“Are all pirates this stupid?”
It’s been six years since the last installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. (Tell the truth: did you miss it?) Captain Jack Sparrow et al. are back in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales with the same mixture of comedy, adventure, and romance that the series is known for. It also continues with the series themes of relationships between parents and children, and the sacrificial aspects of love.
As usual, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) serves more as a catalyst than the real focus of the story. This time around the center is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner, who has been cursed to captain the Flying Dutchman, ferrying those who die at sea to the afterlife (vid. PotC: At World’s End), and Carina Smythe (Kaya Scodelario), a young woman with a scientific bent who believes she has a map to the Trident of Poseidon. Each has been condemned to die, as has Captain Jack, but when Jack’s crew rescues him (in typical PotC fashion) the three find themselves together on the search. The Trident is said to give one control of the seas. Jack wants to get his luck back. Henry wants to use the Trident to break the curse on his father. Carina seeks to honor her unknown father who left the book with her as a child.
However, Jack has also inadvertently set free a ship of the undead (including zombie sharks) lead by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Salazar had a goal of ridding the seas of pirates, but then a young Jack Sparrow tricked him into the Devil’s Triangle many years back where the ship was cursed and trapped. Now he wants his revenge. He conscripts Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Jack’s longtime rival (and sometime ally), to lead him to Jack. As usual, there is a load of swashbuckling and elaborate special effects.
Naturally, Henry and Carina must deal with an attraction they may not have expected. And of course, Jack nudges them towards each other from time to time. The conflict between them grows from the tension between myth and science. Henry is well versed in all the legends of the sea. Carina describes herself as a woman of science. She is an astronomer and a horologist. She thinks her science will get them what they want. Henry knows that the supernatural is where all the answers they need will be found. It is the combination of the two that lead them to the end of their quest. At times each must follow the other’s lead. They must learn, as Henry tells Carina at one point, “You don’t have to understand, just believe.” It is not so much about faith in science or the supernatural at that point—they must believe in each other.
As is often the case in PotC films, this story too includes a sacrifice made out of love. Salvation in this series of films is never “cheap grace”; there is always a price to be paid. The redemption that occurs is always bittersweet. Of course, in the world of PotC, there is always another story to come which may find a way to break the curses that came before. The sacrifices made are sometimes reversed in this series. In the world of PotC there is death and resurrection. There is damnation, but also a chance for redemption and restoration. Perhaps that is why there is always one more scene after all the credits (and there are lots of credits to sit through to see that scene). That scene tells us there is always another chapter to be written.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios