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A brief guide to Pirates of the Caribbean

Jochen Kürten ad
May 24, 2017

Johnny Depp makes his comeback at Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," opening this week around the world. Here's a look at the pirate's 14-year career and a fact check from the series.

Scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Image: The Walt Disney Company Germany GmbH

A glamorous star

Played by Johnny Depp, Jack Sparrow has long attained cult status. And it's hard to challenge that. Something that could be criticized, however, is the fact that Depp's role, as well as the roles of the remaining cast of the pirate film series, hasn't been developed further ever since the first part was realized.

On the other hand, what most fans love is precisely the continuation of familiar antics - which is why, in the new film, Johnny Depp's performance as Sparrow resembles his earlier portrayals. In one of the first scenes, Depp, sleeping in a safe filled with gold, is trying to get over a bad hangover. Still intoxicated, he staggers his way through the following 129 minutes as though he never really grasped the director's instructions during filming. 

Johnny Depp at the film premiere on May 11 in Shanghai
Johnny Depp at the film premiere on May 11 in ShanghaiImage: Reuters/A. Song

The rest of the cast

The villain, Captain Salazar, is played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem. He has only one goal in mind, and that is to knock off Sparrow. As Bardem plays a pirate zombie, he never really makes a full appearance. Viewers can recognize him, but he appears so unreal that they might wonder whether he was pasted into the film during post-production.

His co-stars, especially Geoffrey Rush, come across more vividly. Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites play the young couple, Orlando Bloom only appears in two short scenes, and towards the end, Keira Knightley makes a cameo appearance. British-Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani plays the most eccentric role as a glamorous and dangerous sea witch.

Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Rush waves to fans at the premiere in ChinaImage: Reuters/A. Song

The plot

In pop Hollywood series like these, the storyline doesn't usually take a front seat. That also holds true for "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." Sparrow is hunted by Salazar, while being assisted by Captain Hector Barbossa (Rush). Among the good guys are the young and beautiful Carina Smyth (Scodelario) and Henry (Thwaites), a strong young seaman.

The usual battles and relentless pursuits take place at sea, and the film ends with a fierce underwater fight where the protagonists fight for the trident of sea god Poseidon. 

Film still Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar got some serious digital makeupImage: Imago/ZUMA Press/Entertainment Pictures

The effects

Since the first Pirates of the Caribbean film in 2003, the effects have become more complex and costly. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales" offers two hours of digital entertainment. As this is a 3D production, the bullets seem to fly around viewers' ears.

Particularly impressive is the first sequence in which an entire house is pulled through a digital Caribbean village - almost reminiscent of James Bond films. Perfect and less-than-perfect effects continue throughout the course of the film. Some of the sea scenes are very impressive. Audiences are likely to have differing views on the zombie crew on Salazar's ship, and the final battle under water seems a bit artificial.

Film still from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
The digital 3D effects are impressiveImage: The Walt Disney Company Germany GmbH

The setting

Can one really talk about the "setting" of a film that was mainly produced at a computer? Almost all of the "real" scenes were shot in Australia. Only the last 13 days of shooting were done in Vancouver. Despite the digitalization, beautiful Australian landscapes including Moreton Bay, Lennox Headland Reserve, Hastings Point, Tamborine Mountain and the Whitsunday Islands shine through. The beginning of the film is set in the gorgeous backdrop of the British colonial village of St. Martin.

Film still  Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Kaya Scodelario takes the female leadImage: The Walt Disney Company Germany GmbH

The production

According to Australian sources as confirmed by the Walt Disney Company, the film's production budget amounted to roughly $350 million with Johnny Depp's salary alone totalling $60 million. According to other sources, the budget was even higher. The immense effort that went into the fifth part of the pirate saga is clearly visible in the result.

Unfortunately, some hackers tried to get a share of the series' success. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" allegedly fell into the hands of criminals who hacked the Disney Company. Threatening to put parts of the film into the internet, they are said to have demanded a lot of money. The producers were certainly not amused about real pirates trying to extort money from pirate film producers.

Johnny Depp at the film premiere in Shanghai
Film five is expected to match its predecessors' box office successImage: Reuters/A. Song

The directors

The expensive Hollywood production of blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer was directed by two Norwegians, namely Hans Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who already gained experience in Hollywood when they directed the western "Bandidas" in 2006. They were nominated for an Oscar for their sea saga "Kon-Tiki," featuring the exciting travels and adventures of Thor Heyerdahl. Before turning to movies, they did commercials for Budweiser, Nintendo, Coca-Cola and Nokia. 

Film still Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Will there be a part six after all? Image: Imago/ZUMA Press/Entertainment Pictures

The upshot

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is a popcorn flick. Those who loved the first four films are bound to appreciate the fifth part of the pirate saga. After all, fans get what they expected: Johnny Depp in his well-tried quirky role, some digitally beefed up villains, lots of bullets, fierce battles, and a bit of romance.

The producers and main actors have already announced that the Pirates of the Caribbean adventure series will finally come to an end with this latest film. But how can we be sure? Should "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" turn out to be yet another major box-office hit, or should Johnny Depp have to continue paying alimony, it's not unlikely that Jack Sparrow will make yet another comeback.