Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Men Tell No Tales

 

                This series continues to thrive at the box office, despite the tricky balance of being pirates while parodying pirates.  It’s all kind of tongue-in-cheek fun, and Johnny Depp, as Jack Sparrow, has created a now-iconic character by somehow convincing us that his legendary reputation is almost entirely accidental, as if he just happened to stumble on to the set.  Ah, but he makes for such a stylish slacker.

                The plot is almost nonsensical.  Something about a quest for Neptune’s trident, which, if found, would have the power to remove some long-standing curses, including the one where dead pirates are caught in some kind of Bermuda Triangle Limbo, devouring hapless opponents because they are invincible, but really, what are they going to do with captured treasure, anyway?  Now throw in a little boy searching for his father and an orphan girl happening on hers, and a botched bank robbery turned slapstick, and a comical rescue from a guillotine, and a compass that points to the holder's true desire, and you’ve got quite a hodge-podge for a narrative.

                The great strength is the secondary casting, particularly Javier Bardem and Geoffrey Rush, who have enough star power to command the lead roles themselves, and bring enough gravitas to the screen to prevent the whole production from floating away into silliness.  Throw in a little flirtatious romance, and some uptight British sea captains, and a treasure map nobody can read, and walking the plank, and arrrgh, you’ve got some standard pirate elements, not to mention the great CGI spectacle of the ghost ship rising out of the sea.

                This “Pirates” episode hasn’t forgotten its self-deprecating sense of humor.  Though the 3-D effects enhance the visuals, unfortunately the sound is muddy, hampering a clear hearing of the dialogue.  Some of the witticisms get lost somewhere in the swashbuckling.  And the bumbling British seamen seem like tiresome plastic villains, maybe even to themselves.

                Though “Pirates” is highly stylish and stylized, there’s not much substance here.  Don’t try to figure everything out, just enjoy the fantasy ride on the magical, mystical seas.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  What’s your favorite pirate story?

2)                  Why do we romanticize pirates in the first place?

3)                  What’s the most unlikely romance you have witnessed?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association