Oh, Pirates of the Caribbean, I have given you every chance down the years. Every chance. I am always hopeful. This may be the one that has a proper story I can follow, I have told myself. This may be the one in which Johnny Depp even bothers to act, I have told myself. This may be the one that doesn’t make me wish I’d stayed home where I could be doing something more interesting and fulfilling, like sorting laundry or cleaning out the fridge. When will I ever learn? When?
Pirates, you’re on film five now, and I don’t understand. Well, I do and I don’t. You’re one of those blockbuster franchises that certain audiences will wish to see regardless, as perplexing as that is. But does this mean you don’t even have to try to make it any good? Make any effort at all? With your $230 million budget you couldn’t, for example, have somehow discovered a proper function for Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, who now truck up merely because it’s expected they will do so? You couldn’t have come up with a better script, one that doesn’t include: ‘I’m sorry, Jack, we’ve reached the end of our horizon.’ What does that even mean? You couldn’t have devised a decent narrative such that, when the ‘trident of Poseidon’ is finally found, we could remember why it was required in the first instance? The fact is, Pirates, you are so insultingly lazy it’s a wonder anyone puts up with you at all. If you were a person, I’d have thrown you out the house years ago.
This time, you open with a prologue that has Bloom truck up with a face that seems to have been colonised by barnacles, like some terrible scrofula. (We see Bloom for around 30 seconds at the outset, and Knightley for 30 seconds at the end; nice work if you can get it.) Bloom lives on some kind of sunken ship and is visited by his young son, Henry, who is charged with lifting some curse or other. (Oh, that’s what the trident was for — maybe.) You then skip forward nine years to when Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is grown. He is the new kid on the block, along with Carina (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer and ‘woman of science’, which sounds encouraging, but she’s as dull as ditch water and, together, Henry and Carina are so boring, banal, empty and generic that they’re just the sort of couple you’d vow never to have round for dinner, ever. (Oh, FFS. You asked Henry and Carina round for dinner? What did you do that for?)
We first encounter Cap’n Jack (Depp) in one of the many, many set-pieces as he’s robbing a bank on Saint Martin, the Caribbean island that, judging from this, is entirely populated by white people. Similarly, you, as a film, are populated entirely by white people. Did it not occur to you that, this being the Caribbean, there might be black folk knocking about? I know, I know, you’re not about historical accuracy, or any kind of accuracy, yet while you may not consider it a glaring omission, it certainly glared at me. Quite forcefully.
I also have to ask: what Johnny Depp does in your films, would you call it acting? Or is it simply a spewing of sozzled, camp mannerisms; mannerisms that are about as fresh as the rotting vegetables I should have stayed home to clear from the fridge? And is it just my imagination, or has Jack got stupider over the years? And pervier? Was it necessary, for example, to have his eyes out on stalks when Carina, quite gratuitously, strips to her underwear? Essentially, you’re just a ragbag of pointless subplots taking us from one action sequence to the next, via ghost ships, skeleton crews, Geoffrey Rush reprising Barbossa and Javier Bardem appearing as a vengeful zombie who also seems to be suffering from some terrible scrofula.
Meanwhile, in the interests of fairness, I will admit that Sir Paul McCartney’s cameo as Jack’s uncle wasn’t as dreadful as anticipated. But you couldn’t have given him a funny joke to say? ‘Did you hear the one about the skeleton who goes into a bar and asks for a beer and a mop?’ That was the joke, and it was so unfunny I even looked it up later, just to check I hadn’t failed to get it. I hadn’t. I also discovered it’s as old as the hills, if not older. You couldn’t even be bothered to come up with your own unfunny jokes?
So, as per, you’ve taken 130 minutes from me, and I’ve nothing to show for it. When will I ever learn?