**Disclaimer! This isn’t a review for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. I encourage each of you to GO SEE IT and form your own opinion**
The first Pirates film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, was almost universally beloved when it was released. How people approach the sequels is another story, however it is also almost universally agreed that they aren’t as good as the original. As one reviewer of the new film stated “for every bit of good in this film, there is something negative to match it.” I think this is the perfect allegory for the series as a whole.
Let’s get the bad out of the way. I think the Pirates franchise suffers from two main issues. Their interpretation of Jack Sparrow was lost in translation along the way and the films are suffering from serious franchise fatigue.
Part of what made the original film so memorable was Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow. He was a seemingly bumbling drunk who managed to get himself in and out of many ridiculous situations with his wit, charm, and guile. As a result of this, you could never fully tell what he was going to do next, but you knew at least it would be outrageously entertaining to follow. There’s a quote in the third film that sums up the character perfectly in my mind: “Do you think he plans it all out or just makes it up as he goes along?” The best part about this question is that we as an audience have no idea and are meant to have our own interpretation. However, with each successive film in the series, the question is answered for us. He is continuously shown to have no idea what he’s doing, just happens to get into major situations, and mostly improvises. This seriously drains the fun out of the character and makes him boring to watch unless you really love slapstick humor.
As for franchise fatigue, I think Pirates is special in the sense that it hit this feeling pretty early on for most. Dead Man’s Chest garnered a lot of excitement, but At World’s End came out just a year later. Not only did this not allow for much breathing room for movie goers, it felt like beating a dead horse. The formula remained almost identical with each film in the series. This caused the films to become highly predictable and made what intriguing and mysterious elements the series still had (for example Jack Sparrow) less interesting. It was the equivalent of a magician doing the same act in front of an audience so often that they caught on to the various tricks that went into it and got bored. There was a bit of a break before On Stranger Tides came out but even then, it was still a major issue since they still followed the same formula. Even after six years without a Pirates movie, people are still franchise fatigued. The most reoccurring question I heard about the first trailer for Dead Men Tell No Tales was “They’re doing another one? Seriously?”
Beyond all of that, Pirates is still very unique which is part of why they each make as much money as they do and thus encourage Disney to make more. There aren’t that many pirate movies being made in the modern day for starters so they more or less corner the market there. The biggest aspect of the series’ success is something I feel has to do with the subject matter. Not just pirates per se but the myths, curses, and what-not of that era in history. Historical fantasy isn’t a new genre (in fact it’s done very often in films) but the fantastical elements of this specific time period are not often explored. How many other series can you point to where Aztec, Greek, and Voodoo myths lead to stories about cursed zombies, sea goddesses, and Lovecraftian fish-people respectively? Probably not that many. It all makes for insanely interesting lore and I know I personally see these films for the mystical and fantastical elements like Davy Jones and the new villain, Captain Salazar.
Overall, Pirates of the Caribbean is a unique and highly different series that struggles with keeping that uniqueness interesting. For every good, there is something bad about it. Regardless of what I think, I highly encourage you to check out the new movie and form your own opinions.