Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Full Review)

Few summer blockbusters have ever been as much fun as Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The movie had thrills, humor, and charming characters. But the more movies they attempted to squeeze out of Johnny Depp’s iconic Jack Sparrow, the more the franchise began to lose its luster. Dead Man’s Chest was good, not great. At World’s End was far too long and overstuffed to truly enjoy. And… and… there was a fourth one, right? Something about Blackbeard? Anywho… this newest installment hopes to bring the Disney magic back to the eerie waters of the Pirates franchise.

Pirates_of_the_Caribbean,_Dead_Men_Tell_No_TalesThe aptly named Dead Men Tell No Tales once again finds an undead sea captain searching for the bumbling, alcoholic, but keenly clever scoundrel known as Jack Sparrow. This time, said sea captain is Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spaniard who once hunted pirates but was tricked into defeat by a young Jack. To escape Salazar, Jack must team with a female astronomer (Kaya Scodelario) and Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Jack’s old ally Will (Orlando Bloom returning in a cameo role), to find a legendary trident that will grant them power over the sea.  Meanwhile, Jack’s old rival Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) seeks to save himself from Salazar and his henchmen of zombies who can’t step on land by helping in the hunt for Jack Sparrow.

Like most Pirates movies (even the good ones), the plot can get a bit caught up in itself as it lumbers on for over two hours. There are some characters, like a British Naval Captain (David Wenham), that take up too much screen time despite being both generic and unnecessary. The plot itself also carries its fair share of conveniences. But what is Pirates of the Caribbean if not an unbelievable tale hidden beneath massive set pieces and well crafted costumes?

For the most part, Dead Men Tell No Tales manages to recapture the swashbuckling fun that made the franchise so popular. Yes, the plot often seems filled with holes so big that previous films can even get sucked into them, but that doesn’t take away from the fun at all. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush effectively step back into their roles as if they never left. Newcomers Thwaites and Scodelario provide wholesome focal points as a boy fighting to reunite with his father and a woman trying to forge her own path in a world where a woman is deemed a witch if she reads a book. Javier Bardem even manages to succeed in being a wholly threatening adversary even though he’s essentially no different from the villains in the other Pirates films.

The movie is filled with some scenes so over the top or cheesy that your eyes might fall out of your head. But those moments are eclipsed by all of the genuine laughs and charm brought to the story. With stunning CGI effects and likable new characters, this entry feels much more like what audiences fell in love with. By reconnecting with the original trilogy (something the fourth film almost completely failed to do), this new Pirates manages to give us an adventure both nostalgic and compelling.

FINAL GRADE: B

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies (Full Review)

The_Hobbit_-_The_Battle_of_the_Five_ArmiesIt was a long (emphasis on long) journey through middle earth, but the finale of Peter Jackson’s prequel trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novel finally came. The first installment saw the titular Hobbit (Martin Freeman) leaving his peaceful home to journey with dwarves to reclaim their kingdom from the evil dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). It was a little slow paced, but it was satisfying to any fantasy film fan. Last year’s part two was perhaps the most satisfying, with the dwarves enlisting the help of Soldiers Elves (Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lily) to fend off evil creatures and finally confront the dragon.

But while Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug managed to live up to the hype. In many ways, The Battle of Five Armies does not. The film is certainly filled with invigorating action sequences as its title suggests, but lost is the sense of adventure or even the sense of story created by the other two. The trilogy spends two movies building up a central plot then rids itself of it in the first five minutes of this final installment. And other elements that aren’t in the novel, like the forbidden romance between Evangeline Lily’s Tauriel and one of the dwarves, is shoved in our faces throughout as if it’s been built up for more than twenty minutes in the previous film.

There are huge fans of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies, and there are those who have no interest in them at all. I’d like to think of myself as somewhere in between. I don’t know what purists will think about this last hurrah, but the casual fan will find it enjoyable enough. As far as visuals go, the film is certainly no let down, it just would’ve been nice if the end felt like a satisfying end to an overall ark. Perhaps instead of stretching Tolkien’s shortest novel into a trilogy, they should’ve given us two great films instead of three decent ones.

FINAL GRADE: B-