Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back. Again. He’s once again slightly down on his luck and without a ship or a crew when he runs into Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). Henry desperately needs to track down the Trident of Poseidon so he can release his Dad from his tenure aboard the Flying Dutchman. It’s not that simple though, something to do with Jack’s compass releases Salazar (Javier Bardem), yet another person who Jack has crossed in the past who has gone all supernatural. Accompanied by science-y lady Carina Smyth ( Kaya Scodelario) Jack and Henry race against Salazar, the British Navy and of course Hector Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) to retrieve the Trident. Timber shivering ensue.

I really like the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, I think it’s a genuinely entertaining blockbuster with, what was at the time, a different and unexpected performance from Johnny Depp. I have a soft spot for the second and third films as well, yes they’re overblown and try to give everything an enormous, sprawling mythology but they’re quite entertaining. They’re not a patch on the original but they’re mindless fun, in places. The fourth film, On Stranger Tides, is so incredibly forgettable that I can’t remember anything about it beyond the villain being Blackbeard and that’s only because they actually mention Blackbeard in this film. The Pirates franchise is pretty much the textbook example of diminishing returns. So does Salazar’s Revenge manage to buck the trend?

Sadly not.

From the first moment that Captain Jack appeared on screen I got a bit of a sinking feeling, pun intended. First time around Captain Jack was quite a novel character, and it’s hard to argue that it’s now become a fairly iconic character. As the films have gone on the character has become increasingly annoying and pretty much a poor pastiche of itself. It took me a good few minutes to be able to adjust my brain to understand a word that Johnny Depp was saying and it seems to have devolved from a Keith Richard impression (although admittedly not a great one) to Rowley Birkin QC (the drunk guy from The Fast Show). The whole thing felt like a sketch of someone pretending to be Johnny Depp, pretending to be Jack Sparrow; it felt like Depp really didn’t want to be there.

The makers of the film must be applauded for finding Brenton Thwaites to play Orlando Bloom’s son, and take on the hero role from his onscreen father. I didn’t think it was possible to find a leading man who is quite as wooden as Orlando Bloom in the Pirates films, but they’ve managed it. It’s one of the most believable onscreen father and son pairings. Similarly, Carina feels like she’s essentially just been written in so there’s someone to fill Kiera Knightley role. Everything from the casting down to the plot feels like they’re trying to reboot the franchise for a new generation with mix of old and new characters. It feels like the makers have seen the success of the Force Awakens and tried to copy that formula of intertwining old characters and new characters except it doesn’t really work. For one thing the story is an exciting mixture of being incredibly dull but also needlessly confusing.

The plot of the film is reminiscent of the other films in the series. Jack has upset someone, and so he goes on the hunt for a magical MacGuffin with the help of pair of young, honest, and innocent new chums. It’s not Jack who is after the MacGuffin though, oh no that would be boring. Competing with Jack for the magical MacGuffin are of course the British Navy, Captain Barbosa and an undead villain that Jack has previously wronged. There’s a good deal of crossing and double crossing and then a big CGI-fest to finish. I enjoyed it the first time around, in the first film back in 2003 but this feels like it uses all of that film’s main beats just less successfully.

I actually had hopes that this would be a return to form, a lot of the early reviews seemed to suggest that it was the best since the original movie. I’m not actually sure that’s the case. Maybe Pirates of the Caribbean is just very much of its time and we should leave it alone. I don’t think we need a reboot, I don’t think we need anymore films let’s just call it a day now.

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