As evidenced by their utilization of even Howard the Duck, Disney doesn’t like to let its valuable, or not so valuable, properties go to waste. In recent years especially, Disney has capitalized on the properties which they possess, turning unknown characters into blockbuster big shots (I’m looking at you, “Guardians”). They revived the “Star Wars” film franchise, which had lain dormant in the hands of George Lucas since 2005, after purchasing Lucasfilm back in 2012. With this new mindset, Disney announced the release of a fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie in early 2013. However, the film wasn’t released until May 26 of this year, just in time for summer movie season.
The fifth installment in the “Pirates” series, titled “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” sees Johnny Depp slip back into the role of Jack Sparrow, sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow, as well as the return of fan favorite Orlando Bloom to the series as Will Turner for the first time since the release of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” an astonishing ten years ago. The cast includes such young talents as Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario as well as veteran actor Javier Bardem as the film’s villain.
As always the case with Disney films, the casting is sublime. Brenton Thwaites plays Henry Turner, son of star-crossed lovers Will and Elizabeth of the original films. Thwaites’ resemblance to Bloom is uncanny, and his performance is imbued with the same charm and mannerisms of Bloom’s Will Turner. Scodelario, while decent in her role, made no real impact on me as a viewer. Her portrayal of the astronomer Carina Smyth is uninspired and forgettable. As the new female lead of the “Pirates” series, she had big petticoats to fill. Her character would undoubtedly draw comparisons to the iconic Elizabeth Swann, and it’s not easy being compared to someone as beautiful and fierce as Keira Knightley’s society girl turned pirate queen.
Depp is a once in a lifetime artist because he is a performer, rather than an actor. He brings a singularly unique energy to every role he plays, especially when playing Sparrow. Captain Sparrow is charming, hilarious and unexpectedly brilliant and no one is more suited to the role than Depp. Though the actor has played a multitude of iconic characters (Edward Scissorhands, the Mad Hatter, Sweeney Todd, and Willy Wonka, to name a few), the bumbling pirate with a habit of getting into trouble is his career-defining role. Playing Jack Sparrow is like riding a bike for him, as he is able to fall right back into the role without missing a beat, no matter how many years pass by.
The film traces the story of young Henry Turner’s lifelong journey to break his heroic father’s curse, Carina Smyth’s dream of reading an unreadable map, and Jack’s exploits as a down on his luck pirate with a no-good crew and a no-good ship. The characters somewhat reluctantly join forces to finish their quests and find peace in their personal lives. While the protagonists go about their adventure, a spirit called Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) hunts for Jack Sparrow, seeking revenge. In one of the movie’s best moments, a flashback which tells Salazar’s backstory also allows audiences to see how Jack became the pirate he is today.
What’s really fascinating is how Jack’s situation in “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is reflective of Depp’s own personal situation. Recently, just like Jack, Depp has been in a bit of a rut, making a few poor creative choices and facing turmoil in his family life. Both the pirate and the actor have had a rough go of it as of late, however, thanks to the events and the success of “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” it’s smooth sailing for the two for now.
The pacing is appropriately lightning-quick, making every second more exciting than the last. The jokes are hysterical, and Depp’s comedic timing is amazing as ever. The film’s tone is consistently light, never taking itself too seriously, a defining quality of the series as a whole. “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is everything that makes “Pirates” so wonderful. It’s an enchanting blend of Disney magic, fantastical mythology, and characters you can’t help but love. It’s a perfect movie for the summer season, and a wonderful addition to the series.