by Aya

Even if you’ve never watched any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, you must know how popular the franchise is. After all, it’s one of the highest-grossing film series worldwide, and two of its films pulled in a billion bucks each. There’s clearly something special about the American fantasy swashbuckler film series based on a Disney theme park ride of the same name, but four action-packed films later, it’s certainly fair to ask is: is the fifth as good?

According to the figures, the answer is a resounding yes. Released earlier this year, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales generated some $800 million at the box office. This may come as a surprise as many critics had felt that the series had run its course with the previous instalment—especially since Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley skipped out on that one. But then again, very few people are able to turn away from the wilful charms of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), and the iconic anti-hero appears in every film. More importantly, it’s hard not to get immersed in a movie brimming with pirates, sea monsters, laughs and adventure.

And if you ask me, the film is well worth a go. OK, the storyline does get messy, no thanks to the many meaningless subplots that are almost uncomfortable to watch. It’s also got some jarring continuity issues, but everything else—performances, visuals and music—are pretty on point. In fact, this instalment is rather reminiscent of the very first one. Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg wanted to make the tone of this film similar to that of Curse of the Black Pearl, the one everyone fell in love with in 2003. And they did—this sequel boasts the same aesthetics and musical cues and they’re nothing short of excellent. It even brings back Mullroy and Murtogg, the pair of British soldiers who serve as comic relief in the earlier films. But most of all, this film has heart.

“I think it was important for us to try to analyse why we love it so much,” said Ronning to Variety. “Of course it has the adventure, the spectacle, and comedy. It scares you. I think first of all, it has heart. And that was very important for us, going into the fifth instalment, to really create a strong emotional core for the audience to be able to identify with this, because it is a lot going on — that’s what I’m hoping that we have achieved.”

It helps that Bloom and Knightley make a comeback this time round. Not that the focus is on them—in Dead Men Tell No Tales, it’s mainly about Jack Sparrow’s search for the trident of Poseidon, and the many hoops he has to jump through to avoid an undead sea captain and his savage crew. And excitingly enough, the film also introduces us to Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. It probably is no surprise that the handsome and polite chap ends up in a love story of his own, and for all it’s worth, the young couple share a fair bit of screen chemistry.

At 129 minutes-long, this film is shortest of the series yet. Sure, it’s still longer than the average flick, but it shows that one of the most common complaints about the franchise has finally been taken into consideration. And although it was sometimes billed as the “last adventure”, it’s since been confirmed that a sixth instalment will be released, so if the filmmakers intend to keep milking the franchise (and no one can deny it’s pretty damn milk-able), they should pay more attention to the preferences of viewers.

Wondering what the next sequel will bring? As of now, no one can say for sure, but this film probably has some clues—especially at the end. There’s also been speculation that this instalment saw the development of so many subplots because they’re preparing for the day Johnny Depp chooses not to return.

It’s a valid concern, of course, Depp’s possible departure. For one, much as Jack Sparrow is still amusing, he seems bored. It has been 14 years after all. Secondly, Depp was reportedly causing lots of issues on set during the production of this film, so much so that filming was frequently delayed by a few hours. It would be nice to see him again of course, and the franchise depends largely on him. But lest the day comes that he’s no longer a part of Pirates of the Caribbean, you probably should enjoy Dead Men Tell No Tales as best you can.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales