Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth entry into Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series and it’s a step up from the previous few entries, although still not exactly necessary and somewhat lacking in inspiration.
In this latest picture, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has fallen on hard times and lost his mojo. As the film opens, he makes a failed attempt at robbing a bank and his crew, fed up with inability to deliver the goods, bails on him.
Meanwhile, a young woman named Carina (Kaya Scodelario) is attempting to follow a map of the stars to an unknown destination; a young man named Henry (Brendon Thwaites) is in search of Sparrow to persuade him to help free his father (Orlando Bloom), who has been taken captive by some sort of undead pirate ship; an otherworldly captain known as Salazar (Javier Bardem) hellbent on revenge aims to pay Sparrow an unwelcome visit; and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) seeks to make a deal with Salazar.
In other words, this is a film of many meanwhiles. There’s entirely too much going on in Dead Men Tell No Tales and only some of it is diverting. Bardem is a wonderful actor and – based on his work in No Country for Old Men and Skyfall – prime villain material, but here he is asked to ham it up and twirl his undead hair slowly through the air. Rush’s character, on the other hand, finds himself with a plot thread that takes a turn for the interesting – albeit overly familiar – toward the end and Bloom is able to reunite with another former cast member during the finale.
The attempts at playful banter between Thwaites and Carina that is aimed at building chemistry mostly falls flat and Depp is left to keep everything afloat by, well, just being Sparrow – a drunken swashbuckler who skirts the line of being a hero or a knave.
Dead Men Tell No Tales is loaded down with special effects. Some are good, such as the gigantic gap in the ocean during the end of the picture, while others are just overkill – for example, the statue on the front of Salazar’s ship that comes to life and chases Sparrow around during one of the film’s many boat battle sequences.
Basically, this has all been done before and better – the picture pales in comparison to the 2003 original, although it’s an improvement over several of the soggy sequels that followed. This is a character that Depp could play in his sleep, but he continues to have fun with it and it’s one of the elements that makes Dead Men Tell No Tales watchable. But regardless, this is another sequel that didn’t need to exist, other than to line some pockets.