Film review: Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Men Tell No Tales

by James Robins / 10 June, 2017

Sidelined: Johnny Depp, mascara-laden as Jack Sparrow.

Johnny Depp is the Hollywood equivalent of an off-season panto performer.

It’s hard to remember a time when Johnny Depp did not appear on our screens wigged and costumed and behaving eccentrically. We’d have to venture back to 2009 and Public Enemies to see Depp’s features in sharp relief.

Even the more sincere of his recent roles, in Transcendence and Black Mass, required him to be, respectively, smothered in a digital distortion or caked in makeup. Depp has become the Hollywood equivalent of an off-season panto performer, forever costumed to the hilt, his considerable skills as an actor obscured.

So it seems inevitable that Depp returns to our screens as Captain Jack Sparrow, the drunken and shambolic pirate who wears mascara for no apparent reason. When the first Pirates of the Caribbean film came out in 2003 (which, we should never forget, is based on a Disney theme park ride), Depp’s routine was mildly entertaining. Four films later, the Sparrow act, like the rest of his work, has become an irritating shtick.

If reports from the set of Dead Men Tell No Tales are to be believed, Depp has some difficulty in even showing up to work each day, which may account for why he’s been somewhat sidelined in the action this time around.

Rather, the movie rests on some old-franchise seafarers and new first mates. Returning are Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom; newly introduced are Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner, a preening golden boy with a louche ponytail, and Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth, whose last major work was the cult TV show Skins. She was possibly cast for her resemblance to Keira Knightley, but she may just be the best thing about the movie, carrying herself with purpose and regularly humiliating her crewmates with a certain look that can only be described as part adorable pout, part pointed glare.

The story remains as needlessly complicated as it has been for the past 15 years. There is a curse, an evil captain (Salazar, played by Javier Bardem) and some mythical object that will resolve everything. It’s all intensely ridiculous and very middling, save for some exciting moments of cannon-and-musket naval combat. Perhaps Disney would do well to remember the thrust of Robert Louis Stevenson’s beloved Treasure Island: pirates go looking for buried gold and become pointlessly consumed by their own greed.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★

This article was first published in the June 3, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


Get the Listener delivered to your inbox

Subscribe now


Latest

Is this the transformational government we were looking for?
91411 2018-05-24 00:00:00Z Politics

Is this the transformational government we were lo…

by The Listener

Finance Minister Grant Robertson described Budget 2018 as “bread and butter”. It was. But bread-and-butter pudding was what the public were after.

Read more
Crooked House – movie review
91198 2018-05-24 00:00:00Z Movies

Crooked House – movie review

by James Robins

A Christie adaptation has a bleak reveal.

Read more
The power of sharing stories about anxiety and depression
90669 2018-05-24 00:00:00Z Psychology

The power of sharing stories about anxiety and dep…

by Marc Wilson

People assailed by depression need to know they're not alone – and stories shared by celebrities and non-celebrities go a long way in helping.

Read more
Wynyard Quarter welcomes French patisserie La Petite Fourchette
91365 2018-05-23 15:41:53Z Auckland Eats

Wynyard Quarter welcomes French patisserie La Peti…

by Kate Richards

French cakes and tarts are the highlight at new Wynyard Quarter opening, La Petite Fourchette.

Read more
Can YouTube produce a Spotify killer?
91338 2018-05-23 12:41:02Z Tech

Can YouTube produce a Spotify killer?

by Peter Griffin

Youtube will today roll out its revamped subscription streaming service YouTube Music, upping the stakes in a market dominated by Spotify and Apple.

Read more
Otago University's attempt to silence a women's health issue was wrong - period.
91328 2018-05-23 11:51:31Z Social issues

Otago University's attempt to silence a women's he…

by Genevieve O’Halloran

Critic's controversial and crude cover wasn't going to win any design awards - but did it really warrant seizure by Otago University?

Read more
Auckland icon The French Cafe sold to top restaurateurs
91318 2018-05-23 10:28:45Z Auckland Eats

Auckland icon The French Cafe sold to top restaura…

by Kate Richards

Simon Wright and Creghan Molloy-Wright, who’ve owned The French Café for twenty years, have sold it to top restaurateurs Sid and Chand Sahrawat.

Read more
Eye off the ball: Why did Netball NZ let our winningest coach get away?
91311 2018-05-23 09:50:15Z Sport

Eye off the ball: Why did Netball NZ let our winni…

by Fiona Barber

Incredibly, Noeline Taurua – the only Kiwi coach to win the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship – didn’t even make shortlist for the new Silver Ferns coach.

Read more