a second viewing would be almost more enjoyable than the first since the weird surprises no longer exist.

And as for the soundtrack? I will indeed be purchasing it.


  • Shara White May 30, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    I’ve heard such mixed things on this one. We were going to see it but got a case of the lazys this weekend, so who knows. Likely will catch it on iTunes, because we do WANT to see it, but I admit I didn’t have much interest until I saw that Orlando Bloom was reprising his role.

  • dmichaelmay May 30, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    I loved it, but I’m the person who also loves At World’s End, so take that into consideration. For me, the Pirates movies are all about Elizabeth and Will. Jack Sparrow is flavoring. He shouldn’t be the main character, which is the problem I have with On Stranger Tides. So it’s perfect that Dead Men takes the story back to Elizabeth and Will through their son. I cried real tears at the end.

    There is silliness and unanswered questions, but I’m all for those things in this series. And Carina’s being pretty awesome is an added bonus. I was ready to pronounce the series dead after Stranger Tides, but now I’m eager for more.

    • Nicole Taft May 31, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      I liked World’s End, too. And I think you’re very right about Jack being the central character, because once this was over I thought, “Yeah, but they make it seem like there might be another one, and we’re done with Will and Elizabeth’s story so…who’s going to be the focal point?” Because it wasn’t until that movie that I realized Jack doesn’t exactly make for an ideal main character. Which seems kind of weird, when you think about it.

      • Shara White May 31, 2017 at 8:04 pm

        I haven’t seen the latest, but some characters are simply best when they’re in a supporting role. They’re more fun that way, and it seems Jack Sparrow is one of those characters.


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