Thoughts on the Pirates Franchise and Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

Who would have ever thought when they installed an animatronic ride at Disneyland about pirates in 1967 that 50 years later we’d be getting our 5th movie about said pirates but yet here we are. Such is blockbuster moviemaking today. So, this week I had the opportunity to watch the entire Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and I will share with you my thoughts as well as a review of the new film Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Curse of the Black Pearl- 

In this first entry we are introduced to Captain Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp in an Oscar nominated role (a lot of people forget that). However, he is just a supporting player to Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) story. This is about 45 minutes too long but it still holds up as a rousing old-school adventure movie like you might have gotten with Errol Flynn back in the day. Gore Verbinski knows how to stage spectacle entertainment and this is.

Overall Grade- B+

Dead Man’s Chest-

I watched this back in 2006 and did not like it at all. I particularly didn’t like the addition of Davy Jones who I coined ‘the booger pirate’. However, on the rewatch it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It has the spectacle that Gore Verbinski does well and when looked at as part of a trilogy the unending subplots become a little more tolerable. Maybe I am just stupid because I still found it incredibly confusing. If they just took a second to explain Davy Jones Locker or the curse of the Dutchman instead of making us learn it as we go it would be less frustrating. Instead you are trying to understand all this lore while trying to follow a massive cast all with differing motivations. Because you have that experience for nearly 3 hours it is less fun than it otherwise would be. It’s weird but a messy film can be just as boring as one where nothing happens and that is the case here. The music is the best of the franchise in this film.

Overall Grade- C-

At World’s End-

This was my first time watching this and Stranger Tides this week and I found it an improvement over Dead Man’s Chest but just barely. It still has the same problems of a myriad of characters but this time it is all part of a Pirates Council with members from all over the world to keep track of! Also we have Davy Jones Locker realized with about an hour of scenes where I was completely lost as to what was happening and why it mattered. I also have no idea the rules or what the heck is going on with the heart in the chest and when it is and isn’t destroyed. That said, it is the prettiest of the franchise with some amazing visuals, so if you can stop caring about what the heck is happening it is cool to look at. There are also some fun scenes like when Will and Elizabeth finally get married in the midst of a battle.

Overall Grade- C+

On Stranger Tides-

This directed by Rob Marshall and he knows how to stage choreographed action sequences. In many ways this felt like an Indiana Jones film more than a pirates movie. Elizabeth and Will are gone and so Jack has now become the lead character. He starts off on a quest to find the fountain of youth. Along the way he is joined by a lot of characters (it’s a pirates movie after all) but standouts are Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and Angelica (Penelope Cruz). I liked these 3 actors and it was a simpler story than the previous 2 entries. However, there’s just not enough meat on the bones for a 137 minute movie. Some of the humor feels forced and I was starting to get a little annoyed by Jack as a lead rather than a supporting player. Also a subplot involving a priest and some vampire mermaids is particularly laborious.

Overall Grade- C

Dead Men Tell No Tales-

So now we come to the latest entry. The reviews for this movie are super low and I have to say it’s not that bad. It’s basically exactly what you have come to expect from this franchise. If you like the previous entries go, you will like it. If you don’t then you’ll probably be bored and find it annoying. At least this film has some fun action set pieces in the first act. There is a scene with a guillotine that was particularly well staged. These sequences brought back some of the fun of the first film which was nice to see.

The action scenes of 2 and 3 had been so meshed together with the many plot points it was harder to enjoy them. These stand alone a little better.  We get to meet Will Turner (seen briefly) son (Brenton Thwaites) and an Elizabeth Swan copy-cat named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). They are finel. Javiar Bardem plays the captain of another band of cursed pirates and he is fine. The last 45 minutes begin to drag as they search for  the Trident of Poseidon. I also felt Johnny Depp played Jack this time as too drunk. He’s always been drunk but self-aware and here he was just an imbecile.

Pirates 5 is one of those movies if you want to go to a Hollywood blockbuster and see some fun action and be moderately entertained you will be. It’s not something you will remember unless you are a hardcore fan of the series but if you are sick of your kids this Memorial Day weekend you could do worse. (Also don’t go to this movie to see Will and Elizabeth. You will be very disappointed).

Overall Grade- C+

So my ranking of the Pirates movies is

  1. Curse of Black Pearl
  2. At World’s End
  3. Dead Men Tell No Tales
  4. On Stranger Tides
  5. Dead Man’s Chest

What do you think of the Pirates franchise? Are they favorites of yours? If you see Dead Men Tell No Tales let me know what you thought?

For the record the only one I could really give a solid smile worthy is the first film