Directors: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg
Run Time: 129 minutes
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Kevin McNally, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Orlando Bloom, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the trident of Poseidon while being pursued by an undead sea captain and his crew.
Everyone’s favourite family friendly pirates are back in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (Dead Men Tell No Tales in the USA). It’s been fourteen years since we originally set sail with Jack Sparrow, and six years since we last saw them in 2011’s decent-enough On Stranger Tides. After six years away, it’s clear that these sea dogs are beginning to get a little long in the tooth. Far from being sidelined with life-threatening scurvy, Salazar’s Revenge shows a franchise that has spent too long at sea.
Despite the signs of age (and a few barnacles) showing in this long-running series of sea-shanties, Salazar’s Revenge actually finds the series at its best since Dead Man’s Chest. Backed by a strong performance from Javier Bardem as the creepy, yet entertaining Captain Salazar, this is an enjoyable adventure full of humour and incredible special effects. There’s more to like here than in On Stranger Tides, and its shorter length and more condense storytelling allow for it to be a little better than At world’s End. The trouble is, no matter how good some individual scenes may be, Pirates of the Caribbean is a series in dire need of being put to sea. It’s plot-points are creaky like the ships they find themselves on, its characters all too familiar and situations overworked.
There’s nothing quite as bad as Jack Sparrow however. Johnny Depp puts in what could be a career-low performance here. Sparrow’s character a thinly veiled shadow and pastiche of its former self. Too often we are shown his drinking, his cringe-inducing one-liners and dodgy way of walking. Depp’s performance is one of someone who only turned up for their paycheck and contractual obligation, he is found wanting and phoning it in on too many occasions. It’s sad to see the deterioration of his character over the years into a two-dimensional joke, rather than leader of men through humorous ways. Captain Jack Sparrow adds little of any worth to the story, which rightly focuses strongest on Carina Smyth’s (Kaya Scodelario) personal journey to locate the trident of Poseidon.
At times, the plot can feel a little too messy, with multiple threads running throughout. We have the love story between Carina and Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), his mission to recover his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman, her journey to find her father, Jack’s running from Captain Salazar, Barbossa’s (Geoffrey Rush) aiding of Salazar in his mission to find and kill Jack and (finally), a vague mission from the British Red-Coats to find and arrest them all. There’s a lot going on throughout the relatively short two hours, nine minutes run time, and at times things can get lost in the midst of it all. The British, for example, add no threat or plot progression, rather than act only as time filler.
Some areas of the plot are rather good, however, especially Carina’s sub-plots. These act as the driving force behind the film and Kaya Scodelario delivers a great performance that sits as one of the best the franchise has ever seen. She carries with her an air of arrogance and book smarts that just haven’t been seen in the Pirates films before. Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg used her character to great effect and were able to play her off the stupidity of the pirates she found herself sharing her adventure with. The same can’t be said of Henry Turner, however, who acts as a slightly less interesting version of his pa, Will turner (Orlando Bloom). The acting is a mixed bag in Salazar’s revenge, but if you can get past Johnny Depp’s *ahem* effort, then you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
As I mentioned earlier, Javier Bardem puts in a good performance as the film’s main antagonist, Captain Salazar. A lot of work went into Salazar and his character is driven solely by his hate of pirates, especially Jack Sparrow. In a fairly lengthy flashback we see how Salazar was fooled by a much younger (and much more CGI) Sparrow into heading into a seriously dangerous set of caves, blowing up his ship and crew in the process. Fuelled by rage (and a curse), Salazar and his ghostly crew find themselves trapped in the coffin where Sparrow laid them to rest – that is, until Sparrow trades in his famous compass for a swig of rum. Salazar and his undead crew take to the seas in the search for Captain Jack, killing all (but one person per ship, so they can tell the tale) in their path.
Salazar is about as twisted a villain as the series has seen and he comes with his own incredible special effects. Looking somewhat like a ghostly Ozzy Osbourne with floaty hair and part of his skull missing, Salazar is an incredible combination of traditional and modern filmmaking. You see specks of black dirt float about nearby Salazar when he’s close, black stuff seeps from his mouth and his face is just lovely with its flaking, cracked up skin. Little kids may find him a little scary, but people should come to expect scary scenes for the youngest of people in Pirates films. Salazar is simply a much better villain than Blackbeard and maybe even Davy Jones was.
Salazar is just part of the fun on offer here, however, as Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge has plenty to offer if you’re just looking to be entertained. The opening of the movie sees Captain Jack and his crew (led by Mr. Gibbs – Kevin McNally) attempting to pull of a bank heist. Of course, it doesn’t exactly go to plan, but in terms of visual spectacle, seeing an entire building being dragged through a town is about as good as the series has ever been. On top of this, you’ll spend time with zombie sharks, laugh at a hilarious guillotine routine and journey across several spectacular locations. Salazar’s Revenge can be great fun.
Driven by strong performances from Kaya Scodelario and Javier Bardem, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is the best the franchise has been since 2006’s Dead Man’s Chest. There’s plenty of fun to be had here, but it doesn’t offer anything new to the franchise. Everything it does we have seen before, and sometimes better. Johnny Depp delivers a disappointing, career-low performance as a sub-par Jack Sparrow, but it almost doesn’t matter. This is an enjoyable enough romp through the Caribbean, but rust is starting to eat through the franchise’s hull. Maybe it’s time for Captain Jack Sparrow and his band of pirates to walk the plank.
One of the better Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but the poor performance from Johnny Depp suggests that it may be time for this franchise to sail off into the sunset for good.