Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most popular franchises of all time, and yet only one out of its four movies are remembered in a positive light. Gore Verbinski’s The Curse of the Black Pearl was a throwback to old school popcorn blockbusters, a family-friendly adventure full of expertly choreographed action, led by a rebellious hero with some romance. The original hit led to three sequels that broke multiple box office records for the Disney property, yet the Pirates franchise only soured in the mouths of critics.
When last we saw Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow he was, I don’t know, doing pirate stuff probably? After the first Pirates of the Caribbean, 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl, all these movies began to blend together. Some sword fights, a mystical MacGuffin, an all-powerful bad guy, a couple battles at sea, blather, mince, repeat. Even though the latest, Dead Men Tell No Tales, comes from a new pair of directors (Kon-Tiki’s Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg), it’s basically indistinguishable from the three previous sequels, except that it’s even worse than they were.
The smartest thing that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise ever did was introduce a revolving door of ghost pirate enemies. I don’t really care why Javier Bardem’s character hates Jack Sparrow, nor do I think for a moment that this is the film that will permanently kill Johnny Depp’s character off for good, but those plots points are secondary, the franchise’s equivalent of a ghost McGuffin (a McGhostin?). All I really care about is seeing charismatic actors like Bardem play campy villains.