Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Johnny Depp lost at sea in the latest installment of a depleted franchise.

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Pirates
Walt Disney Studios

Can it really be said that dead men tell no tales? Even the long-deceased might have an indignant response to the latest entry in the never-frickin'-ending Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Well, the news isn't all bad, I suppose: English actress Kaya Scodelario, an ornament of the Maze Runner films, here lends her tilted smile and twinkly spirit to a colorless love story undeserving of her lively presence. As good news goes, though, she's about it.

A serious problem for Dead Men Tell No Tales is the number of key Pirates personnel who have jumped ship. Founding director Gore Verbinski is long gone, of course, now replaced by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, Norwegian helmers of the Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski is absent for the first time, as are screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. (Rossio did take a first pass at the script, but it was judged inadequate, and he was replaced by veteran script-doctor Jeff Nathanson.)

Also among the missing, it might be said, is series star Johnny Depp – Captain Jack Sparrow himself – who over the course of 14 years of playing this character has run out of new things to do with his performance, and is now pretty much emailing it in.

The story, substantially incoherent, can be related only in outline. The MacGuffin this time around is the "Trident of Poseidon," an ancient artifact that has the power to "control the sea." Keen in pursuit of this item is young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, back briefly from the first three Pirates films). Henry believes the Trident can free his father from bondage aboard Davy Jones's fearsome ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman. Jack Sparrow would like to lay hands on the Trident, too—he would use it to defeat his nemesis, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a pirate-hunting Spanish navy officer whom Sparrow consigned to zombie perdition during a long-ago confrontation in the spooky Devil's Triangle. Salazar is now back on (and under) the bounding main; he wants the Trident in order to put an end to piracy altogether, and he also has an interest in Jack's magicky compass, which you may remember from the earlier films (or not, it doesn't matter).

Scodelario, playing a feisty young woman named Carina, is on hand to demonstrate that the filmmakers are down with this feminist thing, and of course to hook up with young Henry Turner. She encounters him imprisoned on the isle of Saint Martin, and tells him she can find the Trident with the aid of a diary she inherited from her father. When it is discovered that she is both smart and highly educated (she's an astronomer, which might come in handy on a nautical adventure), Carina is judged to be a witch and sentenced to death by hanging. (To emphasize what dark times these were for females, the filmmakers give us a passing shot of a shop sign that says No Dogs, No Women.)

Also behind bars on Saint Martin is Captain Jack, who passed out in an alcoholic stupor while robbing a bank and is now due to test out the island's newly acquired guillotine (and in the process provide the movie's funniest scene—which is followed by its most laborious, in which an entire building is hauled through the streets of a town). Soon, Jack and Carina and Turner are all on the run, pursued by Salazar and a reluctant subordinate, Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush in his fifth Pirates go-round, now outfitted with a poufy new wig). Another island is visited, a jungle is slogged through, and there's some witless horology banter among the dimwit sailors. (Ho-rology, get it?) The picture also offers a mini-moment with Paul McCartney (playing a beardy pirate telling a cute/bad joke), and a bald-headed sorceress who appears for very little reason. (She's played by Golshifteh Farahani, and the movie could have used more of her.)

There's a pretty clever shark attack and a pretty dumb ugly-woman interlude (she's offered up to the horrified Jack as an unwanted wife). There's also a flash of Jack's backstory, with semi-lookalike actor Anthony De La Torre playing the younger Sparrow, and the usual omni-overload of CGI, only some of which is successful. (Really, if we just wanted to watch money being thrown away, we could book our own flights to present-day Saint Martin's.) The undead Salazar's hair, which waves flowingly in the air as if he were underwater, is a lovely effect; but the rendering of his zombie crew, with patches of their spectral bodies missing as if simply erased, is a visual annoyance. It must also be said that the "bonus" scene at the end of the credits on this movie could be the laziest effort in the history of industrial hype.

