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szdaily -> Movies
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

    2017-June-2  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush Director: Joachim Roenning

LOOKING quickly at the prospectus for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” in which the son of the series’ Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley characters joins forces with a mysterious orphan to master the sea’s arcane mysteries and do what his forebearers could not, you might well label it “Pirates: The Next Generation.” But unlike the “Star Trek” franchise-extender, this one is nowhere near bold enough to think it can dispense with its aging protagonist: Johnny Depp’s cartoonishly louche pirate Jack Sparrow, the globally recognized caricature who by now feels more like a theme-park mascot than a Hollywood swashbuckler.

Depp remains wholeheartedly the focus of this fifth Pirates film, and saying the character’s loopy novelty has faded is like complaining that there are maggots in the below-decks gruel: You knew what you were getting when you came aboard. Despite its limp zingers and a phoned-in star performance, this episode — directed with little distinction by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, of 2012’s “Kon-Tiki” — hits enough familiar notes to continue its predecessors’ commercial success.

Javier Bardem’s Salazar is this film’s central antagonist, who at the start descends on a Royal Navy vessel that has sailed too close to the Devil’s Triangle. “Who are you?” a terrified sailor asks. “Deeeaaath,” Salazar croaks. Salazar kills all the crew but one: Henry (Brenton Thwaites), the now-grown son of Bloom’s Will Turner and Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann. And when it emerges that Henry has been seeking Dad’s old mate Jack Sparrow, Salazar gives him a message to carry to the man whose magic compass is somehow the key to his eternal imprisonment: I’ll be whole again someday, and when I am, you’re dead.

Not long after, we watch Captain Sparrow barter that magic compass for a bottle of booze on the island of Saint Martin. He has just suffered through a fairly ridiculous bank robbery-gone-wrong, a bombastic farce that appears to have cost him the few mates who’d remained loyal to him and introduced him to some new ones: Henry, who wants to help Sparrow find Poseidon’s trident — which has the power to “break any curse at sea,” including the one that condemned Will Turner to eternal duty on the Flying Dutchman; and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a self-taught astronomer in possession of a magic book that might show the way.

Scodelario, of the “Maze Runner” films and Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights,” is just about the only member of the cast who seems to believe she’s expected to be more than a thin generic functionary or flamboyant scene-stealer. Which is unfortunate, given how Jeff Nathanson’s screenplay sometimes treats her. In her first scene, Carina is in prison awaiting execution (something about witchcraft), and while she’s fully capable of picking the lock of her cell, she waits to do so until a priest comes to hear her last words. Why? Presumably because there’s no other way to show she’s bad.

Things proceed noisily from here, as the pursuit of the Trident attracts the attention of old Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who was practically choking on riches before Salazar escaped the Devil’s Triangle and started killing all the pirates he found. Whether he’s on Sparrow’s side or not is always in question. But Rush will wind up the focus of one of the picture’s more satisfying set-pieces.

The movie is now being screened in Shenzhen. (SD-Agencies)

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