Hot Take: Yo, ho, ho hum. This tired franchise is now 90% fan service and delivers nothing new. It’s not the worst one in the series, though.
At 129 minutes, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the latest and possibly last in the franchise, is actually the shortest of the 5 installments. It might be the best since the original, too. That’s not saying much considering how brutal this franchise has been. I remember seeing the third film in the original trilogy and falling asleep multiple times during its inhumane 168 minute run time. It’s tough to choose between the third and fourth (At World’s End and On Stranger Tides) as to which one was the low tide of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. It puts Dead Men Tell No Tales in a neck and neck race with the second installment, Dead Man’s Chest, for the honor of being known as the second best film in the franchise. That’s not really a compliment as the 5 films only have 1 that could be considered better than mediocre and even in that instance, you’re really pushing it.
Then again, what can you expect about an idea that spawned from an amusement park ride that has somehow been stretched to 12 hours and 6 minutes of cinematic content? At this point, though, it’s doubtful that the fans care much more beyond the film checking the obligatory boxes you’d expect it to check. An over-the-top Johnny Depp as a drunken Jack Sparrow? Check! Flimsy tales of sea myths? Check! Familiar characters from the franchise’s past? There’s Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and even Keira Knightley rears her pretty little head. So, that’s check! Check! Check! A cheesy cameo? Paul McCartney gets the checkmark here. The Black Pearl appears? Check! And the Flying Dutchman? Check! There better be a ridiculous action set-piece that features 3D-friendly moments and Jack running goofily on top of something… Check! What about the villain? Did they find someone to play that villain that will overshadow everyone else in the film? Javier Bardem as Salazar will do, right? Check!
In addition, there’s the overstimulating and loud nature familiar to the franchise combined with being its usual overstuffed self (although at “only” 129 minutes, it is the least overstuffed) which somehow makes it feel a bit boring and repetitive despite a frenetic façade. The tale unfolds as does every other film in the franchise which follows the formulaic blueprint of the previous films almost to a tee and doesn’t even bother to try and do anything new. You almost have to admire its lack of shame and humility in its brazen ability to provide nothing fresh.
That being said, I’m sure the franchise fanboys and fangirls will be satisfied. Financially, this franchise has barely slowed down with the fourth installment hauling in $241 million and the 4 films pulling in over $1.2 billion in box office booty. Currently, the films sit at 17th (Dead Man’s Chest), 60th (At World’s End), 63rd (Curse of the Black Pearl) and 118th (On Stranger Tides) on the all-time domestic box office charts. Worldwide the franchise has plundered filmgoers for over $3.7 billion and the domestic anchor, On Stranger Tides, joined At World’s End as the pair are 2 of only 30 films that have gone over $1 billion in box office revenue. It would be shocking if the studio stuck to its advertising guns and this truly was the “final adventure” since it has proven to be a most bountiful box office boon. Instead, I’d be more likely to trust the post-credits scene which hinted at yet another sequel.
If you’ve seen the previous 4 films, you should know exactly what to expect from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. If one thing is true, though, they haven’t bothered with tinkering with what’s been financially successful throughout so why would they start now? Critics have grown more weary of the series (Rotten Tomatoes has the original at 79%, the second at 54%, third at 45% and fourth at 32%) but that hasn’t forced the captain to change course as they continue to find box office treasure no matter how obvious it is that Johnny Depp is phoning it in. The audience refuses to make this franchise walk the plank, so what’s the point of putting in more effort? Savvy?
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites
Here’s how the franchise can continue without really breaking its promise of a “final adventure.” Both Scodelario (as Carina Smyth) and Thwaites (as Henry Turner) are very charismatic and have great chemistry and actually add fresh characters that could divert the story in a different direction. It’s a dangerous path to head down as it would likely leave Jack out or push Jack into the cameo box but when you have two young actors who work together on screen, why wouldn’t you take the risk? Then again, this is Pirates of the Caribbean we’re talking about here.
- Another Worthy Villain
Javier Bardem is very good in the role of Salazar.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Captain Jack Will Get You Bored Tonight
Sorry but Depp’s act has grown tired over the years and you can only find entertainment in a silly impression of Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew for so long.
- It’s Still Too Long
Since hitting high tide in the third installment at 168 minutes — That’s almost 3 hours!!! — the voyages have become shorter with this last one only barely eclipsing the 2 hour mark at 129 minutes. Despite their effort to deliver a tighter tale, this bloated barge again takes on too much water and sinks before it reaches its conclusion.