Remember when Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow was an Oscar-nominated performance? Me neither, but it did happen. Flash-forward 14 years (yikes!) from that first "Pirates of the Caribbean" film - a film based on the Disney Magic Kingdom theme park ride - and we are given the fifth (and hopefully final) installment, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." Like any theme park ride, it may have been cute, charming and enjoyable at first, but ride it enough times it'll lose most of its magic. Yes it's safe to say that this franchise, and the character of Jack Sparrow is in need of much more than refurbishment, as is evident in this latest, bloated, lifeless swashbuckler.
In an odd sort of way, this film appears to have been an attempt at a "fresh start" for the series. The tale centers around Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), who is the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the star of the earlier "Pirates" films. Thwaites is as hunky as Bloom ever was back in his prime, and Henry's love interest in the new film, Carina (Kaya Scodelario) is as sexy and head-strong as Keira Knightley was opposite Bloom in those early flicks. The only constant of course, has remained the presence of the drunken, Keith Richards-esque Captain Jack Sparrow. He is still spouting one-liners and trying to remain relevant, but at this point he might as well be re-named Captain Jar Jar Binks, as his mere presence in a scene nowadays has become distracting and annoying. When Depp first breathed life into this character back in 2003, it was a refreshing revelation...now, it's clearly become a means to an end for the actor...he slips into costume, gets paid his millions, and goes home for the night. Rinse and repeat.
This time around, it's shocking how uninspiring and comfortable the filmmakers seemingly felt while making this fifth chapter. They literally use the same exact formula they've used each and every time before: A hero must find a magical artifact on the deep seas, and in doing so this hero crosses paths with a strong-willed woman and of course, Captain Jack. Cue an undead crew of ghost pirates who go looking for the same artifact, and who always seem to have a history with Sparrow. Blend in a series of action sequences, quips and special effects and you've got yourself a "Pirates" movie. It's grotesque without being scary, just like it's an adventure without being fun.Just thinking about it is making me sea-sick.
Speaking of being sick - and at the fear of sounding like a 100-year-old man - this movie is an assault on the senses. It is so fast-paced, crazy and non-sensical that it will leave your head-spinning. The situations are so preposterous, even for a movie about magical pirates, and things are so far removed from any sort of reality, that one must wonder what the point of it all is. Surely Disney is looking to wring every last drop out of this franchise, but what is now on-screen is also such a far-cry away from the ride that inspired all of this in the first place. The first film worked - yes largely because of Depp - but also because there were scenes, moments, and even characters that were directly lifted from the theme park ride that many adults and children alike were able to relate to. Now Disney is hoping that Jack Sparrow is that anchor, that one "thing" that draws people in. But he's run his course, people. Everything in moderation.
Yes Depp, Geoffrey Rush and even the great Javier Bardem (the film's big baddie) are not enough to steer this ship straight. It would be great if these films felt like they were building towards something, or even if these characters were evolving over time. Instead, these once-interesting characters have devolved into caricatures of themselves. To think that these Oscar-winning actors (Bardem and Rush) and this Oscar-nominated superstar (Depp) have sunk to such humiliating depths is...well, humiliating.
To be positive, there's nothing exactly "wrong" with the younger cast, they just feel "cursed" to have to share the screen with a group of tired actors who look to be cashing paychecks. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is maybe what you might expect from a pirate movie, but this franchise started off as something so much more. At this point, if there is any treasure buried deep within this saga, it doesn't seem worth searching for.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Run Time: 2 hours 9 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally
Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg ("Kon-Tiki," "Max Manus: Man of War")