Though he is not by any measure the sole problem with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Johnny Depp‘s myriad appearances in the film are easily the most dismaying. He is, after all, playing the main reason that people are showing up for the movie, which is currently standing atop the Friday box office with an estimated $16 million following $5.5 million from Thursday screenings for a $21.5 million total. If the notorious star of this bloated franchise had turned his back, the movie might not have been made – best case scenario – or the movie might have been a more budgeted, inventive adventure movie in the mode of directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg‘s last film, Kon-Tiki, which was much less reliant on star power. This is not to smear the name of Javier Bardem – the film’s sole highlight – but if Jack Sparrow wasn’t in the movie, the latest Pirates of the Caribbean would not have been expected to be a box office hit in the hopes of recouping its ludicrous $230 million budget. Such is the illogical and pestering reasoning behind modern franchise viewership in America.
Depp is also likely the reason that Pirates will win out over Baywatch, the comedic quasi-parody of the cheesy 90s action-drama about a team of crime-solving lifeguards that helped bring Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff fully into the zeitgeist. Though the comedy sports Dwayne Johnson, arguably the most bankable star on this blue planet, it is at once not very funny and tonally unsure of what kind of movie it wants to be. Even from the outside, the movie looks like a mess engineered specifically to capitalize on our current obsession with 90s nostalgia. Johnson, as well as co-star Zac Efron, can be a dazzling physical performer and wildly talented comedic presence but he requires a thoughtful director to guide him, something that filmmaker Seth Gordon has proven incapable of being since his promising debut documentary, King of Kong: A Fistful of Dollars. Choosing Depp’s latest trip aboard the S.S. WhyIsThisStillHappening over Baywatch is the equivalent of the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t argument.
And if you needed proof of this, the fact that Baywatch will be sitting not-so-pretty in the second place spot with $5.7 million on Friday, following netting $4.5 million from Wednesday and Thursday for a total of $10 million, should prove it. Ridley Scott‘s divisive Alien: Covenant dropped down to fourth place with an estimated $3 million, while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 currently holds the third place spot with $5.3 million for Friday, nipping at Baywatch‘s heels. And way down in fifth place with was the little teen romance that could, Everything, Everything, which may just be able to hold onto its spot over the Memorial Day weekend with an estimated weekend total of $9 million and a $2 million take on Friday. The real fight, however, will remain between a familiar volume of garbage with tons of name recognition and a piping-hot plate of fresh garbage with name recognition.