By Chaz Lipp
The Lowdown: Liberace once said, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” In the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ world, too much of a good thing turns out to be exhausting.
The fifth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise arrives with all the hubbub of the average mega-budget summer release. Dead Men Tell No Tales features more antics from Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, but the sad truth is he has no new tricks up his sleeve. Co-directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki, Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language Film), Dead Men has plenty of bluster but, in the end, feels depressingly empty. At 129 minutes it’s the shortest Pirates adventure, yet it still wears one down during a third act that throws in too many bells and whistles.
At least there’s a fun Paul McCartney cameo. Apparently Keith Richards had a scheduling conflict, leaving him unavailable to reprise his role as Captain Edward Teague (Jack’s father) as first seen in At World’s End (2007) and again in On Stranger Tides (2011). McCartney turns up briefly as Edward’s brother, also named Jack. Alas, that’s the biggest surprise in the otherwise unmemorable high seas tale. The massive ships, decomposing pirate ghosts, and an effectively scary undead shark are all rendered with the best CG razzle-dazzle money can buy. But 2003, the year The Curse of the Black Pearl became a surprise smash, seems like a very long time ago.
Henry Turner (son of Will and Elizabeth, played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in the first three films) is on a quest to locate the Trident of Poseidon. This item allegedly has the power to free Will, cursed to spend eternity aboard the Flying Dutchman. In flashback, we see a barnacle-ridden Will (Bloom) as captain of the foreboding ship, warning a young Henry (Lewis McGowan) that the Tridant is a myth. He commands his son to abandon hope and never return to the Dutchman. But adult Henry (Brenton Thwaites) isn’t willing to give up.
Thwaites is a little too bland to serve effectively as the story’s hero, but he’s aided by Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner series) as Carina Smyth. Branded a witch due to her intelligence (she’s an accomplished astronomer), she teams with Henry despite her disbelief in the supernatural. Scodelario’s pluck goes some ways toward balancing Thwaites general lack of charm, but this is still Depp’s show. Along for the ride is Javier Bardem as Dead Men‘s new villain, Captain Armando Salazar—another ghost pirate, also in search of the Trident. Salazar was betrayed by Jack many years ago and has now enlisted the help of Captain Hector Barbossa (series regular Geoffrey Rush) to hunt down Sparrow.
There’s another film on the way (teased during a post-credits scene), but it’s getting harder and harder to care. The exhaustive climax builds to outright sensory overload. Even with a plot twist involving the backstories of two major characters, the finale becomes too much of a good thing.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures