Bloated 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' is a mile wide and six inches deep
Posted May 26
“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES” — 2 stars — Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario; PG-13 (sequences of adventure violence and some suggestive content); in general release
The zombie sharks in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” look pretty cool, but at this point, Johnny Depp’s signature franchise may be jumping them. The fifth movie in the Pirates series seems determined to cover as many bases as possible, and the result is a film that feels routine.
Depp is back in Captain Jack Sparrow’s waterlogged boots for the first time since 2011's “On Stranger Tides.” This time the priceless treasure is Poseidon’s Trident, a mythic object that seems to be the key to everyone’s happiness.
For Henry (Brenton Thwaites), the now-grown son of franchise veterans Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), the Trident is the key to freeing his father from his miserable imprisonment curse on the Flying Dutchman.
For Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an aspiring astronomer who keeps getting branded as a witch, the Trident is the key to reconciling her faith in science, her skepticism of magic and her connection to her long-lost father.
For Sparrow, the Trident is the key to fending off his latest supernatural foe. In this case, it’s Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a former officer in the Spanish fleet who had nearly cleared the seas of pirates before Sparrow tricked him into sailing into the Devil’s Triangle, which slapped him and his crew — and apparently some sharks — with an undead curse. Thanks to a little help from Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Sparrow is back in Captain Salazar’s vengeful sights.
Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have tied together all sorts of plot lines here — Henry and Carina are also on the run from the British Navy (led by David Thewlis), and Sparrow still has his dysfunctional relationship with his crew. Though the prologue sets up Henry as the protagonist, Sparrow is still the star of the show, and Carina’s subplot keeps getting more important as things move along.
The result is a bloated, lumbering ship with no one at the helm. Thwaites can’t compete with Depp, and frequently gets tossed aside in the narrative. Depp is the signature figure of the franchise, yet feels underused. Scodelario is clearly meant to be the heir apparent to Knightley’s role earlier in the franchise, but even though her subplot feels driven and independent, the story still tries to shoehorn her into an arbitrary romance with Thwaites.
Still, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” offers up enough action, special effects and sweeping music to paper over most of its holes, if you squint hard enough. There’s a late twist to Barbossa’s plot thread that makes his seemingly obligatory inclusion feel much more poignant, and Sparrow is reintroduced with a fun caper scene that redefines the expression “rob a bank.” Classic rock fans will also appreciate a rather fab cameo midway through the movie, even if it feels arbitrary.
If you’ve made it this far into the series, these kinds of shortcomings may not bother you too much. You’ll enjoy the late effort to tie “Dead Men Tell No Tales” into the franchise’s greater story, and hope the post-credits bonus scene is really a hint at yet another film. But in all fairness, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is really about what you should expect for the fifth installment in a movie franchise inspired by a theme park ride. You’ll check off the boxes, and enjoy a little brainless, escapist fun, but you won’t get much more than that.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence and some suggestive content; running time: 129 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who also teaches English composition for Weber State University. You can also find him on <a href='https://www.youtube.com/moviereviewsbyjosh' target='_blank'>YouTube</a>.