PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

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Image: Disney
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth entry in the swashbuckling film series, and like its four predecessors, it’s packed lớn the gills with pirates, sea monsters, action, adventure, Johnny Depp doing whatever it is Johnny Depp does, & an egregious disregard for the laws of physics.

The film is billed as the “final adventure” of Captain Jack Sparrow, though co-director Joachim Rønning called it the “beginning of the finale,” và said there might be 10 sequels for all he knows. But even though it is theoretically part of one long, ongoing story, Dead Men Tell No Tales is puzzlingly, irritatingly ignorant of much of the continuity of the series.

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‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ is puzzlingly, irritatingly ignorant of much of the continuity of the series

This may seem like the nitpicking of a fan hâm mộ who spent what, in retrospect, may have been too much time watching the first few Pirates movies in middle school. But the complete disregard for the series’s existing canon feels significant. If the whole point of a franchise (at least from a non-monetary perspective) is lớn give filmmakers room to tell overarching stories and develop characters & plots over time, the Pirates of the Caribbean films have utterly failed. Basic elements of the universe, like Jack’s compass or the black Pearl, show up in every movie. But their impact is blunted when no one making the films cares about what these elements are supposed khổng lồ mean. Why should fans care about the latest chapter of a story when the creators themselves don’t?

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Image: Disney Warning: major spoilers ahead for all five Pirates films, including Dead Men Tell No Tales

The problem doesn’t lie entirely in Dead Men Tell No Tales. The entire continuity of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise makes no sense. That’s largely due lớn the series’s lurching development.


The first film, Curse of the đen Pearl, is almost entirely a standalone adventure. Based loosely on the original Disneyland ride, it tells a single, coherent story that wraps up pretty conclusively. Following its blockbuster success, Disney greenlit two more sequels — Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, which were shot back-to-back và written to retroactively graft Curse of the đen Pearl onto the front of what was now a trilogy. As it stands, those two films largely serve as a single, extended story. It’s long, dragging, & increasingly absurd, but it’s still a single unit.

That was supposed khổng lồ be it for the franchise, but after the successful opening weekend of At World’s End, Disney began exploring và developing a fourth film, which turned into the standalone On Stranger Tides, considered by many calculations to be the most expensive movie ever filmed. That feature told a mostly unrelated story, refocusing the spotlight even more squarely on Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow after Orlando Bloom & Keira Knightley (who play series stars Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, respectively) declined to lớn sign on for another installment.

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Image: Disney So while Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t vì chưng itself any favors when it comes khổng lồ keeping the stories of the series straight, its continuity isn’t built on the sturdiest of scaffolding. Throwaway references, lượt thích Jack’s run-in with the East India Trading Company or a colloquial mention of Davy Jones’ locker from the first film, get awkwardly built out into major villains in the second and third, then vanish forever. Another example is Blackbeard: he shows up in the fourth film with no explanation about where he was in the previous entries, when the Pirate Lords convened và fought to lớn save piracy.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is weird in that it tries khổng lồ draw on some of the elements of the previous four films — something On Stranger Tides notably didn’t bởi vì — lượt thích reusing old musical cues, and bringing back Angus Barnett & Giles New as Mullroy và Murtogg, the two recurring British officers who serve as comic relief in the earlier films. & yet it casually rewrites critical aspects of the series’s lore.


For example: Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his crew are turned into ghost / demon pirates after their ship is wrecked inside the Devil’s Triangle. Why? It’s never explained, & in general, it’s best not to think too carefully about that — or about literally anything involving their powers, or the rules of their curse. Somehow, Salazar determines that Jack’s magical compass can miễn phí him & his crew. But since a flashback shows that Jack receives the compass from his dying captain only minutes before damning Salazar & his crew, it’s not clear why their curse would focus on that. Jack’s compass is an iconic part of the franchise; it famously doesn’t point north, but rather khổng lồ the thing its holder wants most. And, as Dead Men Tell No Tales informs us, if you “betray” the compass, it releases your greatest fear.

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Image: Disney
over the course of the series, Jack has given away or lost his compass at least five times without activating any curses
Problem is, in Dead Man’s Chest, we’re told that Jack received the compass from Tia Dalma, the human size of the sea goddess Calypso. & the entire plot of Dead Men Tell No Tales emerges from Jack “betraying” the compass by trading it for booze. But by my count, Jack has given away or lost his compass over the course of the series at least five times without activating any curses. In Dead Man’s Chest, he gives it to Elizabeth so she can find Davy Jones’ heart và save Will. He loses the compass lớn Lord Cutler Beckett in At World’s End when he’s captured by the East India Trading company. He gets it back, then gives it to Will before stranding him in the ocean. Beckett gets it from Will & gives it back to Jack later in that same film. Jack lets Blackbeard take it from him during the tìm kiếm for Ponce de Leon’s ship in On Stranger Tides. Blackbeard gives it khổng lồ his daughter, Angelica, Jack gets it back, & then he gives it to his companion Joshamee Gibbs, who returns it at the kết thúc of the film.

Another major driving portion of the the latest entry is Henry Turner’s quest khổng lồ save his father from his cursed service on the Flying Dutchman. It’s a good motivation, except it doesn’t fit the series’s story. As revealed in At World’s End, the Dutchman’s role is khổng lồ ferry the souls of sailors lost at sea to lớn the afterlife. Calypso, goddess of the sea, assigned the Dutchman khổng lồ Captain Davy Jones, a sailor who fell in love with her. The khuyến mãi granted him immortality in exchange for his service, but he could only spend one day on land for every 10 years of service. Jones and his crew only turn into horrific sea-monster people after Jones finds out Calypso has moved on from his love, & abandons his task. After Will is fatally stabbed in At World’s End, Jack saves his life by killing Jones so Will can take over his role. By returning the Dutchman to lớn its traditional duties, he saves the crew và they resume their normal appearance, even in the “10 years later” post-credits sting from At World’s End.

