“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” almost lives up to its name, only this lifeless – and supposedly last – entry in the swashbuckling series has too many stories to tell. That plus old and new characters, all of whom are as wooden as their ship’s plank, make this piece of pirate booty stink.
After the “Pirates” franchise set sail in 2003, none of its sequels were ever able to capture the same treasure as the first. Still, although 2006’s “Dead Man’s Chest” and 2007’s “At World’s End” were overwrought, they were also undervalued as facilely fun flicks. And while “On Stranger Tides” never caught many waves with critics in 2011, the standalone sequel did bring some needed smallness back to the high seas.
Not “Dead Men.” In attempting to tie up ends that weren’t even really loose, the finale creates strands that make the film as sloppy as Jack Sparrow’s ensemble and consequently as shallow as the shores on which he’s continually stuck.
The film opens with the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) searching for a way to free his imprisoned father. Later, as sole survivor of an attack by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is tasked by the vengeful ghost to find the man who fathered his ghastly fate: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).
Jack, meanwhile, is drunk, stealing and sleeping his way across St. Martin island as he and his disillusioned crew build a ship for their eventual embarkation. It’s no wonder his mates lost hope: Captain Jack might be back, but only with half his act. Whether it’s a result of Depp’s rise in age or decline in interest, the actor doesn’t seem entirely there—and that’s saying something for the eccentrically savvy Sparrow.
Still, his antics do inspire some thrills and laughs, particularly when housing and (almost) cutting through the two early action sequences that introduce him to Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). The young woman accused of witchcraft is searching for the life-freeing object that Turner also seeks. Most spellbinding for a majority of the film, however, is why she’s even in it.
So while they track down treasure and Salazar seeks Sparrow, “Dead Men” decides to add even more deadweight: franchise frenemy Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). The once formidable force now feels only forced – and as spiritless as Sparrow.
So, too, is the case with their conked-out climax and the other characters for whom there is little to care. From them to the “Dead Men” visuals that somehow look worse than “Dead Man’s Chest” to a sea-splitting finale short on suspense, this fifth “Pirates” is filth. And what should’ve been a satisfyingly surprising signoff was ruined by trailers and TV spots that showed so much they were more fitting for a nude beach.
Fans of the franchise will find some gems buried in this purported “Pirates of the Caribbean” conclusion. But overall, this x truly marks the spot to stop.
1.5 out of 5