Review by Dominic Messier, and Film Critic
You can only plunder so much until them coffers runneth empty.
In the case of this greedily conceived fourth return to the bounty that was the original Pirates film, it doth appear that the well hath indeed run dry, leaving a parched product in its reef-ridden wake.
Indeed, despite the well-worn quasi-drunken antics of Mister Depp as the Guyliner with the mostest, there can only be so many adventures on the high seas before the edges of the xerox paper start to show, leaving the audience with much bang but very little for their narrative buck.
Set a few years after the last installment On Stranger Tides, the story follows young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), now serving in the British Navy while trying to fin a way to free his father Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) from his cursed service onboard the Flying Dutchman.
When the now young adult Henry discovers the possible existence of a fabled artifact called The Trident of Poseidon which could break all curses of the seas (including his father’s), he sets off on a quest to locate it so to finally allow Dad and his mother (Keira Knightley) to reunite on land.
Alas, another cursed sailor of the seas, Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), shipwrecked in the Devil’s Triangle by a younger Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) decades earlier, swears revenge on his nemesis and seeks him out. Naturally, Sparrow’s misadventures cause him to cross paths with young Mister Turner and a brilliant scientist named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), whose choice of study makes for clever wordplay among bawdy seamen.
As Captain Jack and the young adventurers return to the high seas in search of the Trident with Salazar not far behind, time quickly runs out, but not before unexpected help comes from reformed pirate-turned-businessman Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
While the addition of yet another nautical MacGuffin (in this case, the Trident of Poseidon) adds spice to the worn narrative, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a worthwhile interest in what otherwise comes off as a mindless cash grab from what was once a decently composed trilogy, which soon turned into a puppy mill of further adventures designed to extract the same kind of box office as its predecessors.
Whereas On Stranger Tides came off as superfluous and overspent, Dead Men Tell No Tales bears the stench of exploitative direct-to-video sequel fever even further, not unlike other franchises which grew wearisome over the years, especially in the case of most horror film franchises…Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw, Hellraiser… take your pick.
Not that I’d be willing to reduce this once seaworthy franchise to the same consumable level as most 1980s film properties with expired shelf lives. Then again, were it not for the masses’ need to enjoy yet another turn of Depp’s rum-soaked inspired gallivanting, there’d be little reason to dip one’s toe into the salty seas, no matter what the stakes.
And so, with the expected promise of yet another film in the star charts (I predict Pirates 6 to hit theatres in Summer 2019 or 2021), we are left to absorb this unnecessary chapter as a pointless standalone tale, another page from the storied career of Sparrow and his Black Pearl crew, a ragtag bunch with very little left to lose…but very little to go on