Friday, May 26, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (SPOILER FILLED) Adoption Movie Review

There are lots of spoilers ahead, but this film is definitely relevant to adoption. Want to avoid the spoilers? In a nutshell: Probably good for most kids 12 and up; parents should be  there to watch it with them. Caution for kids ages 9-11. Probably best to skip for kids ages 8 and under.

As a young boy, Henry Turner longed for his father, Will. Will has been cursed to a pirate ship; he can never return to land, but Henry promises to one day free him. Years later, 19-year-old Henry is aboard a British naval ship which is boarded by ghost pirates. The captain leaves Henry as the only survivor, and sends Henry with a message to give to the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow. On his journey, Henry meets Carina, a brilliant young scientist who has been sentenced to death for witchcraft because the community has misinterpreted her knowledge. Both on the run from the law, Henry and Carina seek a relic which will break the curse which plagues Henry’s father, and which Carina believes will bring her closer to the father she has never known.
The ghost pirate initially started hunting other pirates to avenge the deaths of his father and grandfather.


The Adoption Connection


Henry’s father has been absent for much of his life. Henry longs to free his father from a curse which has kept them separated, and his father sends Henry away, not wanting Henry to endanger himself. Henry does eventually free his father. Some viewers who have been separated from their parents will relate to Henry’s plea to Will, “I want you to come home,” and might be saddened by Will’s reply, “My curse will never be broken.”

Carina Smyth was found on an orphanage doorstep with only a first name and a small book, her only links to her father. She has never known either of her parents. The book her father left her is the diary of Galileo, and from this Carina believes that her father was an explorer who has a quest for her. In following his steps and finding a treasure that he had sought, Carina believes that she will grow closer to him. She explains that she has to find it because it is “the only link to who my father was.” She later refers to the diary he left her as “my birthright.” Another character offhanded comments, “So you’re an orphan.”   Through her quest, Carina meets her father. He is a famous pirate. Before she realizes that he is her father, he comments to another charater, “I placed her in an orphanage and never thought she’d make a life of her own… that leads her back to me. A woman like that would never believe that a swine like me could be her blood.” and shortly after Carina realizes that he is her father, he sacrifices his life to save hers. Carina decides to take his surname as her own.

Carina’s father knew that he had had a daughter, but he believed that it would be better for her not to know that her father was a pirate. He believed that she would want nothing to do with him. However, she longed for him, and each found meaning in their brief relationship.  

Strong Points

Even though a father and a son, and a father and a daughter, are separated by years, their love for each other is evident. I particularly loved the warmth that Carina’s father showed for her; it was surprising, given other aspects of his history. Carina and her father are able to share the discovery of something they each had long sought. As Carina realizes that this pirate may be significant n her life, she asks, “Who am I to you?” He responds, “Treasure.” It’s quite a beautiful response, and just after it, he gives his life to save hers. Carina is very happy to know her true birth surname. Some viewers may relate.
Henry is very happy to see his long-lost father return.


The leader of the ghost pirates looks grotesque, and many sailors are killed. Sexual innuendo, the threat of a guillotine, a frightening witch, and a bloodthirsty crowd hoping to see executions could all make this movie particularly scary to young children who might otherwise be drawn to this Disney franchise. Jack Sparrow’s dependence on alcohol may also be concerning to some viewers.

Carina’s father dies shortly after she meets him; he does so to save her, and she honors his memory, but the quick loss of something that she had desired for so long could be hard for viewers who have also longed for missing parents. Henry appears likely to remain in relationship with his parents, and his parents will likely fill a parental role for Carina as well.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is not a kids’ movie – but in many ways, it is an adoption-relevant film. Characters have lost parents, and long for them. Distance does not squelch love, but love does not erase the pain of distance. Well-intentioned secrets still have cost. Violence and parental loss will probably push this one out of bounds for most kids touched by adoption, but pre-teens and teens ages 12 or so and up could both enjoy this film and benefit from the conversations that the film could invite. If your pre-teen or teen is going to watch this, it’d be good for you to see it as well; there’s plenty of stuff to talk about, and there are a few points which could trouble a pre-teen if they don’t have someone to talk it over with. For what it’s worth, I also found the film quite entertaining. Should be good for 12 and up, caution for 9-11, and probably not a good fit for most kids 8 and under, especially in families touched by adoption issues.

Questions for Discussion

What do you think Henry felt like when he saw his father return? What did you feel like watching it?

Why was Carina so intent on reading “the map that no man can read?”

Why did Carina’s father intend to keep her a secret? In what ways do you think he was thinking well? In what ways do you think he might have thought this out poorly?

What links you to your past? What links you to your future?

More Resources

Was this review helpful for you? I’ve got a year’s worth of them in my book, ADOPTION AT THE MOVIES. Check it out on Amazon!

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