Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge Review
Dead franchises should stop telling tales
Jack’s Back Baby – Johnny Depp returns as Jack Sparrow in the fifth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that’s full of pantomime one-liners but not much else.You’d think that when a film franchise churns out a fifth film it’s because they’ve got so many ideas and things to say that they couldn’t possibly fit it into one two-hour movie. Or, that’s what you’d like to think. That’s not at all what’s happened with Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge or Dead Men Tell No Tales, the subtitle differs depending on where you live. You can say a lot of things about this follow-up to 2011's On Stranger Tides but you could never accuse it of being necessary. Of course the previous film made a $1 billion at the global box office, so that might have been an influence on Disney's decision to make another.Johnny Depp is, of course, back as Jack Sparrow – the camp, swashbuckling and mostly loveable rogue we’ve grown accustomed to over the last fourteen years, although he’s decidedly less swashbuckling and there’s more than a smidge of the ‘phone-in’ about Depp’s performance. It’s lacking something, which is understandable given the amount of films Sparrow’s been trotted out in, but when the entire draw of a film is the main character you need a proper charismatic and charming performance. Normally, you’d get that in spades from Depp as Sparrow, but it’s all worn a bit thin by now.
In this instalment Sparrow is being mercilessly pursued by a ghostly Spanish Navy crew, led by Javier Bardem’s Salazar, who are determined to hunt down and kill every last pirate. There are a few familiar faces from down the years, and a few new faces, but not many new ideas. Pirates veteran Geoffrey Rush returns as Captain Barbossa, Sparrow’s pal Gibbs (Kevin McNally) is back and of course stalwarts Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly reprise their roles as power-couple Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann.
The cast this time is bolstered by Brenton Thwaites, who plays Will and Elizabeth’s son Henry who’s trying to save his old man, and Skins alum Kaya Scodelario’s turn as Carina Smyth, a strong-willed astronomer who joins forces with Sparrow. The younger cast members are an obvious attempt to bridge the gap left behind by Bloom and Knightley’s reduced roles. The pair are perfectly fine sidekicks for Depp’s pantomime leader, but lack the chemistry of their predecessors. Scodelario isn’t given much to do, and given the lack of plot for the vast majority of the film, it’s a bit of a mystery why there isn’t more character development. But then I suppose no one’s going to a Pirates of the Caribbean movie for complex character studies.
There are plenty of swashbuckling effects but the whole film feels like a plank too far
No, you go to a film like this for the blockbuster factor, and there are definitely a lot of swashbuckling effects. It feels a lot like the ‘plot’ is just a means to an end – ostensibly to facilitate as much high-stakes effects-heavy set pieces as possible. Bardem’s villain at least adds something new to the franchise, but there’s not much else to write home about. Depp’s performance as Sparrow has been increasingly watered-down ever since the initial films, and there’s so little detail or intrigue in the story that it’s actually quite boring, despite the yo-ho heists and adventures of the pirate crew.
There’s nothing new to add to the Pirates series, and while directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg up the pace significantly from the (endless) fourth film, it all still feels like a plank too far. There are a few mildly exciting scenes, a few actually funny lines and a couple of decent performances (the best comes from Lewis McGowan, who’s only in the film before the opening credits), but it’s all a drab sequel that adds nothing to the canon (ha), wastes everyone’s time and manages to make our beloved Jack Sparrow annoying, boring and just a bit of a drag.
The ending of the film, and the introduction of young actors as main characters, suggests a whiff of a sequel in the air. Hopefully the powers that be resist that urge – it’s definitely time to abandon this ship.
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