Johnny Depp once again dons the dreads and heavy eyeliner of Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Thankfully, though, he’s not actually the hero of the tale. That honor goes to the ‘next generation’ duo of Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario).
“Dead Men” holds together as a story much better than the last outing of the Pirates (2011’s “On Stranger Tides”). Henry wants to break the curse that dooms his Dad, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), to captain the Flying Dutchman in Davy Jones’s Locker for all eternity. Henry has studied all the tales of the sea and concludes that the only way to be rid of the curse is to find the Trident of Poseidon, which gives the possessor control over the seas. The key to finding the Trident is the compass carried by Jack Sparrow.
Henry’s quest takes him to the island of St. Martin where the craziness that is signature for the “Pirates” films bring him together, not only with a perpetually plastered Jack Sparrow, but also with Carina, condemned as a witch because she studies the stars as an astronomer. She follows the clues to the Trident in a journal that once belonged to her unknown father. With Carina’s knowledge, the Trident seems within reach.
Of course, nothing is simple when Jack Sparrow is involved. He’s on the run from Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), formerly of the Spanish Navy, but trapped in the cursed Devil’s triangle, now free thanks to Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush). Lots of action and some great swashbuckling happens over the course of the film. Most delightful is the opening bank robbery sequence which had me laughing out loud. Also, really cool were the skeletal sharks unleashed on Captain Jack by Salazar.
The real show-stealer is Scodelario as Carina. At a time when women of science were thought to be witches, her portrayal of Carina is strong when she has to be, tender and caring (especially with Henry), and amazingly funny.
On the surface, “Dead Men” isn’t a film with deep insights. It’s action-adventure and fun, but it does have something to say about the lengths to which we will go for those we love. Henry’s, albeit short, life ambition has been to free his father from the curse that keeps them apart. He gets thrown into jail when his quest clashes with his duties as a sailor. With all the various vyings for Poseidon’s Trident, Henry only deviates from his purpose when Carina is in danger.
Henry isn’t the only character who exhibits great self-sacrifice for a loved one. I won’t spoil the relationship reveal that took me by surprise but I will say that it was a fitting end to a beloved character arc. So, while enjoying the action, humor, and fun of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” think about those you love and make sure you make the time and effort to be with them, never taking them for granted, and being ready to give whatever is necessary for their good.