Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTORS: Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Paul Cameron
WRITER: Jeff Nathanson
MUSIC: Geoff Zanelli
I remember a time when I looked forward to a “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. Then, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” came out in 2011 and I was pretty much done with the series. So when Disney announced a fifth “Pirates” film, the bar was already set pretty low. Somehow, the latest Jack Sparrow adventure still managed to be an ultimately disappointing affair.
The film starts off strong enough, introducing us to our new leads with Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner and Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth. Henry is trying to free his father Will (Orlando Bloom) from the curse of the Flying Dutchman and Carina is trying to find a map to the hidden location of Poseidon’s Trident. Henry joins forces with her because the Trident is exactly what he needs to free his daddy.
For some reason, Henry and Carina need Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a pirate who is down on his luck with no ship and no crew. Unfortunately, the film forgets to give a good reason as why Henry and Carina need Jack in the first place. Actually, the film never really gives a good reason for why Jack is needed in the film at all beyond the fact that he is the one that Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) wants to kill due to the curse that Jack put upon Salazar and his men.
When the three main characters meet, it is during quite a few fun sequences including the robbing of a bank that includes the entire bank itself and when Henry attempts to rescue Carina and Jack from being hanged and beheaded, respectfully. After this, the race is on to find the Trident but unfortunately, this is also where the entire film slows down. The biggest criticism for this film is the attempt at trying to recreate what made the original film popular in the first place.
Henry and Carina are pretty much stand-ins for the far more charismatic Will and Elizabeth from the first movie. Thwaites does the best job he can with the script, but unfortunately he can never make Henry anything more than the carbon copy version of Will. Carina is given a needless subplot in order to justify Geoffrey Rush being in the film once again.
While Depp can still be quite funny as Sparrow at times, my biggest frustration comes from the fact that the character is nothing more than a bumbling idiot this time out. In the previous films, it has always been that Jack is more clever than he appears and that most of his fumbling about is actually part of a much grander scheme. Here, he’s just plain dumb.
Rush is at least given a little more to do as Barbossa, but not much. He still gives a good performance and for the time that he is in the movie, the plot is somewhat more bearable. Before this film, Barbossa was the best villain this series had ever had and that’s something that didn’t change with this film.
Bardem tries his very best as Salazar, but he can’t quite capture the villainous heights of Barbossa from “Curse” or even Bill Nighy as Davy Jones. It also doesn’t help that half the time, I can’t understand what the hell he is saying. For this, I blame the sound department. There are several times that as Salazar spoke, the action around him just drowned him out and that hurt the impact of the character.
The action is another problem. Beyond a few good set pieces at the beginning of the film, the rest of the action takes place either at night where I can’t see anything or the shots are just too damn close meaning that, once again, I can’t tell what the hell is going on or where someone is during the fighting.
In addition to subpar action, the film’s final battle is, to put it lightly, pretty anticlimactic. I never really felt the impact of what was going on and the special-effects were not exactly the best, either. Eventually, it just ended I was just grateful that the film was almost over.
Ultimately, the film is a better effort than “On Stranger Tides”, which is an entirely forgettable film as is. “Dead Men Tell No Tales” and honestly, it should have stayed that way. This is one franchise that might finally be dead in the water.