Imagine watching Star Wars and deciding the franchise should forever forward follow C-3PO. And that C-3PO was played by a former hunk who now looks like a Goodwill donation pile left in the rain and who (allegedly) has made more recent hits on women’s bodies than hit movies. Welcome to The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise! It shouldn’t exist! The unholy fifth installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, is an especially callous exercise in studio sloth, tossing rancid scraps from previous installments to the masses for diminishing profit. Also, Javier Bardem vomits ink while weirdly pronouncing “Jack Sparrow” until it sounds like “Yak Butthole.”
Dead Men sees the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley), Henry (Brenton Thwaites), searching for Yak Butthole (Johnny Depp). Henry believes that Yak Butthole is the key to helping him find Poseidon’s trident, which can free his father from the curse he’s under. Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is also looking for Poseidon’s magical curse-whammy trident, which is only odd because all she talks about is science and how she doesn’t believe in supernatural stuff. She is also forced into lots of “slut” jokes by writers Jeff Nathanson and Terry Rossio, who may have never met a real-life woman.
Yak Butthole, Carina and Henry must also contend with the undead Captain Salazar (Bardem) and the obligatorily present Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Who’d have ever thought Geoffrey Rush would become a staple in a blockbuster franchise and that it would feel this awful?! Zombie sharks, seagull ghouls and poltergeisty pirates aplenty clutter the screen, hopefully putting money into the college funds for the children of CGI designers who once dreamed of making art for a living.
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and Dead Men in particular, is a shining example of Hollywood’s profound ability to learn the worst possible lessons from a successful film. Yak Butthole was initially a spectacular supporting character who, like the sentient fedora that plays him, has grown only grosser and less interesting when thrust into the spotlight. What worked in the first installment was the whimsical adventure and hint of horror. What has been replicated ever since is Depp’s sloppy Keith Richards impression welded to a shitty volume in R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. Dead Men is so pointless, noisy and lame, it’s not even worth getting worked up enough to actively hate it.
Dead Men is another reminder that mainstream blockbusters have had an “adventure hole” for quite some time. Nothing has been served up to scratch that Indiana Jones, “swashbuckling quest” itch in ages. Sure, we get a stray National Treasure here or there, but even the Mummy franchise no longer seems interested in pulpy globe-trotting adventurism. In fact, Universal Studios is rebooting The Mummy as part of a “dark universe” that connects all the classic movie creatures in one series, including Frankenstein’s monster (played by Bardem) and the Invisible Man (played by Depp). Bardem and Depp together again? Yak Butthole indeed!
This review previously appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Nebraska.
Half a star.