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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

It's high time this swashbuckling franchise walked the plank.
By Sarah Ward
May 26, 2017
By Sarah Ward
May 26, 2017

In a brief, early sequence, Dead Men Tell No Tales appears to achieve something quite remarkable. Immersing Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) in a bank heist, it feels like the filmmakers have cottoned onto something that helmers of previous Pirates sequels never managed to grasp: a little bit of Sparrow goes an awfully long way. Yes, even here, the rum-swilling pirate remains as ridiculous as ever. But as his crew drags a safe through the streets while he tries to evade capture, you at least get the feeling that his latest adventure will be about more than just him. Sadly, it doesn't last.

The truth is, time has not been kind to Depp since the first Pirates of the Caribbean hit back in 2003 and earned him an Oscar nomination. Or, to be more accurate, Depp has not been kind to Depp. Audiences have been accosted by his Sparrow shenanigans not only in Dead Man's Chest, At World's End and On Stranger Tides, but in almost everything else he's made in between. From Alice in Wonderland to The Lone Ranger to the nigh unwatchable Mortdecai, Depp's penchant for outlandish overacting has kept him firmly in the same mode. If it was beginning to grate a decade ago, it's positively painful now.

Point is, make sure to enjoy this movie's early moments while they last. While the fifth film in the franchise ostensibly endeavours to switch its gaze to the next generation, the fact remains that an overabundance of Sparrow threatens to sink the whole ship. The wobbling seafarer finds himself in demand, with young upstart Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and mysterious astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) both requiring his help in their hunt for Poseidon's trident. Meanwhile, ghostly pirate hunter Salazar (Javier Bardem) is also on Sparrow's trail, hungry for revenge.

Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) pops up, as do a few family ties, although the plot isn't really the main focus of this dip back into choppy waters. Just as amusement park attractions are more about thrills and theme than narrative, so too is Dead Men Tell No Tales. Taking the helm after impressing with the ocean-faring Kon-Tiki, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg soon lose control of their vessel, serving up bland nautical action alongside their predictably unbearable protagonist.

Given that this franchise has been surfing a downwards trajectory from the outset, we shouldn't really be surprised by the failure of this latest outing. An initial burst of energy, a couple of new faces and Bardem reliably playing the villain are all promising signs, but they're not enough to turn sea trash into treasure. Hold onto your hats though, me hearties, as it seems the franchise won't be walking the plank just yet. Like plenty of other big-budget sequels of late, Dead Men Tell No Tales appears as though it's just treading water for another installment. Next time, maybe follow Sparrow's lead and load up on rum.

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