Critical Mass: 'Dead Men Tell No Tales' divides reviewers

By Christian Holub
October 19, 2017 at 07:21 AM EDT
  • Movie

It sinks.

Critics have weighed in on Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales to the tune of a 31 percent rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

The fifth installment in the blockbuster franchise based on the popular Disney theme park excursion once again features Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow, the perma-drunk swashbuckler. And while early reviews suggested this new Pirates film is a tad better than 2011’s fourth outing, On Stranger Tides, the earlier sequel has a higher score on the review aggregation site as of this moment.

But not everyone slammed Pirates 5. For Entertainment Weekly critic Leah Greenblatt, the franchise’s ups and downs are about the same as they’ve ever been. “Five films in, Pirates still leaves you feeling a lot like the Magic Kingdom ride it’s so famously inspired by: alternately thrilled, exhausted, and seriously regretting that last funnel cake,” Greenblatt writes in her B- review. “Johnny Depp returns as the perpetually sozzled Jack Sparrow, heroically holding cirrhosis at bay with a gold-toothed grin and a wobbly swagger; Geoffrey Rush is back, too, as his high-seas frenemy, the squirrely, acquisitive Captain Barbossa.”

Check out a selection reviews below. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hits theaters Friday.

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)

“If only half that gorgeously detailed attention had gone toward the script: Instead, what we get is the usual mash of swashbuckling nonsense and soggy mythology: There will be romance, and revelations, and some silly, gold-plated cameos (hello there, Sir Paul McCartney! And whoops, goodbye). But Norwegian duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (the Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki) feel less like directors than shepherds, carefully coloring inside the lines mapped out for them so by a $4-billion-dollars-and-counting franchise.”

A.O. Scott (New York Times)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales — is, by contrasts, long and punishing. Its pleasures are so meager, its delight in its own inventions so forced and false, that it becomes almost the perfect opposite of entertainment.”

Michael O’Sullivan (Washington Post)

“It’s great to have a job watching — and then writing about — movies. But why does Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales have to feel so much like work?”

John DeFore (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Depp remains wholeheartedly the focus of this fifth Pirates film, and saying the character’s loopy novelty has faded is like complaining that there are maggots in the below-decks gruel: You knew what you were getting when you came aboard. Despite its limp zingers and a phoned-in star performance, this episode — directed with little distinction by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, of 2012’s Kon-Tiki — hits enough familiar notes to continue its predecessors’ commercial success, keeping a small city’s worth of VFX artists employed until Depp decides he can’t be bothered any more.”

Andrew Barker (Variety)

“Once again serving as both protagonist and comic relief, Johnny Depp reprises his role as drunken, dissolute, sporadically decipherable pirate Captain Jack Sparrow. His performance here is no better and no worse than in his previous two or three outings, though what once was a bracingly anarchic approach is starting to feel a bit old hat, like a standup comic rehashing vintage punchlines for cheers of recognition, rather than laughs.”

Mike Ryan (UPROXX)

“That said, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales is practically incoherent. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the “plot,” but it’s been futile. I’ve asked literally eight other people who saw this movie to answer a couple specific questions and no one has been able to do it. (I’m considering offering a bounty for the answer because I’m starting to become obsessed with it.)”

Matt Singer (ScreenCrush)

“Frankly, the whole movie is so nonsensical — both narratively and visually — that it almost seems like a misguided aesthetic choice. Bloom is 40, Thwaites is 27, yet they’re cast as father and son. In one random scene, a wedding takes place in the bones of a giant whale for no apparent reason, while Jack fends off the unwanted advances of an homely widow. Paul McCartney shows up for one scene dressed like pirate, I guess because Keith Richards was busy that day. The rules of physics are treated loosely, if observed at all; four horses somehow pull an entire house off its foundation and drag it for miles through the streets of a port town.”

Brian Truitt (USA Today)

“After three movies of diminishing quality and a wholly forgettable fourth chapter, Disney’s buccaneer-filled franchise rights the ship with fifth installment Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (*** out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters nationwide Thursday night). Johnny Depp’s drunken Captain Jack Sparrow stumbles into yet another seafaring adventure, which has its rocky moments but also offers an engaging tale with family legacies, above-average swashbuckling and a fantastic new villain courtesy of Javier Bardem.”

Mike McCahill (The Guardian)

“There’s fresher blood behind the camera, too, not entirely unwelcome after the avant garde tedium of Gore Verbinski’s three-hour send-off At World’s End and Rob Marshall’s by-the-numbers On Stranger Tides. Norwegians Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, fresh from the Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki, are keener than their predecessors to spend time at sea – some consolation to anybody wondering how interested this series really is in pirating – and toss much of the ballast that clogged previous instalments overboard. Dead Men Tell No Tales moves at a faster rate of knots than any Pirates film; trouble is, nothing has really been added. It’s the same soggy ride, set to a marginally preferable speed.”

Scott Mendelson (Forbes)

“Yes, Jack Sparrow is still a relative drag on the proceedings, as he’s been more “fly in the ointment” than “useful rogue” at least since Dead Man’s Chest. Depp is fine, but the character’s shtick is a lot less funny than it was 14 years ago when it was something of a surprise to see a respected thespian hamming it up in an otherwise straight-faced mega-budget action fantasy. Bardem chews exactly as much scenery as you’d expect, while Thwaites and Scodelario make a charming hero/heroine match. They don’t try to mimic Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, and the movie is better for it.”

Jim Vejvoda (IGN)

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales manages to be less bloated, dreary, and meandering than the last three entries have been, but it still suffers from many of the same wearisome, dredged-up villains and ho-hum action and comedy that have bedeviled the franchise since its second installment. The film’s biggest positive is that it ultimately has enough heart and offers enough closure for the Pirates franchise to end on not a high note, but less of a low one, should Disney decide this is the final voyage for Captain Jack Sparrow and his mates. And they probably should.”

  • Movie
  • PG-13
release date
  • 05/26/17
  • 129 minutes
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