Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

It’s been 14 years since the first installment in the Pirates series, and this fifth (six years after the fourth, On Stranger Tides) is being promoted as the very final outing, but evidently it isn’t.

Since Johnny Depp gave up caring about two films ago, his Captain Jack Sparrow (the role that finally plucked him from teen heart-throbbing and cult popularity and made him a proper star) is no longer especially funny. As Depp does his tired Keith-Richards-meets-Kenneth-Williams routine, it’s up to the supporting players, the overstuffed plot and the gargantuan budget to try and compensate for his prancing dreariness.

This time out co-directed by Norwegians Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (of the seafaring historical drama Kon-Tiki), we here open with a sequence where young Henry (Lewis McGowan) raises the Flying Dutchman and is revealed as the son of the cursed Will Turner (the reintroduced Orlando Bloom with barnacles on his cheeks). Nine years later, where Henry is now played by Brenton Thwaites and the only survivor of a ship that strayed into the Devil’s Triangle, he finds himself running into all sorts of overblown perils as he searches for Jack, who’s kept offscreen for an unusually long time.

Jack is eventually revealed in a huge setpiece that looks damn expensive but rather recalls something from ‘70s TV fave The Goodies, and then Henry, Jack and the brainy Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), who keeps almost being hanged as a witch, unwillingly join forces to track down no less than Poseidon’s Trident for reasons that, by this point, might be getting a little hazy. But, to hide the convoluted logic of it all, we’re distracted by having the gang be stalked by the also-cursed Captain Salazar, who’s portrayed with great gusto by Javier Bardem, even if he’s all FX and his drowned and mouldering look is pilfered from Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone.

Shot, pretty obviously, in Queensland, which accounts for several Aussies in the cast (Thwaites, David Wenham, Bruce Spence and Geoffrey Rush, still having a fine old time), there’s also no doubt that this is overblown, over-complicated and over-everything-ed. But what did you expect from a Pirates epic, me hearties? Be sure to wait around for a stinger at the very end of the credits which suggests something that’s going to surely feature in a sixth Pirates outing – even though this is supposed to be the grand finale. It’s all a bit of a puzzle.

Rated M. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is in cinemas now

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