Pirates 5 a lengthy shark-jumping slog
Nothing ever seems to happen for any reason other than to take up running time.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (M, 129 MINS), DIRECTED BY JOACHIM RONNIN, ESPEN SANDBERG,
Back in 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean; The Curse of the Black Pearl seemed like an idea whose time had come. It was an outrageously entertaining and likeable film and the first in years that had thrown the laws of common sense and physics quite so joyously to the four winds in pursuit of spectacle and a decent laugh.
Pirates was exactly what a film based on a Disneyland ride had to be; fun, dumb and seemingly over too soon. Director Gore Verbinski made two more instalments, with the last film in the natural trilogy – At World’s End – being an absolute ripper.
And with that, the series really should have been over. But in 2011, the truly lousy On Stranger Tides romped out of the box office with a billion dollars, and with that, this fifth film became an inevitability.
Dead Men Tell No Tales, coming in at a mere 129 minutes, is the shortest of the five films, but it feels like a very long slog from titles to credits.
The film finds Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow inexplicably marooned and down on his luck. He’s shipless and rudderless much of the time, meandering through an interminable opening that doesn’t really achieve much but a nod to Terry Gilliam and to introduce us to Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario as the young couple who will try, lucklessly, to recreate Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom’s chemistry from the earlier films. Thwaites is actually playing Bloom’s adult son, which either passes for mythbuilding, or just serves to remind us how long now this series has been running.
At some point, Javier Bardem pops in, with an accent like a second-rate ventriloquist trying to gargle mince while impersonating Manuel from Fawlty Towers, as this instalment’s pirate enemy. Bardem, one of the most electrifying actors on the planet on a good day, never really manages to out-perform his own makeup here.
The story, as always, is a forgettable farrago of half-baked marine mythology and necessary set-ups for action sequences. Nothing ever seems to happen for any reason other than to take up running time. A few of the set pieces are undeniably spectacular, but the film never generates any tension or any particular reason to expect that anything interesting is ever going to happen.
There are some enjoyable minutes, but the actual hours are pretty punishing. Late in the day a truly daft moment shows a shark jumping over Depp. The inference, that everyone involved in this film knows exactly what they are doing here, is unavoidable.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales will make a pile of money, win the franchise a few new fans who might now go back and watch the original trilogy and might even launch a few careers. And those are all fine things. But I hope, very much, that it also brings this series to an end. For good. – Graeme Tuckett
Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow returns for a fifth time in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.