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GIANT MASSIVE MOVIE-RUINING SPOILERS AHEAD FOR DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES.

I've only seen the movie once, but I wanted to put a night of sleep between me and it before I tried to convey my thoughts on it. I see my job as a fan here to tell you generally what happens and my thoughts on it, as well as whether you should spend your time going to see it. All only opinions of course. (I'll refer to the movies in numerals - 1 for the first, 5 for this, and then of course the in-betweens. Mainly because I don't want to try to remember the abbreviations OST and DMTNT. See how annoying? LOL)

Here we go ...


Except for where the regulars have ended up and the state of the Black Pearl in movie 5, you really don't need to have seen 4 to understand this one. You don't strictly HAVE to have seen the first three movies, either - this movie can stand on its own as an entertaining single viewing. If you've never seen a POTC movie and you come in with this one, you will probably laugh at most of the jokes (if you have that kind of sense of humor) and like some of the characters.

Since I doubt anyone who hasn't seen at least the first movie is going to read through this, I'll assume you all are familiar with the original characters from 1-3 as I go forth.


THE SPOILERS
The movie opens with young Henry Turner tying rocks to his foot to drown himself in the bay just off the land where he lives; he's anywhere from 11-14 years old. His father is Death's Ferryman of the ocean, you see, so the fastest way to raise Will Turner is to get himself killed or nearly killed. He lands on the deck of the Dutchman, it surfaces, and Will emerges to talk with his son. Henry tells him he may have found a way to break the curse that ties Will to the ship, but he needs to find Jack Sparrow to help. Will commands him to not go anywhere near Jack and to go back home and leave him to his fate. Will is barnacled in Davy Jones-lite fashion; just enough to see the sea is winning against his resolve not to succumb to the hopelessness of the job. Unlike Davy Jones, he is not bitter or angry, but resigned and almost tired. We also get a hint that he is not exactly in command of his crew anymore, by how quickly he ushers Henry away and sinks the Dutchman to put distance between them and the boy. (This may also explain why you don't see Will again until the end of the movie, despite all the water-based shenanigans and near-death experiences throughout ... like he's not really in charge of the Dutchman anymore.)

Nine years later, Henry, now anywhere from 20-23 ish, is a low-ranking sailor on a Navy ship. We find out he's searching for Jack and the Pearl. He sees the ship is headed for the cursed Devil's Triangle and tries to warn the captain, telling the man he's read all the lore of the sea and this place is Bad News. The captain not only scolds and mocks him, but strips him of his lowly rank as a traitor and jails him. Of course the ship goes in; of course the cursed Captain Salazar and his undead crew overrun the ship and kill everyone on board - save Henry, whom Salazar tells to relay a message to Jack when he finds him. (We'll find out later Salazar used to be a pirate-hunter and perished in a fire in the Devil's Triangle while chasing newly-captained Jack Sparrow, while Jack escaped. So, he's hunting Jack. Trouble is, he can't leave the Triangle unless something happens - which it will, later.)

Through a series of events, Henry ends up at the same Caribbean English outpost as Jack and a young woman roughly Henry's age, Caryna Smith (Smyth?). Caryna keeps landing in Navy custody and escaping it - she's a scientist, and female in the 18th century, which is enough to get her convicted as a witch. Caryna is an orphan who is amazingly well-educated for having no resources other than a mysterious diary left to her by her father, a man of science who was searching for the Trident of Poseiden - which can break any curse laid at sea. The island shenanigans are pretty entertaining; suffice to say they all end up stealing the same ship with Gibbs, Marty, and the rest of Jack's paltry, pissed-off (at Jack) crew. Also, Jack trades his magic compass away for a bottle of rum (more on this later) and, in willingly giving it up, breaks Salazar's imprisonment miles away, allowing him to sail out on the open waters in his ship-eating ship (you read that right).

More shenanigans happen, McGuffins are pursued (chiefly the Trident, which everybody wants for different reasons), innuendos are made, young romance is set up (of course), we run into Barbossa and his crew, which includes Murtogg and Mullroy (but no Pintel and Ragetti!), Salazar's in the mix, and we find out his crew can't set foot on land any more than the Dutchman's crew or captain (they vanish in a puff of black smoke if they get out of the water). Shenanigans, shenanigans, it turns out Caryna is totally NOT the daughter of Jack Sparrow as most of us suspected (mainly because making Jack and Will co-parents-in-law would have been too delicious) - but the reality is possibly more entertaining, since it turns out Barbossa is her father.

