A feeling of being mercilessly battered.
That’s the feeling one gets while experiencing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”
Pounding sea battles replete with ear-shattering cannon fire follow one after the other, accompanied by deafening soundtrack music.
Then there are the visual assaults of really ugly-looking special-effects scenes, replete with rotting skeletal pirate hordes, rampaging; rotted sharks, swarming; and a rotted man of war, plying the waters of the Spanish Main.
There is ugliness, everywhere you look.
And there are no new ideas in this, the fifth picture in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.
All that directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (both Norwegians making their Hollywood blockbuster debut) and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson offer up are recycled scenes and situations from previous “Pirates” movies. All are jammed roughly together in slapdash fashion with little detectable pacing.
And no one seems to be having any fun. Certainly not Johnny Depp, swaying and slurring as Capt. Jack Sparrow in a performance that practically shrieks, “I’m bored!”
But given the path his career has been on lately, with bomb after bomb from “The Lone Ranger,” “Mortdecai,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Transcendence” stinking up his resume, the guy desperately needs a hit to shore up his A-list credentials.
Geoffrey Rush, back yet again as Capt. Barbossa, Sparrow’s nemesis/ally (take your pick; the character’s allegiances change with the tide), is just going through the motions. There’s no vitality in his performance.
The villain of the piece, played by Javier Bardem who’s carved out a nice niche as a go-to movie bad guy, is Spanish Capt. Salazar. He’s dead (a common condition of “Pirates” baddies over the years), which in this case means he been virtually entombed in CG-augmented makeup.
With face half decayed away and with really peculiar floaty hair that looks like something out of a nightmarish shampoo adhe looks bad, and sounds worse. His line readings are so indistinct it’s as though the special effects people have digitally removed his vocal cords.
Because Depp, Rush and Bardem now are rather long in the tooth, two much younger new characters played by Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites have been inserted into the plot by uberproducer Jerry Bruckheimer to appeal to the all-important youth demographic on which the success of his blockbusters is built.
Once upon a time, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley served that function, but they’ve aged out. They’ve been dragged back aboard for brief cameos, but their presence paradoxically is a wan reminder of the series’ glory days.
With no new ideas and decay as a consistent motif, this “Pirates” is a kind of zombie: frantic yet shambling and brain-dead at the core. There is no reason for it to exist other than that these movies are reliable cash machines.
“Dead Man’s Chest,” released in 2006 and “On Stranger Tides,” the installment preceding this one, released in 2011, each raked in more than $1 billionat the worldwide box office.
As long as there’s that kind of money to be made, this franchise will never die.
But it should.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”
☆ star out of 5
Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Kaya Scodelario, Brenton Thwaites
Directors: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Running time: 2:09
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content