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Film Review – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Written by: FFT Webmaster | May 25th, 2017

Film Poster: Pirates of the Caribbean
Film Poster: Pirates of the Caribbean

The money is on the screen, Captain Jack is still a drunk and Bardem creates another infamous villain. Jack is not gay anymore.

Long ago, when Johnny Depp was filming PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (released in 2003)the executives were very worried Depp was making Captain Jack Sparrow gay.  Depp replied: “Didn’t you know all my characters are?”

BLACK PEARL grossed US$654 million worldwide and Walt Disney Pictures had a monster hit – and a franchise – on its hands. Along the way, PIRATES films and its amusement park attractions have become wildly successful. Captain Jack has stayed a drunk, but is no longer representing himself as “gender fluid.”

Too bad, because historically, Depp did his homework. (Starz’s BLACK SAILS Captain Flint was in love with aristocrat  Thomas Hamilton. Not only was Flint having an affair with Hamilton, he was having an affair with Hamilton’s wife Miranda. What a guy!)

As the CARIBBEAN franchise continued, Captain Jack’s sexuality has veered towards women. When we first see Captain Jack in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (herein as “PIRATES 5”), he is found after an assignation with a woman.

From “Marriage Among Pirates”: Sailors at sea have always been prone to what sociologists call “situational homosexuality.” Pirates, most specifically the pirates active in the Caribbean beginning in the 1600’s, had formalized unions between consenting adult men.

The French government showed concern for their sailors turning to a homosexual lifestyle, so much so that in 1645 the French governor of Tortuga requested hundreds of prostitutes be shipped to the New World to lure the sailors out of each other’s arms. The french word for seamen, matelotage, became a term for a legal marriage between two men. Thus came the common term, “mate.” Just saying. Some of these marriages had begun as master-servant or senior-junior. But under the pirate flag, they could be honored and legitimized.

Film Image: Pirates of the Caribbean
Film Image: Pirates of the Caribbean

In pirate society (and only pirate society) two men could “marry.” They would exchange gold rings, and pledge eternal union. After this, they were expected to share everything. If one of the partners was killed in action, pirate captains were careful to make sure that the surviving member received both shares of plunder, as well as any appropriate death benefits.

Among sailors who had practiced this form of marriage, it lost its sense of being alien, and so became accepted and legitimized as soon as they turned  pirate.*

Makes you wonder about Captain Hook and his infatuation with Peter Pan.

PIRATES 5 opens with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner’s (Orlando Bloom) son looking for his cursed father. There is only one way to release the curse and needs the help of Captain Jack Sparrow’s magic compass. Not only is the kid looking for Sparrow but so is semi-deceased Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his cursed crew.

There were many reasons why a man became a pirate. The potential for enormous wealth, freedom from class oppression and – not a small consideration – “becoming a pirate permitted men to live in a homosocial world wherein they could practice their preferred sexuality.” ( reference) 

Ten years quickly pass and now Swann & Turner’s son, Henry (Brenton Thwaites), is on a Royal Navy vessel. The ship has entered the Devil’s Triangle and the entire crew is slaughtered by Salazar, save one. Salazar gives Henry a message for Sparrow. Sparrow was responsible for Salazar’s condition and he is coming for him. 

Silly and stumbling drunk, Sparrow is busy robbing a bank with his “crew.” Henry joins Sparrow to find the Trident of Poseidon — which has the power to “break any curse at sea.” This means the Trident will release Turner from eternal duty on the Flying Dutchman and heal the oozing welts on his face. The Trident will also bring Salazar back to life but his hair will not be floating around his head like a bruised halo. Caught up in the mayhem is accused witch Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a self-taught astronomer who has a magic book that no man can read that may show the way to the Trident.

Also resurrected for PIRATES 5 is Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who has dandified himself with a grand curled wig. Even the capuchin monkey, Jack, is back. Paul McCartney, who plays Sparrow’s Uncle Jack quite well, finally bests Keith Richards. As we all know, Depp based Sparrow partly on Richards and Richards appeared briefly in both AT WORLD’S END and ON STRANGER TIDES as Sparrow’s father Captain Teague – but McCarthy has a better cameo! And more words!

The screenplay is by Jeff Nathanson (and 5 others) and directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg.

The special effects and overall visual look is fantastic. The money is up on the screen. Bardem is terrific. 

Depp looks great but flops around like some 1940s comic character. If this is indeed Depp’s last PIRATES – just like Daniel Craig’s last 007? – then why didn’t he boldly infuse Captain Jack Sparrow with some inner menace, an evil twin, or a brain tumor to give this now iconic character some depth. Depp had veto rights on the direction of the screenplay – he refused a female villain – so why didn’t he take the opportunity to give Jack Sparrow a backstory or a psychological purpose? 

All we know about Jack Sparrow’s primary directive is shown by his giving away the magic compass he lugged around for years for a bottle of booze.

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