So far, two of the first four films in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series made over a billion dollars (the second and the fourth). The other two were box-office hits as well, so it’s no surprise we now have a fifth installment, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”
And yes, a sixth one is in the planning stages.
Despite its financial success, however, the franchise long ago exhausted whatever artistic value it might have had and it now resembles the Disney ride it’s based on. Sure, it’s fun the first few times, but it always takes the same route and never really goes anywhere.
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Johnny Depp, of course, is back as pirate Jack Sparrow. But what was once so fresh — remember he even earned an Oscar nomination for it the first time around — is getting pretty stale on his fifth go. He’s still the scheming but charming cad gone to seed before his time, but his act is getting tired.
Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, the romantic leads from the earlier films have moved on, ably enough replaced by a couple of fresh faces (Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario). But Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa is back as the rival pirate king. And new to the franchise is a brand new baddie Armando Salazar, played by Javier Bardem.
Salazar is a ghost who’s bent on revenge against Jack Sparrow for killing him, but Bardem doesn’t register much as a particularly scary character perhaps because he’s only half there physically.
The plot is mostly just an excuse for some ridiculously big stunts. The light-hearted opening bit involves a bank robbery in which not only the entire safe, but the entire bank building is stolen. Another elaborate stunt — played strictly for laughs — involves a dual execution.
But the movie’s best special effects are, of course, all those spectacular ships that sail the ocean. The pirate ships, the ghost ships, the Spanish galleons and the British frigates all do constant battle throughout the film.
Those gorgeous sailing ships are the unique domain of this particular franchise, and probably the last remaining justification for this series’ existence.
The world does not need another Jack Sparrow movie, but I wouldn’t mind another film set on the high seas.