UK Release Date: 26th May 2017
Runtime: 129 minutes
Director: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Kevin McNally
Synopsis: Jack Sparrow finds himself tagging along with a pair of youngsters who are on the hunt for a mythological trident that has the power to break any maritime curse.
Perhaps appropriately given its seafaring setting, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has always had a certain ebb and flow to it. When fourth installment On Stranger Tides was met with a critical shrug in 2011, the franchise would’ve seemed dead were it not for the $1bn it brought in at the box office. It has taken Disney six years to assemble fifth entry Salazar’s Revenge – known as Dead Men Tell No Tales across the Atlantic – and it seems to be something of a reboot for the franchise, bringing back several cast members from the past alongside the immovable object that is Johnny Depp as perma-sozzled pirate Jack Sparrow.
Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will (Orlando Bloom), is hunting for the Trident of Poseidon that could break the curse trapping his father at sea. He runs into undead sailor Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who is seeking revenge against Jack Sparrow. When Henry finally finds Sparrow, he also runs into astronomy expert Carina (Kaya Scodelario), who has a map that could lead them to the trident. The trio work together to make their way to the mythical object as Salazar breaks free of his ocean prison and begins to pursue Jack, with the reluctant help of Jack’s former ally Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
The overriding problem with Salazar’s Revenge is the same one that dogged On Stranger Tides. In the absence of any continuing affection for these characters, there are no stakes to the drama and no reason to enjoy the slow, trudging narrative. This is a dismal, boring film that hangs much of its plot on the lasting affection the audience is supposed to have for Jack Sparrow and even the characters played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who no one has even thought about for more than a decade. Its basic storyline, in which a galaxy of unmemorable characters hunt for a meaningless MacGuffin, is actually anything but basic and would be indecipherable were it actually interesting enough to care about following.
Johnny Depp, who was once the franchise’s greatest asset, is now an anchor weighing it down. His portrayal has now lapsed entirely into a parody of exactly what Pirates detractors believe it to be and he spends much of Salazar’s Revenge delivering leaden, sub-Carry On punchlines with a kind of listless absence of energy. It’s as if he’s decided to work completely Method and necked a gallon of rum before stumbling on to the set. When Beatles rocker Paul McCartney pops up for a brief cameo, he makes a measurably better pirate than Depp, which is really saying something.
That’s not to say that the rest of the Salazar’s Revenge cast fares any better. Bardem simply pops up occasionally to fulfill the terms of his contract – you can almost see him looking just out of shot to make sure his cheque is being written up – and Geoffrey Rush just shows off his admittedly impressive pirate voice for a while. Neither fares as badly though as Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario who, despite being a very talented pair of actors, have absolutely no chemistry with each other and deliver wooden performances that are in no way befitting of their talents. The material just isn’t good enough.
It’s sad to see directing duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who made Oscar-nominated drama Kon-Tiki in 2012, relegated to such sub-par material. Their work here simply becomes homogenised into the Pirates of the Caribbean formula, which remains unchanged despite audience apathy. Originality was definitely needed to make this film’s work, but Salazar’s Revenge is just the same voyage all over again. An entirely unnecessary post-credits sting hints at another movie but, at this point, it would be wiser to just let the franchise sink into Davy Jones’s Locker for good.
Pop or Poop?
Salazar’s Revenge is a perfunctory and irritating sequel. Depp and his merry band of seafaring clichés are trotted out for a movie that is pure cash-in from its identikit plot to its thinly-drawn characters. Attempts to tug at the heartstrings of long-time fans feel cheap and there’s nothing that will convert newbies. This is a wet fish of a movie used to slap the audience around the face – if only to wake them up.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.