And then there's Johnny Depp. Always such a personable actor, he's a sad figure here. Coming off a long string of under-performing movies, from Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger to Mortdecai and Alice Through the Looking Glass, his financial and domestic travails are now a source of tabloid fodder, and he seems to have little heart left for his most famous character. Starved of yeasty lines and inventive action, he's reduced to going through the old Captain Jack motions—the fey, fluttery hand-waving, the elaborately unsteady gait, the Keithly mumbling. Could there really be a sixth installment of this depleted franchise under consideration? (Yes.) Could Depp really want (or need) to be in it? Can't he just say no? (Please.)

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  1. I’ll always have a tiny little soft spot in my heart for Johnny Depp, because out of all the Hollywood douchebags who said they were going to leave America if George W. Bush got elected, he was the only one who actually followed through and really did it.

    If only all the rest of those assholes would take a cue from his lead and go to France along with him!

    1. The would go to France but the Muslims won’t let them in.

      And the ones who were going to Canada found out that dreamy Trudeau Party only got 39% of the vote but got 54% of the seats in parliment and so was worse then Trump

      1. the ones who were going to Canada found out that dreamy Trudeau Party only got 39% of the vote but got 54% of the seats in parliment

        They don’t care about that shit as long as the “right person/ party” wins. If Hillary had won with less than 50% of the popular vote you wouldn’t have heard a peep about it. Except maybe to make fun of the Republicans, who would have been the ones bitching and moaning about the Electoral College.

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  2. Also among the missing, it might be said, is series star Johnny Depp ? Captain Jack Sparrow himself ? who over the course of 14 years of playing this character has run out of new things to do with his performance, and is now pretty much emailing it in.

    Probably just phoning in it for the apparently much needed paycheck.

    Could there really be a sixth installment of this depleted franchise under consideration? (Yes.) Could Depp really want (or need) to be in it? Can’t he just say no?

    No, he can’t. Because of the aforementioned financial problems. So he’ll just continue phoning it in and Disney will keep cranking out Pirates sequels until everyone decides to stop seeing these shit-shows.

  3. “Pirates of the Carribbean: The Search for More Money”

  4. I’m not saying this review is wrong; the newness of the Pirates franchise wore out a film or two back for me. But can we take a little time to contemplate how extraordinary the first film was? And to remember how extraordinarily LAME the whole idea of basing a film on an amusement park ride is, at base? Hell, it’s a miracle they got two and a half watchable films out of it!

    1. it’s a miracle they got two and a half watchable films out of it!

      And that’s just the first sequel! (that’s a jab at how stupid long that movie was)

      1. I don’t mind a long film if it’s fun, and the first two were fun (for me, anyway). Best modern Pirate movies other than NATE AND HAYES. Pity they don’t seem to know when to stop.

        What is it with Whollyodd and Franchises, anyway? Why do they feel driven to keep upping the ante until they get a multimillion dollar bomb? It CAN’T be good business practice. The last one has to eat the profits from the ones that made money, doesn’t it?

    2. The first film was fantastic. And one of the best adaptations of anything to screen, nevermjnd a ride.

      1. I agree. Too bad it inspired the studio to try to more adaptations of park attractions; THE COUNTRY BEARS film was a complete abortion, and THE HAUNTED MANSION was one of Eddie Murphy’s worst films, and that’s going some.

        Yuck!

        At least they didn’t try SMALL WORLD. Shudder!

  5. lends her tilted smile and twinkly spirit to a colorless love story undeserving of her lively presence

    I think Kurt has a crush.

    She looks like a cross between Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson to me, and I don’t recall anything particularly notable about her from the Maze Runner movies — movies notable only for being lame Hunger Games knock-offs (and I’m no big fan of the Hunger Games franchise).

  6. To emphasize what dark times these were for females, the filmmakers give us a passing shot of a shop sign that says No Dogs, No Women.

    Man, I hate stores that don’t allow dogs.

  7. Know what? Screw you guys. I like the Pirates of Caribbean and other bad science fiction no matter what the politics of the actor. I also love canned green beans and other processed foods and give absolutely no regard to the canner’s inner turmoil. It’s entertainment… like the A-Team and Dukes of Hazard.

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