Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Year: 2017
Production Co: Bruckheimer Pictures
Studio: Disney
Director: Joachim Rønning/Espen Sandberg
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Cast: Johnny Depp, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, David Wenham, Bruce Spence, Stephen Graham, orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Paul McCartney

The first Pirates of the Caribbean earned a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 79 percent, and this one has earned 29 percent. That says one of two things – first, the extra 50 percent for the first film was purely critical love for Depp's character of Jack Sparrow, an example of elevating words off the page by creating a character everybody loved with personality and inspiration.

The second thing it seems to say is that the decreasing enthusiasm for the franchise among the movie-going firmament is simply boredom at the same thing over and over again. Everything around Sparrow – the characters, the ancient curse premise, the jokes and the effects-heavy visuals – are no better or worse here than they were in 2003.

This time, the fearsome antagonist is a Spanish galleon captain, Salazar (Javier Bardem) who a young Sparrow tricked into sailing into cursed waters years before. The sequence partway through the movie gives us another showreel from a team of CGI engineers showing off their skills in the latest visual trend in Hollywood, de-aging actors – seen in Ant-Man with Michael Douglas, Captain America: Civil War with Robert Downey Jr and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 with Kurt Russell (has Disney bought some Indian or Filipino company of digital compositors and animators and they're trying to justify their investment?).

But before we get to the exposition, we're left to wonder why Salazar and his rotted, half-formed zombie crew are sailing the seven seas gunning for Jack's head, only that it's revenge for some years-old sleight.

As the movie opens we meet Henry, son of Orlando Bloom's character Will, as a little boy. Henry steals a rowboat late at night to sneak out into the middle of the ocean where he ties a rock around his ankle and throws himself in. A huge rotted ship rises from below him, turning out to be the Flying Dutchman, the ship his father is cursed to haunt forever and which rises every other full moon (or something).

Will (Bloom) is loving but firm with his son – he's got to stop his regular pilgrimage to the depths promising to find a way to free his father and get on with his life.

But years later, in the grown up form of Brenton Thwaites, he's just as determined. There's a talisman called Poseidon's trident that can undo all the curses of the sea, and he's determined to find it.

He teams up with beautiful young amateur astronomer Carina (Kaya Scodelario) who's on a quest of her own given to her by her long lost father in the form of a missing jewel and a cryptic notebook, and after a series of captures by British forces and exciting escape sequences, they realise they have to team up with Jack to accomplish their aims. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is thrown into the mix too and it becomes a kind of greatest hits of all the old characters and signature Pirates tropes.

Where a lot of it could have been completely disposable, however (and most of it is), there are a couple of elements that stand out. The rescue scene of Jack locked in the guillotine as it spins around and around on a piece of the smashed platform in the town square is a hoot.

And the character of Salazar is actually pretty effective. It's not easy to understand Bardem's thick Spanish accent through all the sound effects and make-up, but the way his long hair drifts and moves like he's forever underwater is quite cool.

You can also see several low key roles filled by Aussie stars, shot as it was at Warner Bros Gold Coast studios and several other locations around coastal Queensland and Brisbane. David Wenham is there as a snivelling British Navy officer, as is Bruce Spence as the mayor of the township announcing the opening of the new bank (which also gives Jack a very appropriately ignoble introduction).

But recognising them makes it hard to forget the shitstorm that surrounded Depp and then-wife Amber Heard when they snuck their dogs into the country, and the bizarre PSA video they released talking about the need to protect Australia's unique biological diversity as part of their penance.

When all's said and done, you can't expect much more from it than you did the first movie. Despite Depp's creation of the character, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was hardly a modern classic – all these Pirates movies are theme park rides with a bit more of a plot, and if you expect any more you would have been disappointed with any one of them.

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