For more than a decade, Captain Jack Sparrow has been one of Hollywood’s most iconic Disney characters, capturing audiences of all ages with his quick wit and eccentric charm. First portrayed by Johnny Depp in 2003, in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” Sparrow was the instant standout of the film franchise — and although initially envisioned as a supporting character, he quickly became the star of the series. Twelve years and four sequels later, audiences continue to flock to the cinemas to witness the adventures of the cunning yet noble captain as he searches the high seas for treasure.
Unfortunately, the fifth installment in the franchise suffers as a result of Sparrow himself, as the pirate’s antics become increasingly uninspired. Coupled with poor performances by Depp and the rest of the cast, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” ultimately falls flat in its attempt to revitalize the once-renowned franchise, facing issues with its convoluted plot and limited development of Sparrow’s character.
The film picks up with Henry Turner, played by Brenton Thwaites, the son of Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner, finding a down-on-his-luck Sparrow in a race for survival. Sparrow teams up with Turner to search for the mythical Trident of Poseidon: Turner’s only hope to save his father and Sparrow’s last chance of fending off his undead nemesis, Armando Salazar, played by Javier Bardem. With a crew of ghostly sailors on his trail, Sparrow must use all of his wits — and his newfound alliance with Turner — to escape his predicament.
Throughout the film, Depp’s portrayal of Sparrow seems uninspired, relying too heavily on stereotypes audiences have come to know. He overexaggerates Sparrow’s eccentric persona with a feeling of perpetual incoherence, rather than his more clever, slightly drunken sense of humor, employing a flurry of unamusing slapstick antics. There is nothing original about Depp’s portrayal, and the character has no new arc or backstory. While Sparrow once had glamor and charm, he comes off as one-dimensional in this installment. Depp’s colorless depiction of one of the most charismatic characters in film history is very unfortunate, with many critics pointing to Depp’s disinterest in continuing to play the role.
Depp is not the only cast member to fall flat. Bardem, one of his two main co-stars alongside Thwaites, delivers an underwhelming performance as well. Bardem’s depiction of the undead Salazar comes as quite a surprise given the actor’s renowned career. Unlike past villains in the franchise, Salazar is depicted as a weak and unorganized adversary to Sparrow, failing to spark any genuine audience interest or investment in the characters’ battle. The crude fabrication of Salazar is highly inconsistent, as well. There are portions of Salazar’s backstory that do not add up and become a major detraction to the film’s plot.
However, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg succeed with their one new addition to the cast: Kaya Scodelario. The rising star plays Carina Smyth, a female scientist accused of being a witch. Like Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann in the original three films, Scodelario’s character shows that women are just as brave and intelligent as men in the pirate era, if not smarter.
The film also achieves success with its visual effects, musical score and its references to previous films, which fans of the series will appreciate. With a multitude of sword fights and pirate ship battles, the visual effects are nothing short of amazing and are only enhanced with the option of a 3-D viewing experience. Additionally, the soundtrack of the film, composed by Hans Zimmer and Rodrigo y Gabriela, perfectly complements the action sequences. With the classic orchestra accompanying every sword fight and ship race, the fifth installment certainly continues the legacy of musical brilliance left behind by the previous films.
The film also brings back many actors and actresses from the previous films, including Geoffrey Rush, Bloom and Knightley. The addition of the original cast members — even in small cameo roles — provides an appropriate sense of conclusion for the franchise and will delight fans of the original films. These connections to the previous films provide Sparrow’s character with greater depth, despite his limited development in the new movie.
Although it provides a suitable potential conclusion to the series, Rønning and Sanberg’s film suffers from an inconsistent plot and surprisingly poor performances by acclaimed actors and actresses. Ultimately, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a disappointing addition to the franchise, continuing Depp’s recent trend of subpar performances in Hollywood. Although the film’s post-credit scene foreshadows a possible sixth film, audiences may prefer that “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the last they see of Sparrow.