I’ve been a huge fan of Pirates of the Caribbean ever since the first movie came out in 2003. The following two movies weren’t all that great, but despite the franchise’s many problems, I still had a soft spot for it in my heart, even after watching the subpar On Stranger Tides. And then Johnny Depp decided to be an asshole, and since that wasn’t enough to end his career, we’re now getting Dead Men Tell No Tales.
The trailer starts off by showing a young Captain Jack Sparrow, and part of me was excited—hey, maybe Johnny Depp won’t be in this movie. Maybe I can enjoy this franchise without his abusive face continuing to ruin it for me. After all, he’s off making Fantastic Beasts as unwatchable as he possibly can, so maybe he has no more time for Pirates of the Caribbean. I know this fantasy of mine was farfetched, but I still couldn’t help my disappointment when he showed up anyway.
Our plot this time around is that in the past, Jack pissed off some Spanish guy who’s so unmemorable that Jack can’t even be bothered to remember his name. But lo and behold, this is a PotC movie, so our villain is some variation of cursed just like all of Jack’s other antagonists, because PotC can’t do anything new. Spanish guy has dedicated his new immortal cursed life to hunting down Jack for revenge. In order to defeat his new foe, Jack searches for the Trident of Poseidon, which will grant him control of the seas—is there any mythology that this franchise won’t touch?
I’m beginning to question how reality or magic really works in this universe. At first, we had cursed Aztec gold, which was okay, I guess. The gold sets our plot into motion, but at the end of the day, it was just the mythical Native stereotype, and at no point was the history behind this cursed gold really explored. Curse of the Black Pearl wasn’t a bad movie, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed this had the next movie decided to be less racist. But it didn’t. Jack’s crew gets captured and cannibalized by a bunch of Native people, and the survivors are then placed in cages made from their crewmates’ bones, because why not?
The Aztec gold is problematic, but it works within the first movie—PotC takes place in our world and we now have an established rule for the supernatural. Then we’re introduced to Davy Jones, who’s got a giantass kraken roaming the Caribbean for ten some years, and even though it eats boats, no one notices it’s there until that movie. Their world is also flat or something—if you sail far enough you can fall off the edge of the world and land in purgatory, which begs the question how the oceans have yet to drain out, but whatever, I suppose. We have a sea goddess who can control the oceans after bursting apart into crabs, but now we have the Trident of Poseidon which does the same thing. Let’s not forget the Fountain of Youth or Jack’s compass, either.
This is one of the many problems with these movies—its mythology is no longer consistent, and instead of picking one thing and sticking to it, each installment has decided to introduce something new, all for the purpose of telling the exact same story over and over again, with no intent whatsoever of exploring the mythology that it’s using.
As annoying as all this is, it’s something that I’d be willing to forgive, if only to sit back and enjoy what I know will otherwise be a fun adventure film. But Johnny Depp is in this movie, and he’s a glaring reminder that white men don’t have to deal with consequences for their actions against women. As much as I want to see Dead Men Tell No Tales, it’s one movie that I may just have to skip.