[Screen It]


(2017) (Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem) (PG-13)

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Action/Adventure: A young man searches for Poseidon's long-lost trident, a quest shared by a young astronomer as well as a ghost and his crew who want to get revenge on a drunken pirate who sent them to their watery doom long ago.
Henry Turner (BRENTON THWAITES) is a young man in search of Poseidon's long-lost trident, a tool he believes will free his dead father, Will Turner (ORLANDO BLOOM), from a curse that's left him at the bottom of the sea with his crew. Carina Smith (KAYA SCODELARIO) shares that trident quest, albeit for different reasons. An astronomer who's been accused of being a witch, she desires to find a map that no man can read, and believes that will lead to the trident.

They're not alone, however, in desiring that weapon as long-dead Captain Armando Salazar (JAVIER BARDEM) and his ghostly crew want to find it to free themselves of their curse of being undead, while also wanting to enact revenge on the drunken pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (JOHNNY DEPP), who sent them to their watery grave long ago. When word gets out that Salazar's ghost ship is destroying the British fleet, Sparrow's former rival turned ally and fellow pirate, Captain Hector Barbossa (GEOFFREY RUSH), decides he and his crew must confront the ghosts and promises to deliver Sparrow to them in order to avoid his wrath.

With Henry, Carina and Jack teamed together, they do what they can to avoid Salazar and get their hands on the trident in order to defeat him, save their own lives, and lift the various curses.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Since they've been part of real and fictional folklore for centuries, pirates have long appeared in the cinema -- meaning up on the screen, although what they charge for popcorn, soda and snacks certainly seems to indicate mercenaries are behind the concession stand as well.

But after the high-profile and uber-expensive flops "Cutthroat Island" (featuring old-fashioned pirates) and "Waterworld" (with futuristic ones), such characters were relegated to animated or Muppet related offerings.

That changed in 2003 when Disney took a high-stakes gamble of turning one of their fun theme park attractions into a feature-length film. Fueled by Johnny Depp's iconic and Oscar-nominated portrayal of a flamboyant and boozy pirate, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" ended up being an unexpected and highly entertaining delight that won over critics and the public alike and performed quite well at the domestic and international box office.

Alas, the sequels that followed -- 2006's "Dead Man's Chest," 2007's "At World's End" and 2011's "On Stranger Tides" -- might have continued the plundering of viewer wallets (to the tune of more than three billion additional dollars), but failed to deliver in terms of artistic quality. Yes, all of them might have continued to impress from a visual standpoint (thanks to mighty budgets for each), but they lacked the originality, heart, and soul that made the first entry so good.

Unfortunately, that trend continues with the latest sequel, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." Sporting a budget reportedly north of $300 million, the flick -- much like the "Transformers" films -- certainly puts its money up on the screen for all to behold. I just wish some of that had gone into paying for a better screenplay.

In this latest installment, scribe Jeff Nathanson -- working from a story he concocted with Terry Rossio (who co-wrote the original film) -- pretty much uses the plot template from the last film to guide this one. Rather than search for Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth, this time all involved are hoping to get their hands on Poseidon's legendary trident. And much like what occurred in "On Stranger Tides" with Blackbeard and those on his supernatural ship being among the "participants," here we have another ghostly captain (played by Javier Bardem) on his ghostly ship after the three-pronged weapon.

He also wants revenge on Jack Sparrow (Depp, once again reprising his drunken pirate role that's now pretty much lost any of its original charm and certainly all of its novelty) for a past deadly incident (seen in flashback and featuring a digitally de-aged Johnny). That eventually involves Captain Barbossa (a returning Geoffrey Rush, still game for the part), while a young man (Brenton Thwaites) and a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) are also after the trident for their own reasons. I'd argue that they're seemingly present more in hopes of being the second coming of characters along the lines of those played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley who weren't in the last pic but briefly are present here in extended cameos.

So, new-to-the-fold co-directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (taking over from Rob Marshall and Gore Verbinski before him) deliver plenty of action and employ and deploy lots of undeniably impressive visual effects (ranging from Bardem's long hair floating in the air in slow motion as if it still underwater to some partially rotted, undead ghost sharks that are unleashed on various characters in an action scene paced so quickly that John Williams' familiar "Jaws" score would have to play at 78 rpm to keep up).

And since such spectacle seems to play quite well internationally (the last three films increased their box office take with each release, whereas they dropped dramatically with each subsequent one in North American theaters), I imagine this one will make enough moola for Disney to consider making yet another installment.

If that's indeed the case, let's hope all involved make it better than this offering, lest this franchise ultimately send pirate movies in general back to a watery grave alongside the likes of expensive wreckage such as "Cutthroat Island." "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" rates as just a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed May 22, 2017 / Posted May 26, 2017

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