As some of you may know, I've been following this series right from the beginning. I was a teenager when I watched The Curse of the Black Pearl in the theatre, now I'm a grown man, but I still love Pirates of the Caribbean just like that first day. And exactly because I love this series I will not pretend that everything is hunky dory when I see something wrong.
Right at the beginning of the movie, there's a beautiful scene of the Flying Dutchman rising from the depths of the ocean. It's not majestic like the Dutchman's first appearance in Dead Man's Chest, but it's close enough. And the scene looks like a promise of a wonderful movie, until the first problem appears. We see the stern of the Dutchman, and you can see the name of the ship on the stern gallery. Whose bright idea was to put the name there? That detail was never there in Dead Man's Chest and At World's End! Oh dear. And that's when I started noticing other problems as well. The railing on the main deck is too low, the gangways are completely missing, the forecastle is too high, and I have to say that's not the same ship we saw in Dead Man's Chest and At World's End. It looks like the Dutchman only from the outside.
In the next scene we see a British Royal Navy ship, the Monarch, following a Dutch barque (which looks nothing like a barque), which was apparently stolen by a pirate named Bonnet. Nice tribute to the historical pirate Stede Bonnet who, by the way, also appears in Tim Powers' novel On Stranger Tides which inspired the fourth POTC film. There's nothing wrong with Royal Navy chasing pirates, except one small detail. The pirate ship is almost identical to the Black Pearl. I know the film crew wanted to save some money, and they used just two props to portray ten or fifteen ships, but almost every pirate ship in the film looks like the Pearl. And the film crew were so lazy to make all those ships more different that one detail of "the barque" remained clearly visible on the Pearl. Is Jack Sparrow commanding the Black Pearl or the Dutch barque? Answer, please.
In the next scene we see Captain Salazar and his men attacking the Monarch in the Devil's Triangle. The battle was simply perfect. Short but perfect. It really reminded me of the Battle of Isla de Muerta, but it was even creepier, if that's even possible.
Later we are introduced to Carina Smyth. I must say I liked Carina much more than Elizabeth Swann. She's not a spoiled governor's daughter who fell on her head and suddenly decided it would be exciting to meet a bunch of drunken thieves and murderers. Oh wait, Elizabeth didn't even have the decency to fall on her head. Well, unlike Miss Swann, Carina had to fight for everything in her life, right from the moment she left the orphanage. She's in possession of the Diary of Galileo Galilei, and she believes her father left it to her so she could find the legendary Trident of Poseidon and prove herself as a scientist. Too bad that that's not what her fater wanted her to do at all, but I liked that little twist.
Next on the list is the St. Martin problem. I know the series is full of historical inaccuracies, so I wasn't so surprised to see the guillotine, which was already revealed to exist in the POTC world in Jack Sparrow: The Age of Bronze. At least we've seen the historically accurate British flag, something which On Stranger Tides, unfortunately, failed to show us. But when the film crew were choosing the name of the island, couldn't they at least choose the name of some island that actually was a British colony? The real St. Martin was never controlled by the British. It was divided between the Dutch and the French. Is it so hard to open some history book, or at least check a few facts on Wikipedia? And while we're at it, they could also choose an island that's a little closer to the Devil's Triangle. How did Henry Turner swim all the way from the Triangle to St. Martin? It seems in this franchise you can say goodbye to the laws of physics. And I'm not talking about the Silent Mary. She's a ghost ship, so it's okay if she can float without the bottom and sail without any sails. But the scene where Jack Sparrow lifts a cannon with nothing but a rope, a pulley, and his own body weight is... Honestly, I don't even know what to call it. Jack is not overweight, he doesn't carry rocks in his pockets, he's not a Terminator, and when he was escaping from Commodore Norrington in The Curse of the Black Pearl he clearly showed us that cannons are much heavier than he is.
My next complaint is that a lot of things in this film didn't make much sense. What is the compass' connection with the Triangle? Why did the Triangle collapse when Jack gave up the compass? If the Triangle brings the dead to life why weren't Salazar's victims (the pirates and the British) also resurrected as ghosts? If the Triangle gave Salazar his powers why wasn't the curse lifted when the Triangle sank to the bottom of the ocean? And what happened with the Queen Anne's Revenge, the Dying Gull , and the Silent Mary? Is there some rule that says half the ships in this movie have to disappear without any explanation? The movie raises more questions than it answers. But don't worry. I will not complain about the so-called continuity errors because most of them can be logically explained.
Now let's get to the biggest problem. I'm well aware that Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg said the movie would take inspiration from The Curse of the Black Pearl. However, what they did here is much more than just "taking inspiration", as they call it. They have copied everything they could from earlier movies and cobbled those parts together. In a way, the whole movie looks like it came out of Doctor Frankenstein's laboratory.
