Johnny Depp plays a drunkard for 90 minutes, and then a giant plothole opens up in the ocean and swallows the movie whole.
Even though the Pirates films seem full of adventurous whimsy, this is an illusion. The series has definitely crystallized into a shape that is very rigid. Each new Pirates film has a whole list of very definite elements that must be present, otherwise the studio simply won’t finance it. There’s the Black Pearl, Barbossa, the music, undead pirates and of course Jack Sparrow. Never shall a Pirates film be made without these elements. You could make a movie about pirates, but it won’t be a Pirates movie.
It is just a shame that what the Pirates series has crystallized into, has never reached the quality of the first movie, nor the potential for swashbuckling adventure that that movie promised for future instalments. I never really liked the heavy weight that the Pirates films put on the supernatural elements. There’s too many undead crews, too many skeletons and fish people. It turned the whole series into something silly and indulgent. The same problem exists with the character of Jack Sparrow. He started out as a proper character but turned into nothing but a comic relief, and even that with middling success.
The fifth movie, Dead Men Tell No Tales (or Salazar’s Revenge in Europe), continues all of these trends.
The story revolves around the young boy Henry Turner, William’s son. They managed to find an actor (Brenton Thwaites) who is just as bland as Orlando Bloom to play his son. In effect, he and the science woman Carina (Kaya Scodelario) are the next generation Will and Elizabeth. They need Jack Sparrow because they are all in search for a thing and bad guys are also searching for the thing and the whole thing is full of chases. The opening scene establishes the level of suspension of disbelief that is required here, as Jack and his crew try to copy the climax of Fast and the Furious 5.
Remember when Johnny Depp got nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the first movie? Yeah, that was 14 years ago. In the fifth one, Sparrow is just a drunk who says eccentric things. Depp shows no memory of his earlier performances, as if we are watching Sparrow’s descent into Alzheimer. The main problem is that there is no effective main character anymore. Henry Turner is too bland and can’t steal the limelight from Sparrow, and Sparrow is too chaotic and unfocused. He both steals and derails the story.
The series is doing what the Marvel superhero movies are doing as well: introducing a villain and killing him off right away in the same movie, and so bringing everything back to the status quo. Villains like Ultron got immense build-ups and then disappear after a single movie. In Pirates, we have again another undead captain, a terror of the ocean, who comes back to life with vengeance on his mind. It was the same with Davy Jones, the same with Blackbeard, and in fact the same with Captain Barbossa in the first one. Jaavier Bardem does have great screen presence, but his character is quite one-note. The same story over and over again, while we lose our grip on the worldbuilding of the story.
The best character of the movie by now is Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). He is sporting a nice wig and a luxurious vessel, all in all reminding me of Hook in Spielberg’s Hook. He is the only character having any depth and intelligence to him. He’s also the most successful pirate and has emotional layers. But the story just didn’t make any sense. It gets to the point where it is so convoluted that nothing makes any sense. Good thing though that you don’t need to be completely up to date with the previous movies to understand it all, because I have no memories of the fourth film.
I did have some fun and I laughed once or twice, but it is just not what I was hoping for. I’m not angry, I am disappointed. After Alien: Covenant and this one, this feeling is getting quite tiring.