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

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales the most interesting thing about the fifth Pirates of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Caribbean movie, subtitled Dead Men Tell No Tales, is that it was made for an insane amount of money in the firm belief it would make four or five times as much. Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t. But given the title and the participation of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, most studios would have taken the bet.

Dead Men isn’t as shapeless and overlong as the last Pirates film, which was barely watchable and still made a billion dollars. It has a narrative line of sorts, a clear main objective (a boy wants to liberate his undead father from a curse), and a modicum of suspense. It’s stuffed to the gills with effects executed by the highest-paid artists and technicians in the business. But it’s still a sorry spectacle.

The philosophy is that what happens onscreen matters less than the fact that a lot is happening. The camera is always riding in on characters in an attempt to simulate momentum while the orchestra never lets up. Sample dialogue: “Get him!” “Get her!” “Get him!” At its best, the film is a high-speed farce filled with Rube Goldberg–like contraptions that fling its heroes around the frame, as when a vertically revolving guillotine keeps bringing the blade within millimeters of Jack Sparrow’s neck. (Depp spends more time trussed up than the heroine of Fifty Shades of Grey.) But there’s no fluidity, no elegance. Jackie Chan once did this stuff for a fraction of the cost, admittedly paying low Chinese salaries, but also with vaulting acrobats and no computer effects. As different parties — murderous phantoms, pompous redcoats, Sparrow plus the male and female ingénues — converge on a mysterious island, you feel that you could leave anytime and not miss much. Well, much and nothing much.