Yesterday I had the pleasure of re-living my teenage years as I enjoyed the latest Pirates installment. I went in super excited because they were finally bringing back Will and Elizabeth! My two favorite characters, and the cinematic couple that set the bar high for all subsequent film kisses and couple chemistry.
Pirates, Ye Be Warned: There be spoilers ahead! I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, and put them further down this post after a quick review of the plot:
There are several intertwined plots to PotC 5, the most important of which is Will and Elizabeth’s son, Henry Turner, has dedicated his life to finding a way to release his father from his curse so that Will can come on dry land whenever he wishes and not be covered in barnacles, a look that only Orlando Bloom can pull off successfully. Henry gets in trouble with the law for saving a bunch of uppity naval officer’s lives, runs into a pretty girl who is looking for the same magical artifact he is to break the curse, and together they wind up helping Jack Sparrow escape dead men and Barbossa find the greatest treasure of his life.
Overall, I give the movie a 5/10. Fun, piratey, a good flashback to my growing-up years, and Barbossa’s character is fleshed out so well that he is now one of my favorite characters in the series, as far as character development goes. Definitely go see it if you’re a PotC superfan.
Okay, leave NOW if you want no spoilers. If you don’t mind them, read on!
I went into this movie with fairly low expectations, figuring it would be fun, and probably just as bad or worse than the last three movies were. Because I watched the first one just a few weeks ago, and I saw how good this franchise started out. Back when Jack wasn’t a drunk idiot, though he enjoyed his rum; he was always clever, lucky, and played the fool often in order to achieve his goals through trickery. (See the clip below for a refresher.)
The second and third movie weren’t quite as good, but Jack had already begun to devolve into a caricature of himself, with extra waving arms, bulging eyes, and talking gibberish. Alas, that is all he is in the latest film. In fact, other than the main “bad guy” having a vendetta against Jack that motivates him to become the villain, the film would happen almost the same way whether or not Jack was in it. Jack spent most of the film drunk, stupid, and being completely useless to the characters around him. In fact, I’d say his main contribution was playing matchmaker between the two new young characters.
I kept waiting for there to be a major turning point for Jack, waiting for his “Aha!” moment. Perhaps when he realized who Henry was, he would get excited about saving Will from his curse, since it’s Jack’s fault for causing the curse that ultimately spared Will’s life (one of Jack’s better moments of character, I think).
Jack spends the movie caring about saving himself from the ghostly Captain Salazar (excellently played by Javier Bardem, who delivered one of four main character performances I actually bought as genuine). I will give the writers credit for showing Jack’s origin story, and reflecting back on his days as a clever sailor, but once that flashback is done, we are left seeing a Jack that’s merely a shadow of his genius character from 2003.
It was a joy to see Will Turner come back, and I was reminded how much I love Orlando Bloom as an actor. His performance is so heartfelt and genuine that you can’t help but spend the entire movie rooting for him to be released from his curse, even though he’s got under five minutes of screen time. At least it’s better than what we got of Kiera Knightly’s return as Elizabeth – she wasn’t even allowed to speak one word during her (maybe) one minute of screen time.
The newcomers of the film, Henry and Carina, are fine. They acted the part that was written for them, and despite the “I’m a scientist and a woman, hear me roar” jargon that Carina was forced to spew every five minutes, the two of them were a decent addition to the cast. I think they would have been better left as being best buddies after this movie, as there is zero chemistry between the two as a romantic couple, but hey, I guess it’s a pirate story. The hero needs to get the girl, yada yada. And it works well enough.
My favorite part of the movie is actually Barbossa’s storyline. From the beginning of The Curse of the Black Pearl, we know that Barbossa is your standard pirate, obsessed with treasure, having his own fleet, and holding enough power on the sea to stay out of trouble with the Navy (or buying them off). He’s faced curses, switched sides as it was most convenient for him, and even though he’s often been the bad/indifferent guy, he’s always the character you can’t help but like. Even in the first movie when he’s the only true villain, you can’t help but feel bad for Barbossa. He really just wants to eat his apple, not turn into a skeleton, and keep his ship. His methods are definitely not morally acceptable, but the guy has obviously been through a lot and he still manages to keep a gentlemanly demeanor and attitude towards the people around him, especially Elizabeth.
PLEASE DON’T READ THE NEXT PART UNLESS YOU WANT THE ENDING SPOILER OF THE FILM.
DON’T COMPLAIN IF YOU KEEP READING AND FIND OUT SOMETHING YOU DIDN’T WANT SPOILED.
Through the course of the movie Carina’s motivation is following the map her unknown father left for her. We find out before she does that Barbossa is her father, and that her mother died when Carina was only a baby. Barbossa knew he wasn’t a good guy and couldn’t provide a decent life for his child, so he left Carina at an orphanage with her book map and a jewel to pay for things in the future.
Up until this point in the movie, we see Barbossa living the dream life of a pirate: he’s got his own fleet, a gilded command ship with gorgeous stained glass and his own personal chamber ensemble, loyal crews, sway over the Royal Navy, his own magician/witch, and the loyal Monkey Jack by his side. He’s not one to give up his hat; if there’s a chance to wear a fancy coat, fluffy hat, and gilded peg-leg, he will do it.
I did the math, and we can reasonably assume that he had to leave Carina a short time after the events of Curse of the Black Pearl, after being revived by Tia Dalma. This would explain his need to always accumulate, whether it be treasure, ships, or fame: Barbossa was filling the void left by his daughter with pirate treasure. In the end, he not only sheds all of his showy clothes and plumed hat so that he can save his daughter from peril, he also calmly sacrifices his own life to save hers.
Of all the things this movie did, Barbossa was one of the few it got right. His character arc is so wonderfully constant through the series and now given a reason for being the treasure-obsessed pirate he is, and perfectly completed by not only shedding all of his beautiful earthly belongings in order to save his daughter from peril, but his total sacrifice for his child.
(Let me tell you, this mama bear had a hard time keeping it together in the theater at that moment. I had a severe case of the sniffles.)
Dead Men Tell No Tales is worth a watch if you’re a die-hard Pirates fan, for Barbossa’s storyline alone. Will and Elizabeth’s (too-short) comeback is also worth a watch. Just make sure you stay until the end of the credits for an endearing scene… with just a hint of foreshadowing. (Because why would you let a franchise die after only fourteen years?)
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