The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been on a rocky road – or choppy seas as it were – since the first film came out in 2003. While Curse of the Black Pearl was a smash hit, its follow-up was lackluster. The third film was perhaps better than the second mainly because of Keith Richards, but then the fourth was largely forgettable. (There was a mermaid, I think?) Luckily for us, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales returns to its roots, making it easily the best film since the first in the franchise.

Writer Jeff Nathanson is no fool. He seemed to recognize that if this movie had any chance of succeeding, he would need to revisit a very familiar storyline. Accordingly, Dead Men Tell No Tales follows a determined sailor and a beautiful, savvy young woman searching for something more, and of course, they can’t start their adventure without the help of a little too rum-soaked Captain Jack as an uneasy ally. While these two are fresh faces, it’s not hard to get emotionally invested when the characters so clearly mirror the story’s original duo. This time around, our leads are Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) who is seeking to save his father, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), from the Flying Dutchman’s curse and spirited astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who is searching for a connection to the father she never knew. The answer to both of their problems lies in a mythical lost Trident which is said to have belonged to Poseidon himself.

Henry, Carina, and Jack, along with, naturally, a lovable band of scallywags, race to the location of the Trident with a new villain nipping at their heels. The fearsome Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his crew of pirate-hunting sailors want nothing more than to nab Jack and take the Trident for themselves. Again, Nathanson makes the smart move, returning to a familiar group of baddies. Salazar and his men are basically Captain Barbossa’s cursed crew all over again but instead of turning into skeletons, these guys are smoky ghosts. Speaking of Barbossa, he tags along as well, peg-leg and glorious wig in full effect.

The movie is stunning visually. The ships, the creatures, the underwater sequences – all of it will make you wonder how they did it. There is one scene in particular, without giving too much away, that is sparkly magic straight out of a fairy tale. Adding to the beauty is Hans Zimmer’s score showing up again despite Geoff Zanelli doing the soundtrack. The familiar, triumphant tune will give you shivers.

Though it sometimes feels a bit forced and too many unnecessary elements muddy the waters a bit, overall, heart carries the film through. Everything is feel-good here. We get bawdy jokes, Jack’s signature ridiculously long escape sequences, and so many fun odds and ends cultivated from the previous films. The journey is never boring, and the ending is satisfying and feels very Disney. What can you say really? It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s Pirates. And sure, you may have wished they stopped at the first film, but this one will honestly make you not hate the idea of Henry Turner being the star of a revamped Pirates series.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales sails into theatres this Friday, May 26th. Check it out!

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