Jack Sparrow returned to the big screen this Summer along with new allies in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and now the swashbuckling adventure is arriving on blu-ray. It’s definitely a step up from On Stranger Tides, but still doesn’t capture the magic of the originals. Come inside for my full review of the new blu-ray release.
Slowly but surely, thanks to blu-ray, I’m catching up on all the films I missed out on this Summer (just about all of them), and the latest one is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The Pirates franchise has certainly seen better days, though I confess the first two films are still big favorites of mine. The third film squandered the potential of the first two, while the fourth (On Stranger Tides) was boring and lifeless.
Because of this, I can’t say Dead Men Tell No Tales was high on my list of films to see this Summer. I really enjoyed the trailers, however, and was curious to see if it’d be possible for this film to recapture the magic of the franchise’s glory days. Ultimately, the answer is “No”, but it gets a hell of a lot closer than I expected.
The movie sees the grown up son of Will and Elizabeth Turner (who reprise their roles briefly) on a quest to end the curse that binds his father to the Dutchman and unable to live a normal life. To do so, Henry must seek out Poseidon's Trident, which has the power to break any curse. When he comes across the cursed ghost of Captain Salazar, who has a personal vendetta against Pirates and Jack Sparrow specifically. As such, Henry must seek out the down on his luck pirate, while getting the help of astronomer, Carina Smyth, who has reasons of her own to seek the Trident.
Result is another high seas chase to find a mystical artifact hardly anyone believes exists. I mean, it's a fairly typical setup for these Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but the formula is definitely more fun this time around than On Stranger Tides. Javier Bardem's Captain Salazar feels like a genuine threat, more so than Black Beard, and provides a legitimate reason for the protagonists to unite.
While Jack Sparrow remains a point of focus for the franchise, the story is really about the new characters, and puts much of its emotional weight on their moments. In this way, it's frustrating when certain things choose to focus on Sparrow rather than the new heroes, who are genuinely more interesting at this point.
In many ways, Dead Men Tell No Tales feels like a step in the right direction for the franchise, but it's inability to fully let go of the series' tropes keeps it from going beyond simple entertainment. It's a lot more fun this time around, and I can honestly say I'm interested in watching it again. Something I couldn't say about the last couple Pirate films.
Sight and Sound
Disney always brings the goods when it comes to their blu-ray releases, and Dead Men Tell No Tales isn't any different. The image is clear and offers solid depth to the blacks without crushing. This is pretty important as it felt like there were a lot more night time scenes in this film than the others. Even so, I never struggled to see what was happening, as the blu-ray transfer kept everything crisp. When the scene's lightened up and featured a deeper color range (especially the final act), it was impressive to see.
The sound design is also given a good treatment, with the surround sound immersing you in the middle of the big naval battles, with cannons blaring and swords clanging behind you as the decks are boarded. The action scenes are impressive and don't overpower the dialog, with everything being clearly intelligible despite the surrounding action going on. From a technical point of view, Dead Men Tell No Tales is an excellent blu-ray.
The Special Features
One of the things Disney has always done exceptional with on blu-ray releases, are the amount of bonus features they include. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales comes loaded as well:
Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Making of a New Adventure (1080p): A seven-part feature.
* A Return to the Sea (3:33): Cast and crew discuss returning to the franchise, making another epic film, and keeping the series fresh.
* Telling Tales: A Sit-Down with Brenton & Kaya (8:48): The franchise's newest actors reflect on their experiences in making the movie.
*The Matador & The Bull: Secrets of Salazar & the Silent Mary (13:38): Cast and crew discusses the antagonistic character, the visual components and digital effects, Bardem's portrayal, and more.
*First Mate Confidential (8:48): A day in the life on the set of Actor Kevin McNally, who portrays Gibbs.
*Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks (3:50): A short look at making one of the more interesting visuals from the film.
*Wings Over the Caribbean (5:11): Paul McCartney makes a cameo in the film.
*An Enduring Legacy (3:59): A short look back on the franchise.
Bloopers of the Caribbean (1080p, 2:58).
Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary (1080p, 1:40): A quick collection of still photos Bruckheimer captured on-set.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 2:59 total runtime): Highwayman, Henry Turner Learns a Lesson from Captain Jack, A Whale in Poseidon's Tomb, and Alternate Coda: Murtogg & Mallory 'Flogging'
The seven part ‘making of’ featurettes are pretty interesting, giving fans of the franchise an insight into how the film came together, and the legacy of films in general. They also offer a cool look at how some of the visual effects (which are impressively handled) came to life.
The rest are your standard bonus features (bloopers, cut scenes, etc) which are kind of fun to watch, but aren’t necessarily that great either. All in all, there seems to be a lot of additional stuff on the disc, but I doubt you’ll find much reason to revisit them.