Published May 22, 2017There's a strange shadow cast over Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth film in Jerry Bruckheimer's Disney theme park ride-turned-box office juggernaut of a franchise.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that lead star Johnny Depp — who, judging by his recent actions, appears to be in full late-career Marlon Brandon mode — was known to spend upwards of $30,000 a month on wine. Then, back in early May, the Hollywood Reporter wrote a shocking exposé on his mismanaged funds, including a sound guy he allegedly kept on retainer for six figures, that would read his scripts into a hidden earpiece so the actor didn't have to memorize his lines. Now, hackers are apparently holding the film ransom, threatening to release it online for free if Disney doesn't pay up.
The series is in choppy waters, to say the least. Sadly, even Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, the Norwegian duo behind 2012's award-nominated, nautical period piece Kon-Tiki, can't steer this floundering franchise onto the right course.
Picking up where At World's End left off, the film starts with Henry Turner (long-touted future heartthrob Brenton Thwaites) sailing the high seas with the Royal Navy, secretly in search of a magical trident that can supposedly break the curse that keeps his father (Will, played by Orlando Bloom) ferrying lost souls under water for eternity. When the crew's ship approaches the famed Devil's Triangle, Henry tries to alert the captain and steer the vessel to safety. Instead, he's charged with treason, and the seamen sail right in.
What they find is the ghost of Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) and what's left of his Spanish Navy. Each of the living sailors is slain, save for Henry, who Salazar keeps alive in order to connect with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), the man who put Salazar's crew in purgatory, and who holds the lone compass that can save them.
The rest is pretty much what you'd expect if you've seen the past four films: there are some big-budget actions scenes, spooky and creepy creatures, cameos (Paul McCartney, for some reason, as well as a few of the first three films' original characters), and Depp doing his typical Keith Richards impression. Academy Award-winner Bardem is brought in to breathe new life into the series, but is covered by so much CGI he's borderline unrecognizable and only sort of understandable.
Skins star Kaya Scodelario's character Carina doesn't fare much better. A young, headstrong astronomer whose sole purpose in the film seems like an attempt to make this total sausage fest seem at least a little progressive, her character can't seem to escape the script's consistently bawdy humour (there's a running gag about her interest in horology) and needlessly bosom-flaunting costume design.
"Thinks Cap'n Jack's washed up, eh?" Depp mutters at one point early on in an eerily prescient scene. "I haven't had a wash in years." It's the lone self-aware moment in a movie that's anything but.