Director: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg
Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally, David Wenham, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush
Run Time: 129 mins
‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge’ (or in many other territories named ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’) is the fifth installment in the Disney franchise. After poor reception to ‘On Stranger Tides’, I’m surprised this film was even made at all as it wasn’t exactly asked for but it did manage to gross upwards of a billion dollars. I’ve had mixed feelings on this series – I enjoyed the first film and the second film a lot more. I hated ‘At World’s End’ and I thought ‘On Stranger Tides’ was rather insubstantial. I was a lot more hopeful of this film due to the talent involved with Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg, the directors of ‘Kon-Tiki’ being at the forefront of this film. The visual effects have looked spectacular from the trailers and the film also has assembled a pretty strong cast with newcomers Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario and Javier Bardem as the titular villain. This time, Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow needs to search for the Trident of Poseidon whilst being pursued by the undead crew of a ship lead by the titular Captain Salazar. Can this film redeem the last two disappointing entries or is this further proof that this franchise needs to stop?
Unfortunately, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge’ is more of the same – it’s a slight improvement over ‘On Stranger Tides’ and a lot better than ‘At World’s End’ but it still feels unnecessay, insubstantial and a cash grab to try and reinvigorate the series. What’s even more disappointing is how little of a director’s stamp there is here by Rønning and Sandberg – the film feels as if it was made by studio executives which is such a shame considering how talented this duo are. Other than for a short while in the middle section, the film completely lacks any energy and it feels far longer than the 129 minute run time than it is. It’s not a terrible film and it does have a couple of redeeming features to it but this is definitely a film to skip if you’ve got a choice this Summer. Of course, the visuals here are excellent but the action sequences don’t really have any flow to them and it’s hard to care for any of the characters.
Leading onto the performances, this is a real sore point for the film other than two exceptions. Gone are the days where Johnny Depp recieved an Oscar nomination for his performance as Jack Sparrow, Sparrow here is just an annoying drunkard who lacks all the charisma of this character in the first films. I understand Depp went through a hard time with his personal life and apparently the directors had to work around Depp’s schedule but frankly, why bother when this is the performance you get? Johnny Depp is generally a wonderful actor and recently put in a wonderful performance in ‘Black Mass‘ but he is unfortunately completely wasted here. Geoffrey Rush also phones it in but he has slightly more of an excuse to. Brenton Thwaites is a safe choice to play Henry Turner, son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in previous films. Bloom and Knightley also return in this film for a small role but they certainly haven’t been missed. Who does fare well is first of all, Javier Bardem as the villain who as usual is endlessly charismatic and menacing. The visuals used for his appearance are stunning and Bardem does his best with the material given. Kaya Scodelario also stands out as Carina Smyth, an astronomer who helps Sparrow and Turner locate the Trident, the MacGuffin of the film and is endlessly more charismatic than Keira Knightley’s or Penelope Cruz’s female characters of the previous films.
The main problem with the film is for a lot of it, it lacks energy or any sense of pace and I was frequently bored by it. This should be a swashbuckling ride with kinetic action sequences. The film is actually the shortest installment by quite a margin but felt a lot longer than it is. There is a short section in the middle which is quite well-paced coupled with fantastic visual effects but this is unfortunately short-lived. Furthermore, there are so many efforts to have some comedic relief which completely fall flat as the film never earns it. The script is woeful – it is all over the place and feels like a ‘Carry On’ film script at times, only a bad one.
The score departs from Hans Zimmer now to Geoff Zannelli who is part of his production group anyway and it is a nice blend between old and new themes but nothing is particularly memorable. Paul Cameron’s cinematography is the best of the series and there are many jawdropping shots, particularly a memorable chase between a boat and an island.
Overall, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge’ is by no means, the worst of the series but it never reaches the heights of the first two films. The script is poor, it lacks energy and the performances mostly are flat. It’s also a shame that the film had the potential to be great with its choice of directors but there is a complete lack of any director’s stamp. What’s worrying is the film leaves prospects of a sequel fully open but we’ll have to see how much money this film makes first. But it is at least a step-up quality-wise from ‘At World’s End’ and ‘On Stranger Tides’.