Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge movie review - Time for Jack Sparrow to hang up his boots?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (or Salazar's Revenge) shows perhaps it’s about time Sparrow hung up his boots and thought real hard about what his next journey should be, because at this rate he’s just going about in circles.
castJohnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin Mcnally, Geoffrey Rush
directorJoachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
I was a teenager when the first Pirates of the Caribbean film released and blew me away. At a time when summer blockbusters seemed to be getting more and more over serious Jack Sparrow and his hilarious shenanigans, packed with giant swashbuckling seafaring thrills was something I’d never experienced at the cinema before.
Fourteen years and four films later Sparrow no longer wields the element of surprise, and the charming newness of pitched sea battles has evaporated. The latest film, titled Salazar’s Revenge, or Dead Men Tell No Tales (depending on which country you stay in) has all the giant CGI mayhem you expect from the franchise, but despite the entertainment value it feels dated and unwilling to leap into a truly unique chapter of the pirate’s story. If you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise and you’re looking for more of the same, you should watch the film – but for others who are interested in something new and unseen should expect to be disappointed.
Salazar’s Revenge is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, the duo responsible for the amazing Norwegian films Max Manus and Kon Tiki. This film, however does not have their trademark emotional resonance, nor does it have the sense of adventure and the dangers that surround it. The script by Jeff Nathanson is so routine and familiar it constricts the directors into a ‘franchise formula’ and never gives them a chance to really flex their muscles.
The story follows the same beats as the previous films – the search for Jack Sparrow, a mysterious pirate villain with an ugly face who wants revenge against Sparrow, a young couple and a mismatched ship crew. This time it’s been many years since the events of On Stranger Tides. Henry (Brenton Thwaits) the son of Will and Elizabeth is looking for Jack Sparrow on the behest of the villainous Salazar (Bardem) because – you guessed it – Sparrow had duped him in the past and put him in eternal damnation. Sparrow must unite with his old friends, meet a fair young woman (Kaya Scodelario) and set off to the sea.
The film is not exactly boring because there’s always a giant CGI laden set piece in motion on the screen – from a house being dragged across a town by horses, to a tiny ship in a bottle expanding into its full size. There is a fun action sequence between Sparrow and the masthead of Salazar’s gnarly ship – which by the way is also very cool because it devours other ships. There’s also plenty of wide shots of the ocean and the beach for anyone hungry for the fictional Caribbean showcased in the series.
Beyond the visual surface, however, there is little else. Bardem’s Salazar is given a tremendous intro but his presence in the film is distilled to a trifle when his backstory is revealed. The scene in question also makes things more about Sparrow than about Salazar, making him a disposable villain of the week who poses no real threat to any of the good guys. That would have been fine if Sparrow actually did something heroic later in the film but he doesn’t – the Scodelario character is given the hero treatment in a weak attempt to copy Rey from The Force Awakens. The attempts at humour are messy, the nadir of which includes an incredibly sexist joke about Sparrow being forced to marry a fat woman. The young couple here is a lazy rehash of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom’s characters in the original trilogy but they don’t have a tenth of their chemistry.
It’s also not very clear whom the audience was made for – because there are contrived attempts to invoke memories of the first three films, a clear servicing for long time fans, but the formulaic storytelling also serves as a soft reboot, a clear bait for teenagers new to the franchise. Perhaps it’s about time Sparrow hung up his boots and thought real hard about what his next journey should be, because at this rate he’s just going about in circles.
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