‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ Reminded Me Why I Love ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’

OK, it didn’t remind ME, but it did remind our guest poster today, Catholic mom and writer Adrienne Thorne, who reviews TV and movies at “Thorne in the Flesh.”


Warning: This review for Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (the fifth installment in the series) also contains spoilers for “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (the third one).

When the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie came out in 2003, I was only 13 and my parents didn’t let me watch PG-13 movies. I remember being jealous when I heard my friends talking about it, but it wasn’t until a couple years later when my parents let me rent it from the good old Hollywood Video store that I realized what I had missed out on. I was enthralled, possibly a little obsessed.

What exactly did I love about that first movie, “The Curse of the Black Pearl”? It’s a certain whimsical, swashbuckling-fun quality that is probably one part reminiscent of the fun Disneyland ride, one part grown-up/pretend/romantical-setting fun, and one part Captain Jack Sparrow quips.

Unfortunately, the next three movies just didn’t compare to the first, in my mind. They had their high points – like when Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) said their wedding vows while literally sword-fighting with bad guys in between – but to me, those movies were, on the whole, rather forgettable. So I wasn’t really expecting to be wowed by this movie, as much as my curiosity made me want to see it.

Pleasantly Surprising

I felt like I was back watching the first movie again. Like “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” this latest installment brought me to another place where all manner of pirate-y mayhem could happen.

Granted there were a couple not-fantastic elements, like some fight scenes that go on a smidge too long and an apparently pointless scene where Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) meets his uncle in prison… but on the whole, it was enjoyable and fun. Considering that I was worrying about my kids giving my mom a hard time while she babysat them as I watched it, it’s probably saying something that it kept my attention at all, let alone entertained me that much.

My Favorite Part

Warning, here’s the big spoiler for the third movie, if you haven’t seen it: My heart broke for Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan over their curse. To be finally married and only able to see each other once every ten years? It’s one of the most beautifully heart-breaking romantic story-points I’ve ever seen in a movie. And I think it was made more heart-breaking by the assumption on my part that we would never see their quandary solved in later movies.

Well, guess what… If you were as heart-broken as I was for them at the end of the third movie, you simply must watch “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

Okay, I must give a little bit of it away: They have a kid now (my husband and I commented to each other, probably with obnoxious loudness to the other people in the theater, how that was some timing for Elizabeth to actually have been ovulating the one time they got to see each other in ten years!). And that kid wants to find a way to break his dad’s curse. And he needs Captain Jack’s help, so we get all the funny one-liners and the quips to break up the swashbuckling action sequences.

Moral Issues

It’s pirates, guys. They steal, plunder, murder… The analytic, moral-theology-inclined part of me wants to hate it, in principle. But it’s just so much fun!

In all seriousness, it’s really not a kid’s movie (as the other four weren’t). Don’t let the Disney name fool you. There’s lots of PG-13 violence (including a rather cringe-y bit involving Mr. Gibbs letting a dumb fellow pirate take a fierce beating, and later ripping out the same pirate’s toenail to use as a lock pick…), drunkenness, debauchery; a couple instances of innuendo, including a fairly crude conversation where some of the pirates joke/are confused about whether or not a girl is a prostitute, playing on the word “horologist” – it’s kind of funny, but a little much, Disney.

I’ve always felt that, even though these movies basically glorify the pirate lifestyle and all the objectively bad stuff that comes with it, watching it isn’t really something that is going to lead a mature viewer into sin. Would I let my little kids watch it? Probably not. But I personally tend to think it’s mostly good fun for the old-enough viewer.


That love story, man. I’m such a sap for the Will Turner/Elizabeth Swan saga. I honestly felt that, by the time we got to the satisfying ending, this movie redeemed even the lameness of the fourth movie.

Also, make sure you watch after the credits. Oh yes, there’s more!

Image: Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

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  • Jen

    I have also long been obsessed with these movies, haha. And the scores for them! Absolutely incredible! I really despise the curse thing with Will Turner though. It was kind of an absurd ending to that storyline. So I’m happy to hear it may be resolved in Dead Men Tell No Tales! I haven’t ever gotten to that.