Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
This was a surprisingly fun and entertaining film only because there was little to no expectations of it going in. And that really is the key to enjoying Johnny Depp re-inhabiting, albeit still rather successfully, the tired trope that is Jack Sparrow. Otherwise, the best part of the film was hearing Hans Zimmer's familiar score throughout the film (now interpreted by his protege Geoff Zanellli). The rest of the film was a tired mashed-up of incoherent, paper-thin, un-inspired storytelling with lame humour, bland characters and an plot twists telegraphed a mile away. Although the end-credits scene does hold potential to a possibly meatier storyline. Though that could just be wishful thinking.
New franchise directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, the Norwegian duo that gave us the excellent Kon-Tiki, did try their best to reinvigorate the story and this was encouragingly apparent in the first act - after the prologues (two of them!). It was the most adrenaline-filled and theme park-like fun in the whole film even with the nonsensical plot and contrived narrative which was written by Jeff Nathanson (story by himself and Terry Rossio). And there was one genuine moment that was unexpected (in terms of execution) that was really just laugh out loud funny.
And once we hit the second act, things just slowed. Almost 15 - 20 minutes could have been trimmed from the story just to tighten things up a bit. And really, the love story between the two young things was both cliche and unnecessary, other than to set up for some sexual innuendo-laden punchlines. In addition, both Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario, as pretty as they may be, had little to no chemistry. And that was a stark contrast to fans who remembered the rather sizzling chemistry and repartee between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
Lastly, the climatic showdown was a let down. From the sets themselves which looked like they ran out of budget and the eyes-roll inducing resolution of the conflict. It was as if everybody just ran out of steam by then and just wanted to quickly get those scenes shot and over with.
Depp reminds us once again why he got an Oscar nomination for this role. Although, undoubtedly Captain Jack Sparrow has been reduced to a caricature of himself in the sequels, Dead Men Tell No Tales see him in a slightly more restrained role. Depp effortlessly mixes the broad buffoonery with a tinge of heroism and heart. Sparrow remains his greatest creation this century.
Javier Bardem was terrifying as the main antagonist this time. But other than looking scary and sneering and lamenting about the past, he did not have much else to do. Although the CGI used to create him (and his crew....and also young Depp!) was brilliant.
Geoffrey Rush reprised his role as Hector Barbossa and his was the most human of all the characters. Rush has always been a reliable actor and his chemistry with Depp was apparent.
Thwaites was pretty, but boring, although at least he was not annoying; Scodelario was also pretty but succumbed to a failed subversion of the feminist damsel. Aussie and Iron Fist's alum David Wenham was barely recognisable. As was Paul McCartney's brief cameo.
The scenes set at sea (filmed in Queensland) were gorgeous but other than that the other set pieces were less impressive. Similarly, the CGI worked well only sometimes and in particular for Bardem and his crew (humans and animals).
Like aforementioned, Zanelli's score was a standout and mainly because of Zimmer's outstanding themes for the previous entries. Nonetheless, Zanelli did his own spin but wisely kept the spirit intact.
Stay to the end for a post-credits scene that hints at a likely sixth instalment. Hopefully the powers that be can see in them to streamline the plot and trust the audience.