(I really did want the after-credits scene to be Will and Elizabeth finding out their daughter-in-law-probably-to-be is a Barbossa, then the camera pans back to a general shot of the island, a la "Home Alone 2" while in the far distance you can still hear the two of them screaming "NOOOOOOOOOO!" with birds flying off in every direction.)

So - they find the Trident, break the curse on Salazar's ship (and we'll find out later, on Will Turner, too, elsewhere in the ocean) turning them all back human, and the good guys manage to escape back to the Pearl while Salazar falls to his death. Well ... not actually. Caryna briefly finds out that Barbossa is her father, after which he sacrifices himself to drown with Salazar to ensure her ability to escape his clutches unharmed. Once they're all safe, Caryna decides to change her last name to Barbossa from Smith. Cut to the cliffs outside Henry's childhood home, where he and Caryna are engaging in their form of verbal foreplay and smooching, when the Dutchman shows up in the distance, uncursed and gleaming brown and beige sails. Will climbs the hill to hug his son, confused as to how he's come to be uncursed and human again ... but just as Henry's going to take old man to the pub for a grog and a tale, Elizabeth appears in the distance hiking her skirts. She and Will run to each other and embrace, then kiss, while Henry and Caryna look on from a distance ... and from an even further distance on the Pearl, Jack watches through his spyglass, revolted by the whole picture of domesticity porn. And then he and his crew sail off.

The after-credits scene is Will and Elizabeth sleeping in their seaside bedroom - they are both dressed in clean white linen sleep-gowns, and they've had baths, and all I could think was This is the cleanest I've ever seen these two. Something menacing is coming up the steps and creaking open their door and looming toward the bed, and we catch a glimpse of some barnacled sea creature reaching for them when Will jerks awake from his bad dream. He looks around, turns over, hugs Elizabeth, and goes back to sleep ... and the camera pans down to the floor to close on a puddle of water and corals snapped off in it.


WHAT I WAS 'MEH' ABOUT OR DISLIKED:
For me, it's easier to start with what I don't care for about a movie, if I'm ambivalent. And I sure was about 5.

Plot holes - SO many. I won't list them all, but there is not adequate explanation for many things. Of course, 1-3 also had fantastical elements, but they were explained and largely made sense in-universe. People do things that don't always make sense; magical objects aren't always explained. There's a lot of suspending of disbelief you have to do for this one.

Characterization - The nuance of the first three movies is lacking in a lot of characters here. Everyone who's Navy is efficient, duty-driven, and arrogant or head-down-following-orders. There's no Norrington-type in this movie (BTW, Norrington is not mentioned - which I think will actually make a lot of his fans happy, especially after movies 2 and 3). Nobody in authority seems to be a benevolent person - they're not all Trump, but neither are there any Bernies. The pirates are kind of dumb, more than they need to be. Which brings us to ...

Jack Sparrow - Oh, man. I gotta limit myself on this one. I don't know if Depp had much input into Jack's characterization in this one, but if he did, it honestly looks like his IRL troubles were leaking in to the point of almost drowning the character. In movies 1-3 Jack is a buffoon only insofar as it serves his purpose to make people think he's not as smart as he really is, so he can sneak under the radar with his cleverness and charm a lot of people he needs to do things for him. Conversely, if you only saw this movie and not the earlier ones, you would think Jack is a fall-down dissolute drunk and whoremonger who isn't very bright and whose fortunes come almost entirely on luck and other people's allowances for him. There are only a handful of flashes of the old brilliance and character, and I really miss That Guy. Whereas young Will Turner was trying to second-guess what Jack was really up to in 1, young Henry Turner seems most of the time like he's Jack's guardian trying to keep him propped upright and marching forward like you would that uncle you always heard used to be ripping brilliant but now is "ehhhh."

