With the release of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, there are now almost twelve full hours worth of movies in this franchise. The ride, starring amusing, kitschy pirate puppets, takes eight minutes and thirty seconds to complete at Disney World. That isn’t a thin jumping off point. It’s anemic.
The 2003 installment was fun, exciting, and featured two young stars that people wanted to see (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley). It also was the movie that made Johnny Depp a box office phenomenon, as his eccentric performance as Captain Jack Sparrow was a delight to anyone who hadn’t seen him do the exact same thing in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (which would be a large amount of people).
Depp, Disney, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have been going back to this cash cow ever since, even enlisting new directors, writers, and stars to join in on the cash register-ringing good times. Of course, the diminishing returns are evident as each of these movies have become bloated trash that even Depp seems completely disinterested in.
“Dead Men Tell No Tales” is no different. In fact, the plot is essentially a carbon copy of the 2003 movie. Captain Jack is being hunted down all over the ocean by a vengeful ghost named Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Jack is joined by Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of now cursed Will Turner (played by Orlando Bloom here for approximately three minutes). Now throw in the sassy, smart Carina (Kaya Scodelario), a woman accused of being a witch because she understands science, and you have the exact mix of characters that helped make the initial movie work.
The three of them set sail to search for the Trident of Poseidon, which as everyone knows, frees people from ocean curses. Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) shows up and he joins Jack, Henry, and Carina in their quest, but he also has a secret reason for doing so.
The effects are great, particularly the ghost sharks that are destined to become the stuff of nightmares for anyone creeped out by sea life. The Norwegian directing duo of Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg do their very best to make the action enjoyable and most of it actually is, even if the circumstances around it make the whole thing feel elementary.
It won’t take a spyglass to see where this story is going as it’s easily spotted from several nautical miles away. The only actor invested in this mess is Geoffrey Rush, who seems to revel in spitting out “gars” and putting an amusing emphasis on the word “treasure.”
Javier Bardem, who like Rush is an Oscar winner, lays the Spanish accent on so thick that it’s a borderline parity of a Spanish man…being portrayed by a Spanish man. Thank goodness an actual Spaniard is playing the role or else it would be downright insulting.
This entire exercise is a vehicle for Johnny Depp. It’s a good way for him to try to re-establish himself as a box office draw after a series of unwatchable disasters. Yes, Depp slides back into a role that is impossible to dislike, but there’s nothing new here. He slurs his words, talks with his hands more than an Italian on Columbus Day, and incomprehensibly is never close to being injured despite flopping around like a fish on land during battle.
It’s hard to believe that Depp was once nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for this role. By going to the well one too many times (perhaps three too many), everyone involved has made this character an eye-rolling bore.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is barely an improvement on the previous installment, if only because it so closely resembles the original film. It does move along quite quickly and doesn’t induce movie theater paralysis, but anyone expecting the wit and excitement of the first movie will be sorely disappointed. It’s definitely time to jump ship on this entire movie franchise.