Franchises, by their very nature, are formulaic. As such, those who enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean formula will likely find some enjoyment in this fifth installment. Because it is exactly the same film as the others.
The glaring issue with these films is quite clear. Pacing. Set pieces in Dead Men Tell No Tales, from moment one, are overblown and tiresome. The introduction of the enigmatic Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) begins light and humorous, but this apt intro is squandered when the chase sequence extends far beyond its reach.
Aside from these pacing issues, in which scenes continue far past their natural expiration date, the attempt at story in this fourth sequel is admirable.
A disgraced Sparrow—nothing new here—is hunted by both William Turner’s (Orlando Bloom) son Henry (Brenton Thwaites), who is in search of a trident with the power to break the curse of Davey Jones that plagues his father, and the death-incarnate ghost Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).
It is a cat-and-mouse game with numerous (perhaps too numerous) moving parts.
The film is shot quite well, with some lighter bits of computer effects to match. The lengthy prologue of the film, particularly the fiery introduction of Salazar, is actually, surprisingly beautiful.
But the film’s action sequences lack vitality. They feel choreographed and conveniently executed. At times, they look down right messy.
The humor of the film—comic relief always a staple of these films—just doesn’t work. There are a number of sexual innuendos that seem drastically out of place. Sparrow’s witticisms, too, come off less successful than in iterations previous.
Depp himself knows the role, one he essentially created through performance, but the shtick is tired. There’s nothing more for him to do in this role that hasn’t been played out.
Same goes for Geoffrey Rush, who brings what he can to a character of little use in this narrative. No use save for one point, a point he services well, but it is a point more central to a different character.
The young newcomers (Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario) have the most to offer to the otherwise worn out cast. They do a fine job mustering faux accents and playing earnest straight men to Depp’s routines.
Then there’s Bardem. The selling point of the entire film. The darker forces of the Pirates world are often the more investing, but here Bardem plays a watered down version of the truly sinister buddies he has played before. He is Anton Chigurh with less menace and more billowing, CG hair.
In Dead Men Tell No Tales, the spectacle that the franchise is known for remains intact. But with less energy and urgency. It still has the same glorious musical motifs. But they underlie less glorious sequences. The swashbuckling story remains a distinctly Pirates one, but it is over-loaded and heavy, dragging pacing down in the progress.
For a fifth installment, it is surprisingly engaging. But merely as an action film, it is noticeably lacking.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: C
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)