Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

All credit should go to Disney Studios for managing to develop film franchises that find their source material within their own theme parks. For generations, people have been riding the boats on the Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland and Disney World. When the idea to take this concept into a feature length film in 2003 came up, the marketing team could not have imagined that it would be more than a franchise, but turn into a cinematic phenomenon. Much of the credit of this sensation goes to the creative and bizarre combination of director Gore Verbinski and the creation of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. As the fifth instalment enters cinemas, can it retain the magic of the original adventure on the high seas?

This seafaring journey begins with the introduction of Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) who is working to free his father, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) from the curse of the Flying Dutchman. His answer to breaking the curse is in the hands of the perpetually drunk and illusive Jack Sparrow and in a book held by the beautiful damsel, Carina Smythe (Kaya Scodelario). In his quest to find the infamous pirate captain, Henry comes to realise that he has to get in the queue behind others who want to exact their revenge on Sparrow or at minimum to bring him to justice. The young Turner must help the dreadlocked pirate to elude Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the British Royal Navy while attempting to find the legendary Posiden’s Trident, which may have the power to bring an end to all the curses of the seas.

Each instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise attempts to capitalise on the formula from the original enigmatic chapter. Combining oceanic adventures with the morally ambiguous life of the pirates, the supernatural world of curses, fantastic special effects and the humorous stylings of Johnny Depp. This has proven to be a magical combination, but with each outing onto the world’s oceans the enchantment has lost its lustre.

The house of mouse proves that with the right combination of financial backing, a tired franchise can still attract exceptional acting talent. Relatively unknown directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have been given the talent pool from the previous films with the addition of Academy Award winner Javier Bardem to attempt to breathe life into the anaemic script. Even though Depp is surrounded by a stellar cast, he seems to suffer from sheer boredom with the role and struggles to deliver the cutting edge performance that made audiences fall in love with Captain Jack. This was exacerbated by the attempt to use great special effects and beautiful locations to cover for poorly written dialogue. The acting performances suffer from the words that were expected to be delivered and it can be seen in the eyes of of the actors. When the writing has to resort to testicle jokes for laughs, there is an awareness that this franchise has run its course.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a lesson in not knowing when to end a good thing. At the conclusion of the original trilogy, this franchise could have had a beautiful time sailing into the sunset. Instead, Disney has sucked the life out of this franchise. They have pushed audiences into a purgatory like existence, similar to the experience of the Salazar’s crew, and the hope that this film and franchise will eventually come to an end.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.

At the heart of the fifth instalment of the Pirates franchise is the importance of finding  identity in a family name and the defence of that namesake. It is not hard to see the irony in a discussion about reputation and the value of a family name during a film about pirates. Regardless of the quality of content of this cinematic journey, the value of one’s name is a timeless truth to ponder.

“Your character is the sum total of your life choices.”

What we do with our name is a choice. It is reasonable to say when you make poor choices, then your name may carry a poor reputation. The same can be said about good choices helping to develop a good name.

Throughout the Bible we can see that God cares about our character and gives us the instructions on how to maintain that reputation. In Jesus, we are not only given the example of what it looks like to have a good name, but he shows us how we can bear the good name that will last through eternity. Regardless of your past choices or your current reputation, God provides the means for all to have a ‘good name.’

Where to look for more details: Proverbs 4:23, Romans 5:12, Philippians 4:8

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.