Friday, 26 May 2017

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

(M) ★★½

Director: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg.

Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush.

The Cure had been on the road for far too long.

So long as Johnny Depp keeps signing on to play Jack Sparrow, and so long as they keep making treasure chests worth of money, Disney will keep making Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.

How else can you explain the fact we're up to Pirates 5 when only the first film was any good? It's certainly not a matter of quality.

The bad news is Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (AKA POTC: DMTNT or Pirates 5) does not improve matters. It will make close to a billion dollars despite the fact its no better (or worse) than the second and fourth films (which were worse than the marginally okay third film).

The garbled plot is another "hunt the MacGuffin" adventure, with this season's must have accessory being Poseidon's Trident - a magical all-purpose, all-powerful oceanic curse-breaker.

New character Henry Turner (Thwaites) wants it to free his dad (briefly returning former star of the series Orlando Bloom), Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) wants it to get some dead Spaniards off his tail, dead Spanish pirate hunter Salazar (a CGI-enhanced Bardem) wants it return to the living and because it will lead him to Sparrow, Captain Barbossa (Rush) wants it so he can continue ruling the sea free of the pesky dead Spaniards, and newcomer Carina Smyth (Scodelario) wants it because it reminds her of her dad for some reason (or something - I'm still a bit hazy on that one).

If you think that's messy, then you're right. The script creaks like an ageing ship under the strain of having to get all these characters (and a few token British navy types led by David Wenham) heading in the same direction. It's filled with deus ex machinas, coincidences, contrivances, and just-plain-don't-make-senses as writer Jeff Nathanson does everything he can to keep things moving in between the eye candy.

And if there's one thing the POTC series does well, it's eye candy, and Pirates 5 works best when it's doing its OTT high seas stuff. Salazar's ship and crew are a modern CG marvel, particularly Salazar's perpetually-underwater look, and a pitched battle between them and Sparrow's cohorts is great to look at, even if it makes no sense that it should happen whatsoever, given Salazar's ship has the power to destroy any other ship with one blow.

Such idiotic plotting is par for the course here. So it's a shame that the script has some great characters floating in it that are wasted in a mediocre film. Bardem's Salazar is another great villain in a series that has been weirdly well-endowed with baddies. The returning Rush continues to be wonderful, but series star Depp plays Sparrow more drunken than usual and the lustre is starting to wear off his character. He still gets the best lines, most of which are immaculately delivered, but it might be nearly time to hang up the captain's hat before it starts to get truly tiresome.

However the most interesting character is Scodelario's Smyth - she's well-rounded, well-acted and adds flair to any scene she's in. It's just a shame she's saddled with an uncharismatic love interest in the form of Thwaites' Henry, who makes his dear old dad Orlando Bloom look like a master thespian. If this is the next generation taking this franchise into the future, then they've got it half-right, and half-very wrong.

It's in the smaller character moments that the film is at its best, so it's a shame the script is such a bucket of burley. There is some utter nonsense here - a wedding scene comes to mind as a key WTF moment - and POTC 5 continually wavers between amusing and annoying. A key example is Paul McCartney's cameo, which is surprisingly funny, but adds absolutely nothing to the plot. 

There is a very obvious attempt here to get the next generation of the franchise happening. Does that ever work? It seems unlikely people will turn up to see Scodelario and Thwaites' pirate adventures, especially if Depp's not there. The POTC franchise will only last as long as Depp keep turning up for a paycheck. 

But if they're going to keep making them, can they at least make some good ones? 


PS. Recent allegations by his former managers suggested Depp was fed lines through an earpiece because he couldn't be bothered learning them anymore. In the credits, I noticed "Sound technician to Mr Depp". Why a single actor would require their own sound technician, I don't know. Just sayin'.

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