Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Espen Sandberg Joachim Rønning

Starring

Brenton Thwaites Javier Bardem Johnny Depp

Anticipation.

Billed as a “soft reboot”. Sounds ominous.

Enjoyment.

Worth it for the astonishing open set-piece, but the rest is hot garbage.

In Retrospect.

RIP Captain Jack Sparrow.

The fifth instalment in Disney’s swashbuckling franchise is scuppered by a certain Mr Depp.

Has too much time passed since the last Pirates of the Caribbean film? A lot has changed in blockbuster cinema in the intervening six years, not least Johnny Depp’s bankability, which he now seems hellbent on sabotaging. He’s comfortably the worst thing about Salazar’s Revenge (aka Pirates 5 aka Dead Men Tell No Tales aka The Paul McCartney One), and yet ironically he is also the main reason for the franchise’s continued existence. It’s a pretty weak foundation on which to mount an epically-scaled spectacle such as this.

Having previously crossed over into awkward self-parody some time around 2007’s At World’s End (aka Pirates 3 aka The Keith Richards One), Depp’s performance here resembles that of a man who left port a long, long time ago. He staggers and flails and mumbles and sloshes his way through the film, his sun-drunk routine so utterly bereft of charm and charisma that it’s hard to recall what it was that made the character so popular in the first place. But then actor and franchise have had to deal with diminishing returns for the vast portion of their 14-year union.

They say a good captain always goes down with his ship – it will certainly be interesting to see what happens should this film fail to recoup its eye-watering $230m budget. Yet in some respects it would be a shame to see the swashbuckling saga end here because, under the stewardship of directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, this so-called “soft reboot” serves up some of the most entertaining moments in the entire series.

The lightly revamped story opens with a young sailor named Henry (Brenton Thwaites) being spared his life by Javier Bardem’s eponymous “Matador del Mar”, on the proviso that he track down Salazar’s nemesis. The search doesn’t last long though, as in the very next scene we’re reintroduced to a perma-tanned/sozzled Jack Sparrow via a thrilling practical effects-driven bank heist scene that Buster Keaton would be proud of. From here the film sinks like so much shipwrecked loot as amateur astronomy, zombie sharks and a meandering subplot concerning Poseidon’s Trident ensue.

Rønning and Sandberg were presumably hired off the back of their handsome 2012 film Kon-Tiki – another high-seas adventure involving a legendary vessel – and to their credit they keep things moving along at a brisk pace while adding a splash of old-school moviemaking magic to proceedings. Ultimately though the task of squaring Depp’s calamitous lead turn with a succession of murky CG set-pieces and a bloated narrative proves too great for them.

Oh, and just a quick word on Macca’s brief appearance: baffling though it is, remarkably his is neither the most unexpected nor most embarrassing cameo in this whole cursed mess.

Published 25 May 2017

Tags: Brenton Thwaites Disney Javier Bardem Johnny Depp

Anticipation.

Billed as a “soft reboot”. Sounds ominous.

Enjoyment.

Worth it for the astonishing open set-piece, but the rest is hot garbage.

In Retrospect.

RIP Captain Jack Sparrow.

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