At this point, being five movies and 14 years into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is like being five hours into a Gilligan’s Island marathon: It’s gone on way too long, the novelty has worn off, and we’re starting to realize how lame the gags were to begin with.
Is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No tales the worst film in the series? That depends on who you ask and what metric you’re using. It’s not the worst pirate movie ever made, though it does make a go at it. This is strictly by-the-book corporate film-making, as if the script was cranked out according to a checklist of required tropes with an eye towards a soft reboot.
This particular outing sporadically centers on Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the blandly heroic son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Kiera Knightley), the star-crossed lovers of the first three movies. That arc ended with Will forced to sail the seas for a decade as the captain of the cursed ship The Flying Dutchman. This installment conveniently ignores the fact that roughly 20 years have passed since then, as Henry is trying to locate the legendary Trident of Poseidon in order to free his father from his supernatural obligation.
Enter love interest and blandly rebellious astronomer Carina Smith (Kaya Scodelario), a self-taught woman of science and alleged witch who may be the key to locating the trident, and also perennially drunk and lecherous pirate fop Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who is on the run from the vengeful ghost of Spanish pirate hunter Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem).
Bardem rarely disappoints as an actor, but Salazar is a one-dimensional villain riding a stock revenge sub-plot. Most of the supporting cast is just a limp, even the damn monkey. Dead Men Tell No Tales does perk up when Sparrow’s best frenemy Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) arrives on the scene, thanks largely to Rush’s subtlety and ability to take it only as seriously as needs be. (On the whole, Rush/Barbossa are the sole consistent high point running throughout the series.)
There’s so much here that we’ve seen before — the magic weapon, the supernatural antagonist, Depp vamping it up in pirate drag, overblown CGI effects, et cetera, et cetera — and so little that’s new or notable, making it difficult to engage with the movie in any way. It’s as bloated and inert as a floating corpse.
Let’s face it: It’s time to scuttle this franchise.