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Documenting Johnny Depp's deteriorating acting career

Majestic and proud; an arrogant man in his natural habitat.
Majestic and proud; an arrogant man in his natural habitat.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, used with permission.

Believe it or not there was a time when Johnny Depp was admired for his talent as an actor and potential as a rising star rather than just a pretty face that only seems to cash in on looks and name value alone. Compare the Johnny Depp from films like "Edward Scissorhands" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" to the more recent emotionless and shell-like version of himself from "Dark Shadows" and "The Rum Diary." Depp has lost whatever unique characteristics that made him a draw for both sexes and has been riding the wave of female popularity for at least ten years. Now he seems to think that donning layers of makeup is an excuse to underperform and it's just depressing.

Catering to a particular audience isn't awful, but when it seems like an actor isn't even trying to be absorbed in one of their roles or perform in a way you know is within their abilities, then it's extremely disappointing. Warner Bros threw $100 million at Depp's latest film, "Transcendence" and the film currently sits at $54.4 million worldwide while the film couldn't even break $11 million opening weekend. Maybe Depp's star power is finally starting to fade or maybe people are beginning to realize he's only showing up for a paycheck.

Here's a list of films that should have been spectacular but lacked a strong on-screen presence from a man we all know is capable of delivering exceptional performances.

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise
The "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, used with permission.

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise

"The Curse of the Black Pearl" was fun and harmless and its two sequels were somewhat necessary to round out a blockbuster trilogy, but "On Stranger Tides" was just boring. It was basically just the wild antics of Jack Sparrow, which you've already seen nearly nine hours of in the other three films. Disney is milking the franchise, which makes sense from a money perspective. However, a studio isn't about to shake things up and add a little variety to a big budget sequel if the same, rehashed material makes over $1 billion at the worldwide box office.

"Secret Window"
"Secret Window" Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures, used with permission.

"Secret Window"

A little psychological thriller based on a novella by Stephen King is where Johnny Depp's slide into ho-hum territory began. It's not so much that "Secret Window" is flat out terrible it's just an idea that's been done to death. Depp's performance was decent, but the material was flatter than a steamrolled tortilla. This seemed to be the turning point for Depp's career where he started doing less eccentric films and began receiving easier paychecks.

"The Lone Ranger"
"The Lone Ranger" Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, used with permission.

"The Lone Ranger"

Not only was Gore Verbinski's take on "The Lone Ranger" a complete flop at the box office, but Depp's portrayal of Tonto was as well. The action western film spends too much time trying to be funny and falling on its face in its execution while Tonto is depicted as this brain damaged Comanche Indian who has been exiled from his tribe for his actions as a child. While Tonto is basically the comic relief, he's somehow the smart and capable one of the duo since The Lone Ranger is nothing more than an attorney seeking vengeance, featuring rightful justice in front of a court of law of course, for his dead brother. I always thought of Tonto as the voice of reason in The Lone Ranger, but Depp's performance seems to hinder on "act stupid and people will laugh."

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, used with permission.

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

One of many unnecessary films that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton collaborated for, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was already on thin ice for remaking a classic that everyone adores to this day. Depp's performance was bizarre and creepy as it's been described as very Michael Jackson like. The film isn't bad in the traditional sense, but it didn't seem to be the dark and twisted tale everyone expected from Tim Burton and it wasn't bold enough to distance itself from the original "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" to make a worthwhile impression.

"The Rum Diary"
"The Rum Diary" Photo courtesy of Film District, used with permission.

"The Rum Diary"

As a big fan of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "The Rum Diary" was highly anticipated up until its late 2011 release. But the film was completed sometime in 2009 and sat on the shelf for two years. That should have been a huge red flag. "The Rum Diary" came off like an excuse to rehash what made "Fear and Loathing" so spectacular. There were some incredible one-liners, but the writing was very jagged. Paul Kemp (Depp) is a watered down version of Raoul Duke aka Hunter S. Thompson. Depp may say that "there's an energy burning underneath" the character, but that energy doesn't burn bright enough over the course of the film.

"Dark Shadows"
"Dark Shadows" Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, used with permission.

"Dark Shadows"

This was probably the biggest wtf moment as far as Johnny Depp and Tim Burton collaborations go. "Dark Shadows" was a television series from the late 1960s and was a gothic soap opera. While it was likely very campy, it was also probably meant to be taken seriously. Tim Burton's version was overly goofy and ridiculous. Some of it was wittier and darker than expected, but the film failed because of its tendency to genre bounce constantly. Depp's Barnabas Collins was an overly emo Count Orlok kind of vampire who subjected himself to slapstick comedy. The film's obscure and unusual qualities restrained it to being nothing more than a peculiar experience at face value with no depth or chemistry.

"The Tourist"
"The Tourist" Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures, used with permission.

"The Tourist"

An action thriller with an amazing cast drops the ball and delivers a stale film that everyone has forgotten about. Sound familiar? It should. It happens with nearly everything Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are a part of these days and yet studios keep throwing money at them to do it over and over again. Depp rehashes Jack Sparrow here and throws in a few sarcastic one-liners, but keeps the trend of not trying too hard alive.

"Alice in Wonderland"
"Alice in Wonderland" Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, used with permission.

"Alice in Wonderland"

To this day I am still a massive fan of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Maybe that's why I defend Tim Burton's version of the film more than the average person. The film looks like nothing you've seen before since it's this awkward blend of computer generated effects and surreal backgrounds. A lot of the characters appear almost rubber-like because of it. Depp's Mad Hatter was almost as off-putting as his version of Willy Wonka thanks to his clumsy Scottish accent and whatever the hell that futterwacken thing was. The March Hare saved the film from being a disjointed mess.

"Transcendence"
"Transcendence" Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, used with permission.

"Transcendence"

Depp's most recent venture into cinemas is perhaps his most guilty of being lukewarm and lazy. Will Caster has this extremely impressive story arc where a very intelligent man is poisoned, has to watch himself die, and then is reborn in the technology that he created. The film was a chance for Depp to tap back into his whimsical side, show a little emotion, and remind us why he's where he is today. Instead he drifts in lackadaisical fashion through the Will Caster character and delivers a performance a cardboard cut-out would be ashamed of.