Written By Bryan Kluger:
(This film review portion was written by Dan Moran.)
The fifth installment of Disney’s nearly $4 billion dollar franchise is a Pirates movie through and through. It is about 20 minutes too long, has a needlessly complex plot, fantastic action set pieces, and way too many characters. I found it to be a real roller coaster viewing experience, where some points I was loving every single second of what was on screen and others I wanted to check my phone to see how much longer was left. There were no scenes in this entire movie that I was just ‘Ok’ with. I was either loving it or tolerating it. When it was all over I was pleased with the ending and, more importantly, that it ended.
The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie is a summer blockbuster classic. I stand by that. It is way better than it has any right to be and Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow was such a fantastic character the first time you saw him. However, that is the issue with these movies, they started off great but the movies get progressively worse. The second entry Dead Man’s Chest is a pretty decent follow up to the original but The World’s End is an utter mess. I honestly remembered very little about On Stranger Tides so I went back to watch it this weekend and found it to be stale and frankly, boring.
Dead Men Tell No Tales picks up several years after the events of the original trilogy that featured Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. We know this because we are treated to some flashbacks early on to establish that Will Turner (Bloom) is still cursed to live aboard the Flying Dutchman after having his heart cut out at the end of World’s End. The setup of this movie is, like I said, needlessly complex.
Let me break it down:
- Will’s son, Henry, played by Brenton Thwaites who is actually quite good in this role has made it his life’s mission to break his father’s curse by learning of every myth of the sea. He knows he needs to find Jack Sparrow to do so. Why? Because Johnny Depp is signed on for this film.
- On a nearby island, Kaya Scodelario plays Carina, a young woman who is accused of being a witch because she can read and is an astrologist. Carina has a book that was left by her father and it is her mission to use that book to read a map and discover an ancient myth that can break all the curses of the sea.
- Meanwhile Jack Sparrow and his lovable gang of misfits have been getting by stealing from banks despite being the only pirates without a boat that actually floats.
- Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbosa is the wealthiest pirate in the World and runs the entire sea from some sort of gaudy pirate ship floating headquarters.
- Henry is aboard a British ship hunting pirates when they follow said pirates into the Devil’s triangle. The Devil’s Triangle is where Captain Salazar’s ship of Ghosts is trapped and Salazar kills everyone on board EXCEPT Henry so that Henry can tell the tale of the attack.
- Salazar also asks Henry to deliver a threat to Sparrow if he ever finds him. Apparently, the only way for Salazar and his ghost pirates to escape Devil’s Triangle is for Jack Sparrow to abandon the magical compass that he’s had since the first movie.
- Conveniently, Jack Sparrow runs out of gold and trades the compass for a bottle of rum. Salazar then escapes the Devil’s Triangle and begins killing all ships on the sea as he hunts Sparrow.
*GUYS! THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FIRST 25 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE*
Like I said, needlessly complex. We get team ups, bargains, deals, escapes, twists, turns, reveals, etc. for the next 90 minutes as all the characters mentioned above and several new ones all compete to find Jack Sparrow and find the Trident of Poseidon to take control of the sea.
During the adventure there are some downright great comedic action sequences. There is an escape gag involving a guillotine that is so inspired and perfect that I want to shake the hand of whoever came up with it. A pirate’s version of the safe heist from Fast Five doesn’t disappoint either. The special effects for Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar and his crew are top notch and hover on the border of disgusting for a PG-13 movie. A scene with ghost sharks is something I never knew I needed until I watched it and the finale was executed really well because by then we were down to two teams to follow instead of 5.
The newcomers to the series really did a good job. I feared they would just be facsimiles of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom and as plot devices they were BUT they were fresh characters with enough differences to justify their addition to the tale. Javier Bardem was extremely creepy and by far the most menacing villain of the series and I wish we spent a little more time with him. As for the old regulars, Geoffrey Rush was great as usual and I really enjoyed Depp in this one. I have been off the Depp train because I’m kind of sick of his shtick and even though he goes back to this character again, it is still a joy to watch him do some of the physical comedy and great line delivery this character demands.
Pirates is a cash cow for Disney and I expect to see one of these every 2-3 years for quite a while. I don’t want to say I didn’t enjoy this movie because there were parts that I truly loved but I will probably never see it again unless one of my kids gets into a pirate phase in a few years. There is a point where the complexity and plot gymnastics to get all these characters together feels like a chore and my breakdown above doesn’t even encompass everything it took to get the story moving! But when Pirates succeeds with action and storytelling it truly soars to incredible heights and is such an entertaining joy to watch. In this pirates movie the peaks are the highest of highs and the lows border Davey Jones’ Locker.
The Video: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales‘ has a 2160p 4K/HDR transfer, but was finished at 2K, meaning this was up-converted to 4K and is in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Is this upgrade worthy from the standard Blu-ray version? Yes it is. Detail is more vivid and the colors are more vibrant with this 4K UHD version for sure, but it isn’t apples and oranges, but rather slight changes. Overall detail is is sharp and very vivid in each scene. In the darkness at sea or the beautiful blue skies during the day, the detail is fantastic. Even the heavy CGI sequences, which riddles most of the film, but looks incredible without any softness to detect.
The tentacles, long scraggly hairs, pores, water droplets, and all of the makeup effects look excellent. All of the stubble and five o’clock shadows also reveal every imperfection on the actor’s faces. In wider shots, all of the rotted wood on the big boats and grime on the characters, as well as that zombie shark with all of its bones and guts look fantastic. The wardrobe also looks amazing with all of the textures popping off screen. Colors are bright, vibrant, and bold at all times. That HDR is just next level with better greens, blues, and different shades of browns all over the place.
The big fire explosions really brings out the oranges and reds nicely. The ocean blues look magnificent too. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are mostly natural on living humans, but can look a bit warm on other chracters, due to the CGI and heavy makeup. There are no big problems with any banding, aliasing, or video noise, leaving this video presentation with great marks.
The Audio: This release comes with an amazing Dolby Atmos mix. Sound effects rip through the speaker system with force that is sure to rattle your walls and bones. Each blast and explosion is dynamic and packs a good low end with heft. The debris from all of the exploding materials can be heard flying through the air with great directionality. This is where the height speakers come into play with debris flying over head, water falling from the sky, and other character screaming and talking all over the soundscape.
It’s quite immersive and impressive to say the least. Ambient noises also sound crisp and clear too from the surrounds and never back down. The score always adds to the entertainment value here and the dialogue is always cleanly presented and is mostly easy to follow with all of the gibberish and accents going on. The softest dialogue in the film comes thru nicely as well as big loud screams with the appropriate reverbs and echoes. It’s just a delight.
Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Making of a New Adventure (HD, 47 Mins.) – This is a 7-part featurette that covers most aspects of the making of the movie. There are cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage that focus on the visual effects, certain character traits, coming back for another film, and some of the new actors joining the franchise, including Paul McCartney.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 3 Mins.) – A few short scenes that were left on the cutting room floor, which are worth watching, but was best left out of the final version of the film.
Bloopers of the Caribbean (HD, 3 Mins.) – A short montage of flubbed lines, laughter, dancing, missed cues, and more.
Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary (HD, 2 Mins.) – A montage of photos that Jerry took on set.
THE ULTIMATE WORD
‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales‘ is a visual feast. There is so much going on that it’s difficult to fixate on one thing, let along a ridiculous plot. Make no doubt about it, this film is dumb, but it’s dumb fun with popcorn and all the butter topped on. There is some fan service with cameos too. The video and audio presentations are both great and the extras are worth the watch if you like the films. It’s a solid release.