- Infamous pirate with a daughter? Already seen in On Stranger Tides.
- A supernatural object that gives you command of the sea? Dead Man’s Chest and At World's End.
- An invincible immortal crew that gets defeated/captured/killed when their immortality is lifted? The Curse of the Black Pearl.
- A pirate who threatens to kill the person you care about if you don't do what he says? On Stranger Tides.
- An island that no man can find? The Curse of the Black Pearl.
- A son who wants to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman? Dead Man’s Chest and At World's End.
- A woman who doesn't believe in the supernatural until she comes face to face with it? The Curse of the Black Pearl.
- Undead sailors/pirates? Look at the first four films.
- A big badass ship that gets outnumbered by pirate ships but still turns them all into splinters? At World's End.
- Jack and Barbossa fighting over who gets to captain the Black Pearl? The Curse of the Black Pearl and At World’s End.
- Mutiny on a pirate ship? At World’s End and On Stranger Tides.
- A famous person's diary that leads to something very important? On Stranger Tides.
- Pirate wedding? At World’s End.
- A young boy pulls his sword and a pirate pulls his flintlock pistol? The Curse of the Black Pearl.
- A puzzle that needs to be solved? At World’s End.
- A British officer/official who wants to harness the supernatural object to wipe out pirates and rule the seas? Dead Man's Chest and At World’s End.
- A young boy saves Jack from execution? The Curse of the Black Pearl.
- A very important lighthouse? On Stranger Tides
- A pirate crew gets captured and imprisoned on a ship but they manage to escape? The Curse of the Black Pearl and At World’s End.
Salazar was an excellent villain, and I really liked him, but even he was just a mixture of James Norrington (naval officer), Cutler Beckett (wants to exterminate piracy) and Davy Jones (walks through the walls but can't go on dry land). They even gave him a walking stick, which Davy Jones was originally supposed to have, as you can see here.
All in all, the movie didn't show us almost anything new. Even the ending scene was just a mixture of endings of At World's End and The Curse of the Black Pearl. The Spanish ghosts, the Silent Mary, and the ghost sharks were awesome, but the rest of the movie far outweighs any freshness they brought. However, there were some scenes that really managed to bring back the mysteriousness and adventurous spirit of the previous movies. The Pearl growing back to her normal size, the Dutchman's first appearance, and even the silly bank robbery in St. Martin, despite looking too much like something out of Fast and Furious. Some of the locations were fantastic, and Poseidon's tomb was simply beautiful. The music from the previous movies strategically put in all the right places also helped a lot.
Fortunately, the whelp and his wife were on screen for a very short time. I don't want them in a sequel but if they do appear in it, I hope that will be only for the first two minutes in which you know who can kill them.
I absolutely loved the flashback scene, despite all the headache it caused me by seemingly ruining the established continuity. If Disney decides to make a sequel, I want Anthony De La Torre to reprise his role. Depp's Jack Sparrow was good. Neither great nor too bad. Just good. I understand Sparrow's situation in the movie but it looked like Depp didn't put his heart and soul into the role this time. Maybe I'm just imagining things, but that's what it looked like to me. And we also have to accept the uncomfortable truth that he's not getting younger. He can't play Sparrow forever. Maybe in the next movie he should have the same role that George Hall had in the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Let him play the old Jack Sparrow at the beginning and the end of the film while De La Torre plays him in the main story.
The only character that really managed to shine in this movie was Captain Barbossa. And he shone brighter than the brightest star in the North. Hector Barbossa was the one to evolve most in the series, and still he remained the same character we all love. I'm a pirate. Always will be, says he. Truer words have never been spoken. When we met him in The Curse of the Black Pearl he was a black-hearted cutthroat, a terror of the Seven Seas, but he also had his own sense of humor. I can't even describe how happy I was to see him back in Dead Man's Chest. At World's End revealed that his story was much greater than we originally thought. He was one of the nine Pirate Lords, he freed Calypso, he helped the Brethren defeat the seemingly unstoppable East India Trading Company. Even when he lost his ship, his crew, and his right leg, he still managed to fool the mighty British Empire and make King George II dance to the pirate tune. He managed to become a legend in his own right, kill the pirate all pirates feared, raise his own fleet, rule the seas and end the threat of Capitán Salazar once and for all. He was the master of his own fate, living the life he wanted. He was a villain, a lovable rogue, the Yang to Jack Sparrow's Yin, and he died a hero's death, saving his most precious treasure. Pirate's life, Hector.
To conclude, the movie is not bad. It's good, at some moments very good, and I liked it, I really did, but it could have been much better. If this is the end of the series, it's a decent, satisfying end. But as the after credits scene shows, The Mouse is still not ready to kill the golden goose. Let's just hope the goose will have a better helmsman the next time or I'm afraid it could sink like a rock.