The most important aspect of any movie franchise is to not lose sight of what makes the series so successful. In the case of Pirates of the Caribbean, it is clearly the character of Jack Sparrow which is brought back to the screen once again by Johnny Depp.
Unfortunately, the casting is the only aspect that seems to be the same with the character as this version of Jack Sparrow feels like a pale imitation compared to the four films that have gone before this one. Sparrow doesn’t have the same swagger, confidence or charm that made him so lovable. The jokes are flat, the motivations muddled and Depp is beginning to seem like he is “phoning-in” the performances for the easy pay-check.
It isn’t just Depp’s performance which is lacking. The whole film feels void of what made Pirates of the Caribbean so successful. The ingredients are there: supernatural MacGuffin to chase, young cast to prop up Depp and a mysterious, threatening villain, but nothing seems to click here.
Each character has motivations to get the supernatural prize (this time Poseidon’s Trident) but none are that interesting (even if one involves a returning, albeit briefly, Orlando Bloom). The young cast are even less interesting (although Kaya Scodelario is one movie away from superstar success.) Still feeling like poor replacements for Bloom and Kiera Knightley, they always seem to be a B-Cast substitute when the real deal wouldn’t sign-up.
Another character who is returning is Geoffrey Rush. As integral to the series as Sparrow, his Captain Barbossa used to one of the highlights but here he feels like a watered-down version of the fun, archetypal pirate that Rush relished in playing. Even with a more developed back-story, it isn’t enough to make his character interesting or evoke the glory of Rush’s previous performances.
The biggest travesty is the villain. In film’s such as Skyfall and No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem has shown his acting chops as a compelling villain. Here he is a whispering, CGI-enhanced monster but for a series with so many iconic bad guys, nothing particularly memorable. It means you just don’t care about why he is doing what he is doing or whether Depp outwits him or not.
Not that the story tries to make you care. The Pirates of Caribbean series was always about the fun, adventurous and madcap set-pieces which were joined by the odd dialogue heavy scene. Here it is dialogue scene after dialogue scene joined ever so slightly by something remotely exciting. It doesn’t have that same sense of fun and apart from a bank-theft gone wrong at the opening, nothing to really get the adrenaline running. Even something as iconic as the fantastic theme which helps exhilarate the action is used sparingly here.
Overall, Dead Men Tell No Tales is a weak instalment in a franchise which is slowly running out of steam. The story is weak, the characters are shells of anything remotely interesting and even Depp feels like he is phoning-in the performance the whole series relies on.
Rating – 2
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)