Ever since, well, the first Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, the series has suffered from a common action/fantasy movie problem called “too much stuff going on.” The first Pirates was just the story of a regular pirate, some other regular British people and some undead pirates. The fact that they were undead seemed unbelievable to all the non-undead characters in the film and allowed the audience to really buy into everything that was being thrown at us. It successfully suspended our disbelief.
But then, with Dead Man’s Chest, we got a convoluted story about squid-like pirates with more British people and Captain Jack. This movie wasn’t effective because it broke our disbelief by introducing too many fantastical elements. It’s the same thing that went wrong with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: you can have undead, spooky holy stuff, but if you throw in something like aliens, audiences aren’t going to buy it. Dead Man’s Chest made us not buy it anymore because it introduced that second fantastical element of Davy Jones’ squid face.
So this brings us to the latest Pirates incarnation, where not only do we have squid-people, but we also have ghost pirates, mystical magic pirate items, and just regular pirates and British people. There is way too much stuff going on and the film suffers because of it. The charm of characters like Jack Sparrow, Barbosa and the wonderful Pirates newcomer Carina Smyth fade off quickly because so much stuff is being shuffled around. We aren’t able to successfully suspend our disbelief because we haven’t been able to give the movie our full attention to start with.
If Pirates does want to go the way of the Furious movie franchise, where it no longer has any connection to reality but is just a collection of wild action scenes and whatever creatures the filmmakers could summon at that moment, it needs to stop with the plot device of “mystical new thing that astounds everyone.” Or perhaps it should realize that it doesn’t need to be a fully-realized universe, that not every character has to have a complex backstory with every other character. Even though the movie isn’t good, the ending shows that there is still love for the franchise and that when we’re given our next Pirates, we’ll still return for the voyage. Hopefully the filmmaker crew will have learned their lesson by then.