Latest ‘Pirates’ Film Hardly Worth Trip To The Theater

‘I’ On Culture

Some movies should never be made, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a perfect example. It is awful, but it will make money riding on the reputation of the earlier films.

Just about everyone really enjoyed the first films in the series with Johnny Depp, wearing enough eyeliner to handle the needs of any chorus line in Las Vegas, swishing his way through a comic portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow, a true rogue. And there were some great comic scenes in the next couple of films to avoid the issue of really bad scripts.

Unfortunately, in this fifth film, the plot is hackneyed, the dialogue repetitious and it is all done without a hint of subtlety. There is another sea curse, another artifact to be found and more nasty people who want Sparrow dead. In other words, instead of coming up with a way to invigorate the series with something new, the writers (and I am doing them a favor by not mentioning their names) seem to have played cut and paste with previous scripts.

Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), comes to Sparrow asking for help in finding the Trident of Poseidon, one of those sea relics that seem to be in all of these films. It has the power to cancel sea curses, including the one that sent his parents to the bottom of the sea. Kaya Scodelario plays an astrologer and horologist (study of time), which leads to far too many jokes passed on the first syllable of that word.

There are the usual highly paid scene-chewing villains. Javier Bardem plays, well, his usual creepy Bardem. And Geoffrey Rush storms around either loudly muttering or screaming fancy curses. In the long run, who really cares?

To keep a franchise alive, it has to constantly be reimagined. The Captain America series does that beautifully. The first was a World War II hero drama, the second was a 1970s-style political thriller, and the third was a debate over personal vs. group responsibility with a nice addition of extra superheroes and a dollop of humor. The Alien series, after the original became a bit redundant, switched gears and moved from pure horror to a mix involving philosophical androids dealing with issues of creation.

This Pirates film seems based solely on the idea of “take the money and run.” There are no new ideas, and watching the set gags, many repeating from the earlier films, becomes boring. In good movies, people seem glued to their seats. At the showing I attended, people left to hit the candy stand.

Depp played the same part he’s done so many times before, and it was clear that he was working hard to not seem bored. He needed a hit movie badly, and this was a can’t-miss proposition. As before, he does a heavy amount of physical comedy, although watching him constantly getting tangled in the ropes on his sailing ship is getting a bit old. Surely someone who has been sailing for decades would stop. But every time you’re about ready to head for the bathroom, the movie’s theme starts booming and off goes another one of the far-too-stagey set pieces that generally have no point but to allow Depp to look properly ridiculous.

Bardem and Rush are old-timers. They know how to act and how to be good guest stars. They over-act shamelessly, knowing that this is simply a quick way to make a buck. Bardem looked remarkably like an aging Edward Scissorhands, although that might have been planned. Thwaites and Scodelario were OK but are hardly star material. Paul McCartney has a relatively small role where he sits in a cell and cracks jokes. He should definitely not quit his day job. Had he done a bit of singing, of course, the film would have been greatly improved.

While the theater was fairly empty, receipts from other countries, perhaps one where this is not the fifth film, will make money for Disney. It is far more violent and grittier than previous films. Although it does have a PG-13 rating, the violence makes it problematic for kids.

Spending the money on the film would be a waste, although compared with a day at Disney World, where you can go through the ride based on the film franchise, it is not bad. Wait for it on television.