Directed by: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is one of my all time favourite films; I adored its swashbuckling action and music, its characters and its horror elements. It all melded together to create an experience that I go back to again and again and never get tired of it. I can even say that I like the other Pirates films (including the dreaded On Stranger Tides) on account of my fond memories of the first one. Every time I hear the iconic music and something dramatic is happening I know that its something that I’ll enjoy.
And then we get to Salazar’s Revenge. And in case this isn’t obvious, I didn’t like this one very much.
Salazar’s Revenge (or Dead Men Tell No Tales in other countries) tells the story of a down on his luck Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he flees from dreaded Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) who desires revenge against witty Jack. Now, stop me if this sounds familiar; A magical/cursed treasure (in this case the Trident of Poseidon) that needs to be found for reasons, cursed pirates chasing other pirates, serious characters getting exasperated by an inebriated Jack Sparrow and the obligatory inclusion of the magnificent Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush)
Yup, they’ve had five years since the last Pirates film and the difference is… nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things that I can like here, the opening chase scene with Jack and company was hilarious and I did start thinking to myself, “I’ve actually missed this” but then the rest of the film happens and it just feels like a chore to get through. If you’ve watched any Pirates film, or adventure film, you know what’s going to happen, and while I can be forgiving of that if its a formula that works and is experimented with, it gets harder to defend when Salazar’s Revenge is essentially other Pirates films beat for beat.
But hey, at least Jack Sparrow and Barbossa were excellent right? There’s always those two right? Well, not exactly; I don’t know if its just me but Jack especially feels more of a tired character these days than anything else. I get very little of that energy that keeps me going through the other films from Jack. All I could think when I got to the end was, maybe its time to let Jack Sparrow go.
And Barbossa? Well I’d talk about him but that risks spoilers, so all I’ll say is that his fate is very unforgivable to me.
Other characters are okay but aren’t particularly memorable, there’s a Will Turner stand in, the academic woman, who does have her moments but seems to mainly be there just to say that they have said character in it. No real creativity seems to have gone into these characters, its the same old daddy issues and such that were a drag in the other Pirates films after the first.
Salazar is purely motivated by revenge, and thats about it, there really isn’t much to talk about with him and his crew. None of them or their designs are particularly memorable. The CGI is clever, make no mistake, but there’s nothing that stands out here.
Which leads me on to my biggest problem with the new Pirates film, and indeed, some of the other ones; the focus on the supernatural element over the realism bit. The reason that I liked Curse of the Black Pearl so much is that it felt a lot more grounded than other films like it. Yes it had cursed pirates, but that served to enhance the story for me.
Conversely, we have Salazar’s Revenge, which seems to prioritise all these crazy and magical things over telling a compelling story with interesting things happening in them. What’s the point of having these films set at sea, if your ship is going to be useless against the next evil cursed pirate ship that happens your way?
And without a compelling story to follow? With weird cameos and a plot that seems to go nowhere? I’m sorry but my suspension of disbelief from the first film isn’t there anymore.
As you can tell, I’m having trouble recommending Salazar’s Revenge; personally I’d recommend watching the first film over any of the others to anyone that I meet, but if one were to carry on with the other films… I’d say skip this one as it’s probably the worst Pirates of the Caribbean film of the lot.
Because this film really is taking what it can and giving nothing back. Perhaps it’s finally time to lay this ghost to rest.