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Film review: There’s no life left in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise

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Jack Sparrow evades his pursuers.
Photo: Disney / Courtesy

Two stars

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Johnny Depp, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario. Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.

Early in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, as Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is explaining his elaborate plan to legendary pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Jack feigns nodding off, while the young man drones on about the mythical trident of Poseidon. Jack’s attitude is meant to be comical, but audiences might have the same reaction to the typically convoluted and interminable plot of the fifth movie in the series initially based on a Disney theme-park ride.

At this point, the popularity of Jack Sparrow has eclipsed the popularity of the ride, to the detriment of both. A character who was refreshingly irreverent and goofy in 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl quickly devolved into repetitive shtick, and Depp stumbles and mumbles his way through the new movie. Also returning are Geoffrey Rush as Jack’s pirate nemesis/ally (often within the same scene) Barbossa and a handful of minor crew members always around to pledge allegiance to whomever’s in charge. All of them are set against yet another undead sea captain and his cursed supernatural crew—this time, sadistic Spanish sailor Salazar (Javier Bardem, suitably nasty).

Much of the focus, however, is on the insipid romance between Henry (whose parents, played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in the first three movies, make very brief appearances) and Carina (Kaya Scodelario), a young woman who has the secrets to finding Poseidon’s trident. Their chemistry is minimal, and the actors are poor replacements for Bloom and Knightley. Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (2012’s Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki) stage some decent set pieces, and the special effects, as always, are top-notch, particularly on Salazar and his undead crew. But that’s just occasional window dressing for a story and characters that are as worn out as the audience is likely to be.

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