It’s hard to believe, six years after the disaster that was “Pirates of the Caribbean 4,” Disney is trying to peddle a fifth installment of this film franchise to movie audiences. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is set to hit the big screen on May 26, just in time for Memorial Day. We don’t need another “Pirates of the Caribbean” and here’s why.
#1: Jack Sparrow just doesn’t work as the main hero
We get it, Johnny Depp has box office appeal. He’s an A-list Hollywood actor. So it’s only natural that Disney is trying its hardest to turn Johnny Depp into the focal point of this film franchise. In the first three installments, he was much more of a peripheral character – someone who spiced up the movie and made it more interesting – but not the main protagonist. And then along came “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” and Jack Sparrow was thrust into the leading role.
Predictably, the film bombed with audiences, scoring just 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. Jack Sparrow is, at best, a “lovable scamp” and a “charming drunkard.” But he’s not a main protagonist, and that’s something that movie audiences told Hollywood with their reaction to Jack Sparrow as the main hero of “Pirates of the Caribbean 4.” So why are they making the same mistake again?
#2: “Dead Men Tell No Tales” looks more like a zombie movie than a pirate movie
The “Pirates” franchise has always relied on elements of the supernatural to make it work. But now it looks the film is heading in a whole new direction, as it can’t decide whether it would rather be a pirate movie or a zombie movie. The title tells you all you need to know. In this case, the “dead men” are the zombie pirate army of Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who has escaped from the “Devil’s Triangle” and is out to kill all the pirates. From what we’ve seen in the trailers, this is going to include lots of scenes of CGI pirate-zombies swarming the Seven Seas.
But that’s not why people are going to these films. They are going to see swashbuckling pirates, treasure hunts, and adventures on the high seas. Maybe even a little charm and romance. However, they are not going to see zombie battles on boats. This is a dangerous new direction for the film and its producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who must have decided that he had run out of suitable pirate material and needed to start tapping into the monster-horror genre to make this film work.
#3: What ever happened to the characters we knew and loved?
If you look at the movie posters for the film, it’s easy to see where “Pirates of the Caribbean” has gone dangerously off the rails – it’s forgotten about the characters we cared about. And that means Orlando Bloom (as Will Turner) and Keira Knightley (as Elizabeth Swan). Instead, the movie poster for this fifth installment features Depp, Javier Bardem and Geoffrey Rush (as the pirate Barbarossa). Those are all great, Oscar-nominated actors, but that’s not why people go to see these films. And while newcomer Kaya Scoledario is quite attractive, let’s face facts – if Penelope Cruz didn’t work out in “Pirates 4,” it’s hard to see an unknown talent doing a better job.
In a sign of hope, though, it appears that Disney had a last-second change of mind and decided to bring back Orlando Bloom as Will Turner. There’s now a new “Will Turner trailer” floating around YouTube, and the word is that Orlando Bloom will return for a limited role in this new film. And now there’s growing buzz that Keira Knightley will return as well, for some kind of cameo role. However, according to cinema insiders, all the scenes were shot in private, so it’s far more likely that she will just show up in the credits (or the post-credits) to set up movie audiences for the inevitable sixth installment of this franchise.
#4: Bloated ambitions
This is not a typo – the budget for “Dead Men Tell No Tales” was $320 million. Even in an era where $100 million is just about the standard price for a summer blockbuster film, a total of $320 million sounds absurdly expensive. And that price tag gets at one of the central reasons for the rot at the heart of this Hollywood film franchise – the bloated ambitions of Disney.
Remember – this is a movie based on a theme park attraction. That’s all it was ever supposed to be. That’s what made the first movie so interesting. But now we’re getting into uncharted territory. “Pirates of the Caribbean” suffered from a convoluted plot to find the Fountain of Youth that included all kinds of extra plot twists, narrative arcs, and exposition. There was just too much explaining about something that should have just been very straightforward – a bunch of pirates want to find the Fountain of Youth. OK, got it.
And now this new “Pirates” film looks like it’s going to suffer from the same problem – it’s trying to do too much with too little material. This is turning into one of those Hollywood blockbuster movies where “the world is going to end if the main characters don’t save it.” But the only problem is that we’re relying on a drunken, no-good pirate to do that. And you can bet that a big chunk of that $320 million is going to involve very expensive CGI renderings of pirate ships and zombies. We just don’t need this, do we?
#5: “All Pirates Must Die”
There’s a line in the new trailer for “Dead Men Tell No Tales” – “All Pirates Must Die.” If there was ever a more apt description for this film franchise, it’s hard to think of one. This franchise had a phenomenal box office run. The first four films have pulled in a whopping $3.7 billion worldwide, making this already one of the Top 10 film franchises of all time. So it’s clear what’s going through the minds of Disney executives these days – just crank out another film, and no matter how bad it is, it’s still going to make a huge profit for us.
What these executives aren’t keeping in mind, however, is that movie audiences aren’t as gullible as they might appear to be. Setting a debut for this film on Memorial Day weekend, when it must compete with all the summer blockbusters starting to come out, is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, it’s time for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise to come to an end. Please don’t let them make another. Truthfully, I’d wait to see it until you can stream it with your internet at home.