I’ll Be In My Trailer is an ongoing series where I review a film before it is released, based entirely on the trailer.
When Disney started promoting Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl back in 2003 many people thought it was idiotic to base a film on a theme park ride. They weren’t wrong. It is idiotic. If recent history has taught us anything, however, it’s that idiocy is a solid marketing strategy in America. Thus Pirates of the Caribbean made a boatload of booty and went on to become one of the most successful film franchises ever.
At this point one might be forgiven for thinking this series is just a bunch of action-adventure popcorn movies with nothing to say. I myself assumed the very act of reviewing a film such as this was rather pointless. Most anyone who’s going to see Pirates of the Caribbean 5 has already seen 1-4 and should bloody well know what to expect, right?
Dead Men Tell No Tales departs from the oeuvre of the previous 4 films and opts instead to deliver a thoughtful meditation on the nature of suffering. This begins when a young Jack Sparrow discovers that he is really just an automaton built to amuse privileged children at Disneyland.
Throughout the series Jack Sparrow has been depicted as a bumbling but lovable alcoholic pirate. Now we know why. When one finds out their whole world is just a lame theme park attraction one rapidly runs out of fucks to give. What better reason to take up day drinking? This revelation brings new depth to the character of Jack Sparrow. At last we see the tortured soul beneath the shallow persona of a carefree brigand.
Young Jack makes the first of his many enemies when he shares his devastating knowledge with one Captain Salazar, portrayed masterfully by Javier Bardem.
Salazar is overwhelmed with existential dread at the news. He attempts suicide in the traditional manner by blowing up his ship and jumping into the ocean. This doesn’t work, of course, because Salazar is a robot and the Disney maintenance crew simply reassembles him.
Sadly for Salazar all the king’s men were getting smashed at Club 33 when they got the call to come put the pirate back together again. In their drunken stupor it takes them the span of the first 4 movies to finish the repairs and their shoddy workmanship leaves the captain a hideous mutilated shell of his former self. Salazar blames Jack for ruining his life and vows revenge.
Under the veneer of a high seas adventure tale there is some heavy allegory in this film. Jack Sparrow and Captain Salazar both discover that they are living in a world like that of the mythical Sisyphus, condemned to an eternity of meaningless labor for the amusement of the gods. The gods, in this case, just happen to be mostly upper middle class Americans.
The conflict between Sparrow and Salazar arises from their different responses to the knowledge of their predicament. Captain Jack takes on the role of the absurd hero as described by the philosopher Albert Camus in his 1942 essay titled The Myth of Sisyphus. Though he knows he is trapped in an absurd world and doomed to suffer, Jack adopts a carefree attitude and attempts to enjoy life. He is a happy Sisyphus, in spite of his torment.
Salazar, on the other hand, becomes bitter and angry at his circumstances, wallowing in his misery like an emo teen. He is Sisyphus as the gods intended him to be: suffering.
By incorporating the Disney theme park ride into the storyline, Dead Men Tell No Tales brings the franchise full circle and serves as a fitting end to the series. The best part is this: if philosophy bores you to tears you’ve still got all the CGI undead pirates and elaborate action sequences to keep you entertained.
Rating: 5 stars for Emo Javier Bardem