DIR: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg • WRI: Jeff Nathanson • PRO: Jerry Bruckheimer • DOP: Paul Cameron • ED: Roger Barton, Leigh Folsom Boyd • DES: Nigel Phelps • MUS: Geoff Zanelli • CAST: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has spawned a fifth film in its series with Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (or the better-named Dead Men Tell No Tales in other countries). Johnny Depp returns as the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow, who has previously ruined the lives of Captain Salazar’s (Javier Bardem) crew by trapping them within the Devil’s Triangle, where Salazar and his men eternally become human/zombie-like hybrids. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), from the previous At World’s End, is forced to live on the shipwrecked Flying Dutchman at the bottom of the ocean floor, but his son Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is determined to break the curse and reunite with his father. Astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), whose profession sees her accused of witchcraft, has attempted to research and locate the elusive Trident of Poseidon in uncharted waters for most of her life, but this Trident becomes the central aspect of this film as it’s what the primary characters desire for its power to control the sea and ability to reverse all sea curses.
This fifth edition is inevitably predictable. If you’ve seen one film, you’ll understand how each Pirates of the Caribbean film sails. Firstly, Johnny Depp was once Oscar-nominated for his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. Although, his fifth time impersonating Keith Richards becomes a little too on the nose and is now a character suffering from the law of diminishing marginal returns. The film’s antagonist usually has a vendetta against Captain Sparrow, which Bardem’s Salazar does. Salazar and his not so merry men, with the aid of superb visual effects, look menacing, but there is no real villainous streak to these villains. Unlike his previous antagonist roles in either Skyfall or No Country For Old Men, Bardem’s Salazar is forgettable. Previous villains such as Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa, who has a twee bit-part to play in this instalment, were far more successful in their menacing portrayals in other instalments.
New characters such as Brenton Thwaites’ Will Turner and Kaya Scodelario’s Carina Smyth are decent, but their presence feels required to simply advance some plot points, as well as to permit certain cameo appearances by former cast members. The most-anticipated cameo appearance is that of Sir Paul McCartney playing Jack Sparrow’s Uncle Jackie. Keith Richards declined to return to the franchise and it’s now the turn of Macca to adopt a pirate’s life in a cameo appearance that’s not as cheesy or distracting as one may expect or fear. It’s the overall plot that should be feared due to its predictability, as well as its regressive female gender politics. It may be a film about pirates, yet Carina Smyth unnecessarily falls victim to the ‘pirate male gaze’ and it diminishes her importance in the film.
One positive of the film is that the plot gathers pace at a good speed and the film doesn’t drag along, despite its two-hour running time, and the viewer is successfully transported to the film’s world. The overall cinematography is immersive and the visual effects are expertly-used when appropriate. Co-directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have hinted that this world may be revisited for future instalments. Amongst the mass franchise releases each year, Pirates of The Caribbean, much like Salazar’s Revenge’s plot itself, needs to discover something to reverse the curse of its failing critical acclaim and popularity if further additions are greenlit. On the basis of this instalment and potential future instalments, perhaps Disney should consider a Muppets Treasure Island sequel instead.
It’s a perfunctory film to pass some time, but Pirates of the Caribbean is another series suffering from franchise fatigue and it needs to be put to bed or somehow find a fresh lease of life.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is released 26th May 2017