How Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Rejuvenated the Entire Pirates Franchise

Warning: Imminent Spoilers Ahead. Sail with Caution.

Let’s get it out there so it’s out of the way. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was unquestionably the worst Pirates movie in existence. Between a lack of Will and Elizabeth, a pretty shaky plot line, and some pretty gaping plot holes, the film hit rock bottom when it came to being a fan favorite. The hype for Dead Men Tell No Tales was pretty big throughout the entire world, because everyone hoped that Jack Sparrow and his crew would make a triumphant, hilarious, and exciting return to make up for the lack that was the fourth film in the franchise.

Boy, did they ever succeed.

Between the return of Will and Elizabeth, the introduction of some exciting and loveable new characters, and returning to the roots of what the fans look for in a Pirates film, Dead Men Tell No Tales was exactly what every Pirates fan was looking for. Ashley Esqueda from CNet believes that it ” breathes new life into the series by getting back to what made the first two films so enjoyable”. Huffington Post reports that “the movie currently has a 78 percent fresh rating from audiences”, a success that isn’t to be overlooked.  This success wasn’t just for one reason either—there are a multitude of things that lead to the absolute success of Jack Sparrow’s return. Let’s look into some of them, shall we?

The Return of Will and Elizabeth

The first time Will Turner appeared on the screen, the entire theatre let out a sigh of relief. Suddenly, we knew what was happening with our dearly-beloved character that had been blatantly ignored in the previous film. He was back, and he was pivotal to the entire plot of the newest film; that is, his son’s desire to save his father from a cursed fate and to bring him home again. The first scene between Will and Henry was enough to draw tears from even the most sceptical eyes, and the belief in the child’s eyes that he was going to bring his father back home nestled its way into every viewer’s heart. Immediately, viewers knew what they wanted from the film: they wanted their hero to be free.

Even though we only saw Elizabeth for a few moments, she was also pivotal to the film. Seeing her reunited with her husband and knowing that for the first time, they actually had a foreseeable future together was one of the sweetest moments in the entire franchise. Pirates fans had been waiting years to see the two of them together again, and to see them together and free was exactly what every fan needed. Now, don’t get me wrong: knowing what happened to Elizabeth during her years without her husband, and wondering why she didn’t track that son of hers down when he started off after the trident are prevalent questions that we will hopefully get answers for at some point, but for the most part, Elizabeth’s return was a beautiful moment that Pirates fans can cherish until the next movie (possibly) enters the equation.

Henry and Carina (and their absolutely adorable love story)

Having a sassy, badass, and strong female character return to the franchise was a blessing. From the moment she came on-screen, Carina stole the show as she pushed to solve the equation that had been left to her at birth, unwilling to put up with anyone’s crap along the way. Her resolve (and willingness to put up with a bunch of illiterate pirates) was captivating, and the way she expressed her feelings and beliefs was more than just a blessing; it was a necessity. After Elizabeth, Pirates fans needed another strong female, and they were rewarded with one that took right after her boyfriend’s (is it too early to define their relationship?) mother.

Brenton Thwaites as Will and Elizabeth’s son was some pretty darn perfect casting, because no one can deny that he looks exactly like what the spawn of the fan-favorites would. Henry was a fresh addition to the franchise, in both his dedication to freeing his father and his absolutely adorable innocence compared to the other characters (yes, you did see her ankles!). As much as he reminds us of the young Will Turner from the first film, he’s different enough that fans are able to fall for him as his own, distinct, honoured character. Was the fact that he fell for Carina one-thousand percent predictable? Absolutely. Did that stop it from being adorable? Absolutely not.

Jack Sparrow

Seeing Jack put down his compass was enough to make the entire theatre lose their minds. Aside from his usual scurvy, loveable character, his character arc in this movie deserves some consideration. After all, seeing his beloved crew turn away from him (even Gibbs, which hurt more than anything) meant that we got to see a new side of Jack, and just how far he was willing to go to get that bottle of booze so he could drink away his worries. Seeing Jack man up and fight his battle for Will and himself (let’s be real—it was mostly for himself) was exciting, because it showed us the kind of man that Jack really is behind that mask. The movie was made; however, as it usually is—with Jack and his ridiculous antics taking on the impossible, just so he can remain as he is: Captain Jack Sparrow.

Hector Barbossa

There are mixed feelings on this side of the court for our dearly beloved Captain Barbossa. Was it absolutely perfect to see him again playing both sides, but ultimately fighting for himself? Absolutely. Did seeing him give himself up for someone else change every opinion on his character? It’s quite possible. Is the fact that he is Carina’s father absolutely mind-boggling? For some, it really was. Barbossa had always been the swashbuckling pirate type, and to think that he had the foresight to a) give his child away, and b) give his child something that could potentially help them along in their life gave Pirates fans something to wrap their heads around. Barbossa’s character was changed entirely during the newest Pirates film, and it was refreshing to see the softer edges of his usually rough character. The fact that he chose to give his life to save his daughters (and in the process, Jack and Henry’s lives too) really gave fans a new way to look at his character, and another reason (as if we needed one) to remember him fondly.

The After-Credit Scene

Can we talk about that after-credit scene? The teasing of a Davy Jones return brings up so many options for the Pirates franchise that wouldn’t have been open had they left the film where it ended. It opens up so many questions, like if every curse was broken, how Jones is still tentacally, and what kind of vengeance he’s going to seek against Sparrow and Turner. As much as that film could have been a happy ending for the franchise, this scene leaves writers and directors the option to continue with our dearly beloved characters, which is an excellent choice, because it will more than likely leave fans contented either way. No matter what happens with the franchise though, all fans more than likely want an answer to what happened to Davy Jones and how on earth he would be able to return.

