Remember when the world was a different place, in 2003, and one “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie was enough? Yeah, we do, too. Four movies and 14 years later, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” gets 1.5 stars out of 4.
Yes, this movie — No. 5 in an increasingly leadfooted series — actually exists. And, in its early moments, there was actually hope that “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” might be kind of fun, when some randomly uniformed nautical character gazed at an oncoming pirate ship and yelled, in plummy tones, “OPEN BAR!” But hope faded, after two glorious seconds, when I realized he’d said “OPEN FIRE!” and, well, two hours of wave-tossing and frantic people-chasing and pratfalls and murky CGI ensued. Oh, and Johnny Depp was there as Captain Jack Sparrow, giving a performance that was weirdly like watching an amateur actor trying very hard to imitate Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, which was both fascinating and very, very dull.
The original “Pirates of the Caribbean” came out in 2003; back then, our hearts were young, the world was more innocent (at least I think it was; five “Pirates” movies have a tendency to numb one’s soul), and Depp was actually acting. (Seriously: The first movie, with Depp giving a performance of deliciously twitchy oddness, was good fun.) Fourteen years later, Captain Jack’s still swigging rum, and may well have had a hand in writing the script; the plot’s still incoherent/beside the point. Javier Bardem is back, as the very villainous and very dead Capt. Salazar; Geoffrey Rush, equipped with a peg leg and full Cowardly Lion tresses, returns as Capt. Barbossa. Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario fulfill the Tiresome Young Couple quotient (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley having, mostly, graduated out of the franchise), and there’s a bald witch (Golshifteh Farahani) who fondles rats, which is not a euphemism.
Movie Review ★½
‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,’ with Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, Orlando Bloom. Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, from a screenplay by Jeff Nathanson. 129 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence and some suggestive content. Several theaters.
Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (“Kon-Tiki”) seem to not have the slightest idea how to make this material sing; instead, it’s mostly a noisy, dark 3D blur in which the characters run around a lot, seemingly looking for the exits. Poor Bardem has to speak all his lines with a metaphor-inducing mouthful of inky blood, and even Barbossa’s monkey, who takes his sweet time before showing up (clearly someone tipped him off), seems off his game. And while I was happy to see a running time of 128 minutes, rather than the longer time originally rumored, it’s as if the extra minutes were snipped out at random, perhaps by that monkey.
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Dead men may tell no tales, but bored audience members do. Open bar, anyone? Can we toast the end of this franchise? Please?