“Pirates 5” picks up from the post-credits scene of “At World’s End”, and sees a young Henry Turner board the sunken Flying Dutchman to inform his father of a mysterious trident to break the curse and free him from the ship. Jump forward 9 years and a young-adult Turner (Brenton Thwaites) still on his quest for the trident. This is actually now 5 years post “On Stranger Tides”, and 3 years after “At World’s End”. I’m officially confused. But despite the storyline continuing on from the previous “Pirates” and the confusion that occurs as a result of trying to work out which damn decade we’re in, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” could really be a standalone film, in that you can understand what’s happening even if you haven’t followed the other “Pirates” films. This also speaks volumes about the weak storyline, but we’ll get to that.
Much like Paul McCartney’s forgettable cameo in the film, the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” is inexplicable, desperate and a damn waste of eyeliner.
While the original film in the long-running franchise, based on the popular Disneyland attraction, surprised critics – who assumed it’d simply be a thin transfer of the ride – with its rich throwback storyline to the swashbuckling pirate classics of yesteryear and featured a delightfully fresh and fun performance by Johnny Depp, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” serves only to remind us that the critics had good reason to assume the worst.
This instalment, the fifth, is the film that the original – had it lacked the bravura writing team and the fervour – could’ve been. Tired, with a skeletal story and a sleepish Depp reprisal (even he seems to be grown tired of Jack Sparrow, judging by his unethused and hurried performance), it plays more like a VHS trainee tape for a trendy effects house than a movie. With good writing and stellar performances replaced by nifty effects and superior production design, Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg’s “Dead Men Tell No Tales” doesn’t exactly entertain so much as it inspires.. those who want to work in the world of visual effects, overlays and smoke machines. In other words, it’s a bloody impressive looking production, with everything from frosty pirate ships and water-jogging zombies, looking Jim Cameron-good. It’s just that anyone forget to make sure the other elements of the production were as up to scratch.
The storyline, little of which there is, sorta plays like a “Pirates : The Next Generation”, with Depp’s Jack Sparrow now saddled with a couple of pretty, freshfaced young things that Disney likely hope will anchor the series forward. Let’s be real though, the only reason to see this film on the big screen, and/or in 3D is for the graphics. The dead/ghost pirates look phenomenal and their deformed, rotting bodies really do justice for the 3D platform. You’ll have to see the movie to see what I mean by that. As the ghost ship destroys everything in its path, the destruction is visually impressive but the manner in which the ship “eats” other ships is just a little odd for my liking. Javier Bardem’s performance of ghost pirate Captain Salazar is probably the highlight, however.
Perhaps the most cringeworthy moment of “Pirates” is the flashback sequence when we get a look at the young Jack Sparrow. My arse is sweating just revisiting this scene. They’ve got some young actor, stuck a truckload of eyeliner on him and dubbed him with the actual Johnny Depp. A young boy with the voice of a grown man is nothing short of creepy, weird and I feel like I need a big hug from someone to tell me everything will be okay.
There are a few meekly exciting moments in the new “Pirates”, and the majority of the film is unquestionably tolerable (it definitely isn’t a bad film, by any means), but not enough to care about anything that’s going on on screen, let alone the film’s protagonists. No surprise then to discover the writer behind the atrocious “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, Jeff Nathanson, was on scripting duties. Mr Style over substance right there! Overall, the film is like a theme park, it’s a fun ride but waiting in queues for the excitement to come kinda ruins it.
Disney have a hole in this vessel, and unless they think quick and smart, the “Pirates” franchise is about to sink.