Dead Men Tell No Tales was a triumphant return from a dying franchise that brought viewers all around the world hope for the future of the Pirates of the Caribbean. The return to the very roots of the Pirates film ideology appealed to fans across the world, and will more than likely bring Jack Sparrow and his crew back into the hearts, homes, and DVD collections of millions of people worldwide.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Posted on by
Communications student, author-in-the-making, and Beatles fanatic. I write like I live: with optimism, a healthy sprinkle of reality, and never shying away from excitement
Edited by Sean Gadus.

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  1. The only way to explain the success of such a threadbare franchise is that, especially in the U.S., moviegoers wander into the multiplexes in groups before having made up their minds which movie to see. After then taking a straw poll at the box office, they settle on the movie with the fewest objections within the group.

    That, and in-flight entertainment.

  2. Cori Folse

    The first pirates film was the perfect film, & the best pirate film since the crimson pirate. The 2nd one was pretty awful, and the 3rd quite possibly the worst film I have seen in the cinema.

  3. I’m sure my kids will thoroughly enjoy it, being in their mid-teens and of the demographic for which it was made.

  4. I need more pirate Paul McCartney. Favorite part of the movie.

    • Paul McCartney’s cameo was a bit forced, but better than expected.

      The same could be said of the whole thing, really. I had low expectations, but it beat them by a fair margin. Sure, it’s the fifth movie in a trilogy, and it shows, but it was still kind of fun. Shame about Jack, though.

  5. LilyaRider

    I 100% agree! As a huge Beatles fan and an avid McCartney follower, I was so excited to see his part, which was extremely well done (though I agree, it could have been far longer).

  6. Your passion for this movie definitely shines through! I had a good time with it, and I completely agree that the fourth movie was the most forgettable in the entire franchise.

  7. This was probably my second favourite Pirates movie. Ok the bad guys origin was a bit weak but otherwise I thought it restored a sense of menace to the franchise. I liked the way it tied up some of the looser ends in the story as well (though how Will ended up cursed at all IDK, I thought he was all good after taking over the dutchman).

    Really the only other thing I didn’t much care for was the ending.

    Wife and I both loved it. Would watch again.

  8. Johnny Depp’s career is walking the plank right now.

  9. runMan-run

    Well if my young son enjoys it, then that’s good enough for me. I thought the primary target audience for these films was children…

    We can’t be reading War and Peace every evening.

  10. Johnny Depp’s character is surely one of the most annoying in cinema history. Up there with Jar Jar Binks, for me.

  11. I enjoy POTC, probably more than the average person should. Having said that I thought this movie was a ton of fun and a great addition to the franchise. Although the villain is the scariest the franchise has seen thus far, the film is much more campy and fun in tone. Definitely better than the last one, but not as good as the original trilogy, and with that after credit scene I’m excited for number 6!

  12. Conception

    Jack Sparrow lacks any redeeming qualities now. Well, he’s still funny. And lucky. But he used to be clever and witty. He used to be a good sword fighter. He used to have mystique, always battling with whether he should do the right thing or the easy thing. He had desires, and goals. He was sort of an anti hero, and he accomplished things and saved the day. He had none of that and basically did nothing the whole movie. The entire movie was about circumstances that happened to him and he just stumbled along lucking out and saying one liners about sex. Young Jack was pretty cool though. He captured very well the old Jack.

  13. Merritt

    The people complaining about Bardem’s accent must live in very monolingual areas.

  14. Reddick

    For some reason I ended up seeing the first Pirates of the Caribbean film about 4 times in the cinema, including one memorable time in Amsterdam on mushrooms, and ever since have had some affection for the films.

  15. The first one was genuinely great.

    Sequels were dire, stopped watching aft the second

  16. Everyone liked the first one.

    The subsequent ones were so bad that I saw children have to be taken out of the cinema crying due to incomprehension and despair. Haven’t seen that since some of the Batman Joel Schumacher films.

  17. The first film was charming because it took surprising risks.

  18. Only Transformers 2 can beat Pirates 3 in the worst ever sequel list.

  19. Anderson

    Why are PotC films so good?

    Because they arrrrrrrrrr.

  20. The first one was actually quite entertaining. But I got dragged along to the second or third one with a friend, and I’ve never been so desperate for a film to end.

  21. First one was passable nonsense. The second one was all action, no plot, whilst the third was all plot, no action. Or is it the other way around? I forget.

  22. I was kind of disappointed by this one. I didn’t think it was bad . . . just kind of mediocre. One of the things I actually liked about On Stranger Tides was that it breathed a bit of fresh air into the franchise by getting rid of the Will and Elizabeth storyline and replacing it with some new characters.

    I feel like Dead Men Tell No Tales could have been better if it had been more fleshed-out than it was. The Henry and Carina romance felt really rushed and an obvious replica of Will and Elizabeth. Henry’s quest to free his father of the curse also seemed way too easily resolved compared to when Will tried to do the same in the previous films. I didn’t feel emotionally invested or intellectually engaged enough.

    There were some cool and entertaining tricks along the way though. I liked the guillotine scene for instance and was impressed by the de-aged Johnny Depp in the flashback scene. And I’ll admit to partially being lured into the movie theatre because of Paul McCartney’s cameo (it’s always worth it for a Beatle). It’s just that the franchise seems to keep going well past its expiration date by recycling old material, which results in it feeling tired and worn-out after awhile.

  23. Joseph Cernik
    Joseph Cernik

    I enjoyed these movies, although I found the last one not as enjoyable at the first one and don’t see how it saved the series.

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