Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales  (2017)    Disney/Action-Adventure-Fantasy    RT: 129 minutes    Rated PG-13 (sequences of adventure violence, some suggestive content)    Director: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg    Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson    Music: Geoff Zanelli    Cinematography: Paul Cameron    Release date: May 26, 2017 (US)    Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Angus Barnett, Martin Klebba, Adam Brown, Giles New, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley.

 

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 With Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the franchise has become a sinking flagship. The first one came as a nice surprise; nobody expected a movie based on a theme park ride to work as well as the 2003 movie did. It made over $650 million worldwide and spawned two really good (if bloated and overlong) sequels. They made a fourth one (On Stranger Tides) that, while it fell short of its predecessors, was reasonably entertaining. This latest entry falls even shorter.

pirates 2017 Dead Men Tell No Tales is remarkable in one respect; it manages to overwhelm AND underwhelm at the same time. It’s yet another super-noisy and chaotic vehicle that relies too heavily on bad CGI effects (the ghost sharks look especially fake). This is a movie in dire need of Ritalin. The story is convoluted and the visuals murky. It has too many ships chasing after one another. You need a scorecard to keep track of who’s after who and their different motivations for finding the object of desire first. It’s basically an all-out assault on the senses. So where’s the remarkable part? How about this? Dead Men Tell No Tales is also incredibly boring.

 Johnny Depp may as well have phoned in his fifth go-around as Captain Jack Sparrow, the still loopy miscreant/hero whose tipsy hijinks are not as funny as they once were. In Dead Men Tell No Tales, he’s a wanted man. The law still wants to nail him for piracy but he faces a greater danger from an old foe. It seems that one Captain Salazar (Bardem, No Country for Old Men) has an axe to grind. Years before, he tricked him and his crew into sailing into an area called the Devil’s Triangle. Anyone who ventures there never leaves; instead they’re cursed to remain undead and trapped in the Triangle for eternity or until the curse is broken.

 Henry Turner (Thwaites, Gods of Egypt), the son of Will and Elizabeth Turner (the hero and heroine of the first three POTC flicks), would also like to find Jack. He needs his help locating Poseidon’s Trident, an object capable of breaking every curse on the high seas including the one that has imprisoned his father on the Flying Dutchman since we last saw him at the end of At World’s End. They eventually team up with Carina (Scodelario, The Maze Runner), a young woman accused of witchcraft because of her extensive knowledge of astronomy and horology, the last one the subject of a running joke because… you know why. Sentenced to be executed, she keeps managing to escape the hangman’s noose. The trio sets forth for adventure on the high seas, pursued by Salazar who has commandeered a ship belonging to Barbossa (Rush, The King’s Speech), former captain of the Black Pearl.

 To be fair, Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t all bad. There are a few decent sequences like an early scene where Jack and his crew attempt to rob a bank and end up hauling the whole building through the streets of Saint Martin. It’s ridiculous but kind of fun. I felt a glimmer of hope which was quickly snuffed out by the rest of the movie. It gets redundant with the three heroes always being captured and held prisoner. The action scenes are dark and messy. The CGI is really bad this time around. It’s a rather ugly movie if you want to know the truth. Depp is just there for the paycheck, this we know. The two new leads don’t hold a candle to Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley (who return briefly). Thwaites looks like he belongs in a third-rate boy band. Scodelario comes off slightly- and I mean slightly- better as the fiercely independent heroine who thinks nothing of stripping down to her bloomers in front of her male companions (positively scandalous in the 18th century I would imagine). I don’t think she’s a very good actress and Dead Men Tell No Tales does zilch to improve her score. Bardem and Rush, try as they might, are wasted in this water-logged action-adventure, sluggishly directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki).

 I wanted to like Dead Men Tell No Tales, I really did. I went in with medium expectations that I hoped would be exceeded. Instead, it fell short of what I expected. It strives to be fun at first and sort of succeeds but it starts to sink after the first half-hour and never makes it back to the surface. We’re not even a month into the summer movie season and I’m already disheartened. I truly hope the summer movies start getting better; I’m actually hopeful for next week’s Wonder Woman. The only other saving grace of Dead Men Tell No Tales is a brief cameo by Paul McCartney as Jack Sparrow’s uncle. I guess Keith Richards was too busy to make a return appearance. Either that or he knew to abandon ship while he still could. I think the other actors ought to follow suit. Yo-ho-hum.

 BTW, there’s a post-credits scene for anybody who might be interested. It’s a promising set-up for a sixth (and hopefully final) POTC movie. 

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