Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review – A Swashbuckler Tale of Adventure and Family

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review – 
A Swashbuckler Tale of Adventure and Family

14 years ago, Disney took a big risk with a genre that had ceased to be popular for many years: pirates. Their gamble paid off with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a box office hit that shocked critics, made lead actor Johnny Depp the top dog for highest paid actors, and set off a host of pirate sequels – of which Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth installment.

The newest film starts out with a young Henry Turner, son of Will and Elizabeth, seeking a mysterious Trident that can control the seas and hopefully will free his father. He’s also searching for Captain Jack Sparrow, who he believes will help him find it. Through a series of deadly events, Henry ends up stumbling onto Jack, still his habitual bumbling drunk pirate self, and a young woman, Carina, who’s searching for the Trident herself to discover the identity of her father and is the only person who can read the secret map. Meanwhile an evil immortal sea captain, Salazar, is pursuing Jack Sparrow to kill him for aiding in his cursed life. Can Jack, Carina, and Henry find the Trident before Salazar kills them all?

Amongst the many burning questions a long time Pirates fan has, the biggest would be how did this sequel hold up in the long line of Pirates films?

I went into this movie holding my expectations as I absolutely adore the original film to this day (and have watched it a ridiculous amount of times). I enjoyed the second film a lot as well (after watching it, I immediately watched it in theaters the next day) but that film was tempered by its association with the third film which failed to live up to the original’s wit and humor, scattered with a few enjoyable moments, and finally the fourth which was more of a stand-alone that had mixed reviews and feelings.

I felt that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was far from a massive disappointment as its’ successors and instead a highly enjoyable adventure romp! While I can’t compare it to the freshness of the original, I would put it close or a bit below the second film.

Also –spoilers beyond this point!!

The Cast

Much of the likability of this film is due to the new actors chosen for the main leads, Henry and Carina. Disney fans will probably remember Brenton Thwaites (Henry) as the adorable young Prince Phillip from Maleficent. Period dramas are notoriously difficult to act in, but Brenton felt completely natural in his role. I thought he was a perfect choice for the son of Will and Elizabeth, and not only in physical looks. Henry is much more of an innocent young man, like his dad in The Black Pearl, which is a nice change from the usual angsty, rebellious offspring of OTP couples, while still carrying the same adventurous spirit of his mother. His straightforward goal to free his father was a great motivator for his character.

Carina was lovely as a strong-willed, intelligent young woman. She’s driven by a similar goal as Henry is – in finding the identity of her father, though Carina has no knowledge of father beyond a journal left behind that conceals the map to the Trident. She felt like a confident character without an overbearing quality and I loved her banter with everyone, especially the pirates.

Quite a few original cast members showed up in the film including favorites like Mr. Gibbs and Captain Barbossa. They performed excellently as usual bringing the familiarity of the original film to the latest installment.

The most anticipated character of the film was rightfully Jack Sparrow! Who doesn’t adore Jack?? There were a lot of great moments with our crazy pirate in Dead Men including some hilarious scenes that had me chuckling – like the double execution of him and Carina. Still some of Jack’s moments felt hit or miss. I don’t think Jack is quite as close to his fabulous self in The Black Pearl. Exactly what Jack’s goal is in this movie isn’t really touched upon other than him trying to evade death from Salazar. Just in watching The Black Pearl trailer you can see how alert and alive Jack Sparrow is – ready to take on the world and get his ship back. Unfortunately, in Dead Men, Jack often feels like he’s merely sleepwalking and inaudibly mumbling every line. Of course, he’s really difficult to understand in the first film (I would even watch it with subtitles, lol) but the quality here just feels a bit of a step down.

There were still fun Jack moments including my favorite scene where Jack and Henry try to escape the evil monster sharks and Jack protects Henry. Seeing Jack’s kind spirit shine through his ambivalent nature is always so much fun. I also loved the backstory on him and Salazar – with Jack coming into his identity after being the hero that we all love and know he is.

Javier Bardem was good as the rage-bent Captain Salazar, though I felt the villain story line overall was mostly ordinary and on par with Davy Janes, in comparison to Captain Barbossa who was wonderfully hilarious and evil all rolled up in one.

Finally, Will and Elizabeth both cameo in the films. Their roles were much shorter than I anticipated (though I suspected Elizabeth’s would be brief) but I loved seeing them onscreen again! I mean almost 15 years later, and they look and feel just as wonderful as they did in the original!

What I Really Liked About Dead Men

Dead Men Tell No Tales brought the expected humor of a Pirates film with crazy shenanigans – like Jack and his pirates stealing that gold or Carina and Jack yelling at each other before their public executions.

Carina and Henry were adorable together and felt like a great match with their bickering (which was probably their way of flirting) and much rarer actually flirting. The romance felt in vein with Will and Elizabeth’s but not a carbon copy which I was happy about.

The movie was gorgeous as ever with fabulous white beaches, shimmering oceans, stunning 18th century costumes and rousing musical scores. The fight scenes were fun and energetic, though none were quite as memorable as Will and Jack’s sword fight in the first film, or the three-way fight in the second film.

What I Would’ve Liked to See More Of

The climactic battle felt exciting with a final fight for the Trident itself, giving us a conclusive ending, but I couldn’t help wishing they had written Will Turner into the final quarter of the movie (or even earlier). Other than the short scene at the beginning between father and son (which nicely mirrored The Black Pearl’s opening with the leads as children), I wanted to see more between them! I mean I was there for the Turner family reunion! There was so much potential with Henry’s immortal daddy getting caught up in the battle with Salazar, not to mention the chemistry between father and son that felt so emotional and compelling.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Dead Men Tell No Tales was what a pirate movie should be – full of adventure, humorous hijinks, epic sea battles and captivating characters. It gave us a sweet new OTP and reunited an old favorite OTP to the joy of shippers – like myself. It was a wonderful conclusion to the story-arc spawned back in 2003 with a happy and tightly ended story.

What did you think of the latest Pirates installment? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Wasn't planning to go and see this (haven't really enjoyed a 'Pirates 'since the first one, which I loved... and I guess the second one was okay) but I might now! Sounds like they're trying to recapture the magic a bit :)

    1. Yeah, the first one was perfection. But I did think they were trying to hearken back to the old magic in the first. Hope you enjoy the film if you check it out! :D


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