Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Well, the film came out. I have seen it three times to judge it the best I can without bias. My first impression was that...I hated it. The music consisted of about 10% newly composed themes and 90% recycled Hans Zimmer scores from the first three movies. Despite being my favorite actor, I found Depp’s usual charismatic and effortless performance as Jack Sparrow phoned in and stiff. Important plot points were rushed through or brushed over. Our new major characters, villain Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) and heroine Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), were bland and forgettable. The worst of these offenders was Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), who despite being the son of Will and Elizabeth, our two main, deeply complex and interesting characters from the first three films, was quite simply boring. Even when in peril, you don’t know enough about him to even care if he makes it out alright.
Finally, the thing that infuriated me the most as a Pirates fan was that the film backtracks upon its own canon in five major ways, creating an entirely new timeline that contradicts the third and fourth films, as well as providing details that make no sense to either the characters or the already established world of the films. This might sound like a relatively unimportant and nit-picky critique, but imagine if the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi suddenly insisted that Darth Vader wasn’t Luke’s father. Or if in Frozen 2, the writers swiftly changed the setting from Arendelle to Miami Beach and pretended like it had been that way the whole time. To some fans, those details matter, and it’s just lazy to ignore or just completely rewrite the very important details that Dead Men Tell No Tales rewrites seemingly just for the sake of ending the movie quicker.
Overall, it’s worth a rent for nothing more than the last ten minutes of the movie, because the story makes a slight return to what I love most about the Pirates movies—their emotional arcs. Remember what it felt like to see Will Turner and his father Bootstrap Bill reunite? Remember the pity you felt when Norrington accepted the state of his unrequited love for Elizabeth? Or the joy you felt when Jack finally got his beloved Pearl back? Or when you heard the music swell as Will and Elizabeth kissed for the first time by the light of a setting sun? The last act of Dead Men Tell No Tales brings two incredibly emotional scenes, both of which left me in tears of first sorrow, then joy. ...actually pretty much the most joy I think I’ve ever felt.
As the first Cars film was made over ten years ago (I know...I feel old, too), this new adventure is chocked full of nostalgia for millennials who loved the original as children, and perhaps are old enough now to take their own children to go see what Lighting McQueen and his friends at Radiator Springs are up to (yikes. Now I really feel old). Everyone from the old gang is there, including Lightning, Mack, Sally, Guido and Luigi, and even Doc Hudson, though his character appears only in Lightning’s memories to match the passing of actor Paul Newman. Mater surprisingly takes more of a backseat in this movie, which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing, and BEFORE YOU GET OUT YOUR PITCHFORKS, let me explain why; The new characters are strong enough to carry the story and breathe new life into the franchise, so his purpose is otherwise filled.
That said, I found myself wondering just how much little kids are actually getting out of this movie. The majority of its scenes are just two cars at any one time parked and talking about important life matters that I think would go completely over kids’ heads. There’s not a lot of action to keep them entertained, and deals with more complex, adult themes than most Pixar movies I’ve seen. More adult themes aren’t uncommon in Pixar films, in fact, what makes them so timeless is their ability to speak to a wide array of audiences regardless of age. Think about the fear of change and growing up expressed in the Toy Story films, or the themes of loss and letting go in Finding Nemo. The kids love the humor, the characters, the color, and the visual gags, whereas the older audiences will resonate with the deep, emotional themes. Kids won’t ever get all the nuances, that’s also what makes Pixar movies so amazing, is that they age so well because when you revisit these films when you’re older, you get jokes, themes, and plotlines that you didn’t understand previously. I’m just concerned that they’re not getting any of the plot because so much of it is laden in serious dialogue.
However, I’m not a child anymore, and can’t speak for Cars 3’s entertainment value in their minds. I, however, found this to a be an extremely wholesome, inspiring adventure with a lot of charm, heart, and the poignancy that Pixar does best. I highly recommend this fun ride!
Boy was I wrong. Not only was Spider-Man: Homecoming fantastic, it might even be my favorite Marvel solo hero film.