Friday, May 26, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

2/4

Starring: Johnny Depp, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Javier Bardem, David Wenham, Orlando Bloom

Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Adventure Violence, and Some Suggestive Content

Captain Jack Sparrow is one of cinema's legendary characters.  I would put him alongside Hannibal Lector (Hopkins, not Cox), Norman Bates, Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, and even Rick and Ilsa.  Due in no small part to Johnny Depp's performance, Captain Jack Sparrow towers over all other pirates in film history.  It's unthinkable that then-CEO Michael Eisner thought that Depp was ruining the movie with his balls-out loony interpretation of the character.  His original three appearances were first rate, but after that, the story was told.  Disney, looking to keep a cash cow running by any means possible and Depp, lured by his love of the character (although the salary of $55.5 million probably helped), returned for a fourth installment.  That was very profitable, but tepidly received by critics and fans.  So the question is, can Capt'n Jack's fifth outing breathe new life into the franchise?  As much as it pains me to say it, the answer is no.

At the end of the third film, Will Turner (Bloom) stabbed the heart of Davy Jones, thus taking his place.  His son Henry (Thwaites) is desperate to find a way to free his father from the curse of captaining the Flying Dutchman.  To do that, he needs Poseidon's Trident, which will break all curses and allow the owner to rule the seas.  Henry isn't alone.  A scientist named Caryna Smith (Scodelario) thinks that finding the trident will help her unlock her past.  A naval officer by the name of Scarfield (Wenham) wants it to ensure British supremacy over the high seas.  And most notably, Captain Salazar wants it to undo a curse that Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) put him under.  The chase, as they say, is on.

What sinks the film is that Jack Sparrow isn't like the Jack Sparrow that we adored from his previous adventures.  Although it was originally one of Depp's favorite roles, he's obviously very tired of playing it.  There's no joy in his performance; he's bored to tears and doesn't bother to hide it.  It's hard not to blame him.  The screenplay gives him a character so one-note that he had to have felt insulted.  Little of the wit, intelligence and moral ambiguity that made him such a likable scoundrel are in evidence here.  This is screenwriting on autopilot.

The two new straight men, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario, are better than they have been in previous films of theirs.  But they still made me wish for Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann.  Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Barbossa, but the filmmakers make the fatal mistake of trying to humanize him.  Only Javier Bardem seems intent on earning his paycheck.  His Captain Salazar is a vicious creature that creeped me out on a few occasions.

Taking over from Rob Marshall, who was in over his head with the fourth installment, are Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg.  Their resume includes the Oscar-nominated Swedish film "Kon-Tiki" and a western action-comedy called "Bandidas" starring Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz that I don't think anyone saw.  Their work is adequate, but not stand-out.  The film looks okay and the special effects are impressive, but the plot makes no sense most of the time.  More importantly, they fail to capture the good cheer of the original trilogy.  There was a sense of jolly goofiness that was felt throughout the first three films that made it impossible to go for very long without a silly grin on your face.  Marshall failed to recreate that and these two aren't any more successful.

Many people will flock to this movie simply because they love Jack Sparrow.  I do too, which is why it pains me to tell you that it's not worth your time.

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