The lack of callbacks - I wanted more callbacks in this movie. I wanted Henry to talk more about his mom and dad and stories he'd grown up hearing, and what his mom was doing, and some line from Barbossa or Gibbs about something they remembered of his parents, bad or good. There are a couple of little moments, but it's not enough. Which brings me to ...

The retconning - I won't wade too deep into this, except to say it's very clear these are different screenwriters than worked on the first three movies. I won't say Jack's entire backstory is retconned, but you have to be a somewhat skillful fanfic writer to take what they give us and work it in with what we've learned in movies 2 and 3, particularly. Also, I'm not wild about what they did to Will Turner's personality as captain of the Dutchman, but we can discuss that later - at least it *might* have a basis in logical explanation.

Green-screening - I shouldn't say this was "bad" so much as there were moments it was too obvious some actor was hanging from something or standing on something to look like they were hanging on something, and the camera was too close and it just looked a little fake-y. Still, I understand FX isn't an easy thing (and where were a lot of FX shots that were really good in this one, so maybe this isn't a "MEH" so much as "A FEW SHOTS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN EXECUTED BETTER").

Too little Will and Elizabeth - There should have been more of both in the movie. If you're going to pay your actors as much as they likely got (as much as I HOPE they were paid to be in it), use them. I'm just saying. I wanted some more of them.


THINGS I LIKED:
Henry and Caryna - As separate characters, that is. I have nothing against their romance; they're cute, and their style of banter is something I could see them keeping up into old age. But I prefer a character to stand on their own, and they're all right. The actor who plays Henry is not quite the treasure young Tom "Spider-Man" Holland is turning out to be, but he's got talent and he does a pretty good job of getting across an amalgamation of the personalities of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. My favorite thing about Henry is that he seems to be only an OK swordsman; he's not his father - but what he lacks there he makes up for in what seems to be a preternatural affinity for hand-to-hand combat. He hits, he kicks, he kneels to trip people over him, he even grabs a couple and bodyslams them like The Undertaker. (I am sincerely hoping Elizabeth taught him these moves.) And Caryna - she's not like Elizabeth. She doesn't fight or confront the same way, but she's direct and unafraid, and good at getting herself out of jail and other tight spots. Plus, she's book-smart and scientifically literate. I swear to Christ if their kid inherit both their traits, they're going to be either Sherlock Holmes or Lara Croft.

Will Turner - Shut up. Of course I like him. I'm not entirely wild what the writers did with him or the fact he's in this so little, but I enjoy the fact he's middle-aged and looks like it with facial lines and sadness in his eyes at the right time (and some humor), and it was nice to see him and Elizabeth happy again. Of course, I can still pair him just as easily with Jack in fanfic, which brings us to ...

Jack/Will potential - Yes, it's still there. If you're an industrious fanfic writer or reader, you can make it happen. They're both older and a little more defeated, and Will definitely wouldn't be putting up with any of Jack's bullshit at this point, but you can slash them. What I really liked is how Jack didn't really show any favoritism or fondness for Henry 94 percent of the time, but there were 3-4 instances he did something to save the kid, because why not. He does ask after Elizabeth at one point and if she said his name in her sleep (LOL), and Henry is "no ... no." (I saw someone online comment that this is patently untrue, since how else would Henry know about Jack in the first place, and that the more likely explanation is that Elizabeth probably shit-talked Jack through most of the kid's childhood, sprinkled with some fond allowances for the fact Jack wasn't always a selfish prick or one or both of Henry's parents would be dead, okay?) Granted, I think most of the slash at this point in their lives would be less about Jack and Will having sex everywhere and more about Will overlooking the fact Jack cheats at cards and drawing a sword on anyone who tries to shoot him for it at the pub. But, you know. You can have the nookie too. (And yeah, there's OT3 fic to be had too, probably in Elizabeth being the one every so often who pulls the gun on Jack and Will lets her. Or she bodyslams Jack.)


ANYWAY ... I won't say it's a bad movie and I won't say it's a really good movie. It's entertaining. Had this been the first POTC movie, I don't believe there would be any sequels. There are things I could've done better if they'd hired me to write it, easily; there are things a lot of us in the old fandom could've done better if they'd only hired US instead. But it has enough holes in it that if you like the fanfic thing, you can spend lots of time patching up missing scenes and what-not.
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