Confession time: I used to be a major fan of this franchise. Like, I did RP with the characters major fan kind of deal. Over time my love faded, but I kept up with it. I saw the 4th film (though it’s so forgettable that it may as well not exist) but got excited again when the trailers came out for this in part at least because it had Will in the previews.
[Spoiler alert: Will is on screen for maybe all of six minutes, and Elizabeth two and the post-credit scene which would suggest that they’d come back for six, but either way – if this was your draw (as it was mine) it ain’t worth it.]
That said, I didn’t go into the film with high expectations. Between the lackluster 4th and the rumors about Depp being nigh impossible to work with on this film there weren’t reasons to do so.
It still disappointed.
This movie made the biggest sin any franchise movie could make: you could take out the lead of the franchise and have the exact same (if not arguably better) film.
Jack has gone from being seemingly stupid but rather cunning to just plain stupid. At no point in this film does he help anything in any way that isn’t pure deus-ex-machina. Had this jack been the protagonist of the first film, I wouldn’t be sitting here now. In fact, not only does Jack not need to be in this film, but neither does Barbossa nor Salazar. They’re all just here because the movie needs a framework.
The story itself is rather simple: Henry Turner, son of Will is looking for a way to break the curse binding Will to the Dutchman. Carina Smyth is trying to solve the mystery of a map left to her by the father she never knew because she has nothing better to do, I guess? As it so happens, she has the map that Henry needs. Jack just happens to be involved because…he has a boat?
Barbossa is there because Plot Reasons which I won’t spoil, but again, does he need to be there? Not really. He’s working with an actual witch (which can be surmised as the reason that Jack is so down on his luck) and seems to be in cahoots with the British for Reasons (no seriously, he pays off a Brit to go see said witch). There’s also a token British presence in the film, presumably because they wanted some escape sequences. It’s literally so token that I don’t think we ever actually learn the name of the Lord Beckett fill-in and they get taken out in the latter part of the film completely without ceremony or consequence.
Salazar is equally pointless. A young (Uncanny Valley CGI) Sparrow got Salzar to sail his boat into the Devil’s Triangle. Somehow, that made Salazar and his men into ghosts and gave his ship magical powers (for Reasons). Somehow, the compass that Jack had trapped him there (again, for Reasons). So he gets free and he wants out to kill Jack because. It makes for okay enough motivation, I guess but he’s just not an interesting villain. But because he has such dominion over the sea (which is again unexplained) it puts Barbossa into a spot where we he has to find Sparrow and lo the gang is all together again. Is it cool seeing him again? I guess. Did he need to be here? Ehhh. But without him, you wouldn’t have Jack the monkey, the EiTC guys who became pirates at the end of At World’s End and another route for plot dump (c.f. said witch who only exists for this purpose and makes you wish for Tia Dalma). But at the end ,it honestly feels like they’re here just because they need to give the A story a sense of conflict.
Overall, when I was watching while I wasn’t having a ton of fun, I was enjoying myself enough. But when I got out of the movie and started thinking on what I had just seen, I realized how little there actually was. It’s enough to all but killed my interest in the franchise, at least as of now. If Will and Elizabeth are actually back (as in back back, not cameos again) maybe I’ll see it. But for now? This is a pretty safe Skip It. If you need to see it, don’t pay more than bargain matinee price for it. It’s not worth more than that.