‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Gives The Series A Confusing Revival

The title of the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie (fifth!) is Dead Man Tell No Tales – which certainly sounds ominous, but maybe will wind up being a good thing because eventually, after enough time, no one will be able to tell tales about seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales.

Look, these movies make a lot of money. But do people truly love them? I think this is one of the great mysteries of life that will never be solved. Because people certainly spend a lot of money on these, but I’ve never heard someone say, “I am a Pirates of the Caribbean fanatic.” The Transformers movies even make more sense to me, because those aren’t really good either (well, like Pirates the first one is fine), but at least those are unabashed spectacles: Sometimes people just want to watch robots blowing stuff up. But these Pirates movies are the Jay Leno of movie franchises: No one seems to like them that much (except Michael Bolton) but it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

That said, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales is practically incoherent. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the “plot,” but it’s been futile. I’ve asked literally eight other people who saw this movie to answer a couple specific questions and no one has been able to do it. (I’m considering offering a bounty for the answer because I’m starting to become obsessed with it.)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales opens with a young Henry Turner (played for most of the film as an adult by Brenton Thwaites) who is trying to break the curse that was placed upon his father, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, who is in this movie for maybe five minutes). To do this, Henry needs a magical trident. Now, this is where things get convoluted:

Henry is told in order to find the trident, he needs to find Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, whose performance becomes more and more like Dudley Moore’s Arthur Bach in every movie) because Jack has a magical compass. (Also, if you’ve been waiting for that Jack Sparrow origin story using CGI to make Depp look young again, you are in luck.)

I’ll be honest, I’m getting a headache trying to write this next part because it’s so confusing.

Along the way Henry meets Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who also wants to find the trident for reasons we don’t learn until later. (And when I mean “later” I mean “I guess after the movie ends” because I don’t think this is ever fully explained.) Also, a ghost ship led by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) also wants the trident because they, too, are cursed and the trident will break that curse. (One aspect of the curse is they are not allowed to be on land, which is fortunate for them because this movie will be playing in theaters mostly on land.)

What really makes this confusing is Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa. Okay, so he wants to find Jack Sparrow so he can get the Black Pearl (a ship Jack Sparrow keeps in his possession in a bottle). What makes literally no sense (and I’ve asked) is Barbossa seeks out the murderous Salazar for a team up (at least it certainly seems like that’s what the plan here is) – even though Salazar has nothing Barbossa needs and immediately kills most of Barbossa’s crew. Barbossa has his own ship, he has the compass (long story), and knows how to find Jack Sparrow. But for some reason he wants to team up with Salazar?

I officially have a headache now so I’m going to stop trying to figure this out. But suffice it to say that there are a lot of characters in this movie and a lot of them serve no purpose. Jack Sparrow really isn’t needed even though everyone is looking for him. The movie tells us Sparrow is important but it’s all smoke and mirrors – Jack Sparrow could just not be in this movie and it would be about the same.

(There is one positive note: There is a sight gag involving a guillotine, of all things, that’s actually really clever.)

These Pirates movies will probably go on forever. When the last star in this universe finally implodes, a Pirates sequel will probably be playing somewhere. And it will probably somehow still make a billion dollars even though life was extinguished eons before.

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