‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ 

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The first four “Pirate” movies in this lucrative franchise grossed over five billion dollars. Although Captain Jack Sparrow once declared, “Not all treasure is silver and gold mate,” that was probably the primary reason for the fourth and fifth installments of this series. There are no surprises in this predictable and mildly entertaining story, but it does wrap things up nicely, and will generate another boatload of cash for The Mouse.

This is another epic Disney blockbuster in almost every way. It features magnificent cinematography of the spectacular Queensland, Australian coastline, where it was filmed. The musical score soars, the sets and costumes are marvelous and creative special effects are more than expected from this big budget picture.

Most of all, the film features Johnny Depp in the role he unknowingly prepared for his entire career. In addition to the notable costume and makeup, the pretty pirate delivers animated facial expressions, exaggerated gestures and thrashing pratfalls that amuse the audience as the cartoonish character enters each scene.

The Norwegian directing team of T. Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (“Kon Tiki”) are at the helm to keep the audience’ attention during the slow set-up (screenplay by Jason Nathanson) as well as through the creative and exciting action scenes. There’s nothing really wrong with the story, it’s only natural that over the last fourteen years, the characters and premise are not as seaworthy as in their maiden voyage.

In this edition, deadly ghost pirates led by Captain Jack’s old nemesis, the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from Devil’s Triangle. They are determined to kill every pirate at sea, including Jack. Christopher Waltz was originally cast for the role of then Captain Brand, but due to scheduling conflicts, Bardem took over and they changed the name of the character to Salazar, aligning to Bardem’s Spanish heritage.

The ghostly special effects were elaborate, but might not have been necessary for Bardem who has been so good at playing bad, as an assassin in “No Country for Old Men,” and even against James Bond. Captain Jack’s only hope of survival would lie with finding the legendary Trident of Poseidon, with its power to totally control the seas.

Returning is Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbosa, still rascally, but lost some of his appeal, as has most of the franchise. Newly introduced into the universe of characters is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) as Will Turner’s now grown son. Henry has studied the myths of the sea in hopes of freeing his father from doom. Counter-balancing the myth is young scientist Carina Smyth, played commendably by Kaya Scodelario.

They will all be needed to help Captain Jack in his ever-evolving Poseidon adventure. Along the way, Captain Jack runs into his Uncle, played by Sir Paul McCartney. If you remember from a prior feature, Captain Jack’s father was played by Keith Richards. A lineage that includes the Beatles and Stones is not all that bad.

With a new directing team, new writer, new composer and new actors, it still feels like a “Pirates” movie and reasonably enjoyable. With Depp’s well-publicized marital issues, shooting was often halted and the $250 million budget mushroomed to over $320 million. It might take another day or two of box office receipts to recoup that loss, but oh well.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is 129 minutes (shortest of the franchise) and rated PG-13 for adventure violence. Jack still carries swashbuckling charisma and would stop drinking, but he’s no quitter. However, it’s now time to sail off into the sunset.

It’s still amusing, but not quite as novel, clever or funny as the original or even as the trilogy. Although the third was set to be the finale, more booty was to be plundered. However, this time Disney is taking the fifth, as its last. Captain Jack once asked, “Did everyone see that? Because I will not be doing it again!” He has also raised his glass of rum and proclaimed simply, “Pirate’s life!”

Ron’s Rating: B-    Leigh’s Rating: B+

 

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Ron & Leigh Martel