Much has changed in the six years since the Black Pearl’s last voyage. Of late Johnny Depp, the previously beloved star of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” flicks, has been tabloid fodder, his personal life a treasure trove of scandal. Will Deep’s martial and financial peccadillos harm the new movie’s bottom line, sinking the once mighty franchise in a one-way trip to Davy Jones’s Locker? Or will Captain Jack Sparrow once again frolic down the plank to titanic grosses? Those are the questions hanging heavy over “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
“The dead have taken command of the sea. They’re searching for Sparrow!”
The new adventure sees a new villain, undead pirate hunter Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), unleash an army of ghost sailors from a mysterious nautical underworld called the Devil’s Triangle. His plan is to hunt down and kill every sea going pirate with one name at the top of his list, Captain Jack Sparrow. Seems Sparrow not only doomed Salazar to watery purgatory decades ago but also has a compass that can break the ghost sailor’s hex curse.
“Find Jack Sparrow for me and relay a message from Captain Salazar. Tell him, death will come straight for him. Will you say that to him, please?”
Sparrow (Depp), meanwhile, has lost his mojo. After a wild bank robbery that tore up half of the island of Saint Martin but yielded little in the way of doubloons, Jack loses his luck and his crew. Reduced to helming the Dying Gull, a small and barely seaworthy ship, he must now fight for his life. To survive he has to locate the Trident of Poseidon, a divine artefact that can break any curse at sea. Helping on his mission are Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer with a diary filled with cryptic Trident clues and directions and Royal Navy sailor Henry (Brenton Thwaites).
Also mixed up in the action are returning characters, blacksmith-turned-Captain of the Flying Dutchman Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Turner’s wife and Henry’s mother, one-legged pirate Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Captain Jack’s First Mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally).
New comers include witch Haifaa Meni (Golshifteh Farahani) and Paul McCartney as a jokey pirate behind bars, eagerly awaiting a beating.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is more of a linear adventure than the series’ last few instalments. It’s a tale of mysticism and slapstick, a story that freshens up the franchise, although it cannot be denied that the originality and ingenuity of the first movie has turned into a fine mist that colours this movie but has no where near the impact of the original.
Once again Depp slurs and sashays through the movie, getting the biggest laughs. Sparrow is still an interesting character, a debauched scallywag (apparently based on Keith Richards) who appeals to children and adults alike. The embattled actor hams it up, giving audiences what they expect from Sparrow but whether moviegoers still want to see him in his best-known role is hard to say.
Tonally Depp hits the right notes but the movie is all over the place. Kid friendly slapstick is abundant but there is also a fair amount of PG+ swashbuckling, action and swordplay. And don’t get me started on the nightmare inducing zombie sharks.
Parents of small children will want to keep that in mind, and the two-hour plus running time. Like so many tent pole movies “Dead Men Tell No Tales” suffers from more-is-more syndrome. The action is easier to follow than in the Gore Verbinski films but watery climax is too long and a coda, reuniting the characters for one last hurrah, is unnecessary and adds little to the film except for a few extra minutes.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a crowd pleaser and by far the best of the bunch since the first one. It contains all the elements you expect from the “Pirates” franchise and even a few you don’t but takes on water in its final half hour.