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Image: Disney But in Dead Men Tell No Tales, Will is covered in barnacles on a monstrous-looking Dutchman again, presumably because that looks cooler. His son Henry wants lớn break his “curse,” but that curse is an important job that Will chose of his own volition. And if he abandons it, shouldn’t he resume dying of his fatal stab wound?


By the over of Dead Men Tell No Tales, it’s revealed that Poseidon"s Trident contains all the curses of the sea within it, & breaking it breaks all curses. This raises some serious questions about the theology of the Pirates of the Caribbean universe. There’s Calypso, the goddess of the sea. There are the Aztec gods who curse the treasure of Cortez in the first movie. Poseidon once existed in some form, & his trident, which literally commands the seas, is found in his tomb. (So gods die in this universe? & if Poseidon was around at some point, what about the other Greek gods?) There’s the magical Sword of Triton, which Blackbeard uses to lớn control his boat in On Stranger Tides. The Fountain of Youth also exists, though it comes with some strangely specific rules. Và several different forms of voodoo magic function in this universe, which implies the existence of a whole set of Loa. How does any of this fit together in the same world? I can’t come up with a good answer, & I don’t think anyone else working on these films can either.

The series’s timeline is similarly overcrowded & patchworked together, và Dead Men Tell No Tales complicates it further. When Jack Sparrow is young, Salazar destroys dozens of pirate ships in his effort lớn rid the sea of piracy. By Salazar’s account, he succeeds in this — killing every pirate except Jack and his crew. But At World’s End establishes that there’s a Brethren Court that governs pirates, and it assembles to protect the pirate way of life when the East India Trade Company threatens lớn wipe out all the pirates.

But World’s end claims the Court is meeting for the first time in Jack’s lifetime. Was Salazar’s massacre not worth their time? Or did all these ancient, venerable pirates somehow come into being after the massacre? On a related note, how old is Jack? He appears lớn be somewhere in his late teens when he takes command of the Wicked Wench, later renamed the đen Pearl. Prior khổng lồ the first movie, the black Pearl is sunk, Davy Jones brings it back from the depths as part of a deal with Jack, and gives him 13 years to captain the ship. During the first two years of that deal, he leads the expedition with Barbossa as first mate to lớn find the treasure of Cortez, and Barbossa betrays him, so Jack spends 10 years seeking revenge. There’s barely enough time in Jack’s timeline for all these events lớn occur, assuming he’s in his thirties or so during Curse of the đen Pearl. But that would put him at something close to 50 by Dead Men Tell No Tales, given that Henry Turner has yet to be conceived at that point, và he grows up khổng lồ be trăng tròn before meeting Jack. How long is Jack going lớn be running around doing this? Depp is 53 himself, và he still seems pretty spry, but the average life expectancy in the 1700s, when the films are roughly set, was between 30 & 40.

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Image: Disney và then there’s the post-credits teaser in Dead Men Tell No Tales, which like so many other things, doesn’t make sense within the franchise. The stinger sees Will having a nightmare wherein the tentacle-faced shadow và lobster-clawed hand of Davy Jones come looming over his bed. Then Will wakes up khổng lồ reveal that it was all a dream… except the camera pans khổng lồ the floor to show some sea water & barnacles, hinting at a possible return of the squid-faced villain. But Jones a) is dead as of At World’s end (although the Pirates series has had no problem resurrecting characters before), & b) wouldn’t be a squid-man even if he was alive again, since Will specifically broke the Dutchman’s curse, & then the shattering of Poseidon’s Trident also separately broke all the sea curses. But as with anything else in Pirates continuity, I don’t really think anyone making these films really cares.


Leaving aside the basic storytelling holes in Dead Men Tell No Tales, the whole movie is tiring because half of it is cobbled together from elements of earlier movies. An island that no man can find? Featured in Curse of the đen Pearl. Undead pirates? See films one, two, and three. MacGuffin leading to command of the sea? Dead Man’s Chest. Antagonist who wants to lớn kill Jack Sparrow because of a personal slight, và can walk through walls, but can’t go on dry land? Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Jack & Barbossa fighting over who gets lớn captain the đen Pearl? Curse and World’s End. Evil British officer who wants to lớn harness the supernatural thing to lớn wipe out pirates và take command of the oceans? Chest and World’s End again. Henry & Carina, the fresh new faces to head the franchise? Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t even subtle about trying to lớn re-create the original pairing of Will & Elizabeth all over again. He’s the son of a pirate who lost his father, she’s skeptical of the piratical life but comes around — sound familiar?

But since these films historically make boatloads of money, to the point where even the best pirate would be jealous, Joachim Rønning is probably right about Disney making 10 more nonsensical sequels, even if it does mean piling up more gods, shoehorning in more miraculously unbroken curses, và replacing Bloom và Knightley with even more lookalikes down the road. We can only hope that whoever helms the ship next actually watches the previous movies first. Although, given the repetitive plot elements in the series so far, maybe it would be best for everyone if things started fresh in a sixth installment.

Correction: The Pirates of the Caribbean films are roughly phối in the mid 1700s, not the 1400s as this article originally stated.


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