Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge (aka Pirates of the Caribbean 5 / Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
I’ve been on this ride before and it’s in disrepair. Marking the fifth helping of the Pirates franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales, a title doomed to be forgotten and confused with other entries, this saga is no longer interested in developing its characters. You know these characters by now. Even the new ones introduced are carbon copies of the same template. This is no longer an adventure of swashbuckling characters, but a cartoonish ballet of grand special effects. I could sit back and just try to enjoy the ride, but it’s hard to enjoy it when I can clearly see the rust forming on the gears and spokes.
Johnny Depp returns yet again to his most notable role of the 21st century, the drunk and staggering Captain Jack Sparrow. He has reached a James Bond status where we know everything about this character from his drink of choice to every muscle twitch of his silly walk. Any development on his character is nothing at all interesting, unless of course you need to hear the riveting tale of how Jack was given his iconic captain hat. Spoilers: Some random pirate gave it to him as an offering. Geoffrey Rush is in the same league as Depp for reprising his role as the cackling and conflicted Captain Barbossa, but there’s more to like about his character’s sinister nature. Even after five movies, it’s hard not to be won over by Rush’s camped up portrayal of a pirate.
They are, however, only supporting roles, or at least written as such. The two leads of this story is another bland romantic couple, fitting the roles once filled by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, both of which appear for cameos in this film. When we last left Bloom’s character of Will Turner, he was stuck with a pirate curse. Good thing his son Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is old enough to be on the case to search the seas for a treasure that can cure pirate curses. In his search, he has met many a ghost pirate, but nobody believes him about his encounters. Neither does the lovely Carina (Kaya Scodelario) who is only interested in science. A woman who knows about science in the age of pirates? She’s a witch! Seeing as how both Henry and Carina are looked down upon by society and have a clashing nature of science versus superstition, this could lead to interesting romance. The keyword is “could”.
Given how boring this couple is, the movie thankfully makes enough time for Captain Jack and Captain Barbossa trying to find the mystical trident of the seas (or whatever). Chasing them is the vengeful ghost Captain Salazar, played with just as much character and camp by Javier Bardem. I loved everything about Salazar, from his undead hair that seems to be constantly underwater to his ghost ship that can open its bow and take a chomp out of other ships. He’s such a great character, but I wish he had a better motivation for wanting to kill Jack other than just hating pirates. In the line of villains that have a bone to pick with the drunkard of a pirate, Salazar doesn’t seem as high up the list.
Salazar certainly presents a big enough threat with his ship of ghost pirates, but how intimidating are they to the audience? This is the fifth Pirates movie and every mortal seems to be under some belief that they can best these ghosts in a sword fight when it is firmly established that these ghosts can not only avoid death, but also not even feel a sword go through them. Captain Jack and Barbossa have dealt with the undead before. Haven’t they figured out ANYTHING that could stop these enemies?
There are some entertaining action sequences of ship-to-ship combat and a very amusing scene where Jack escapes death via guillotine. And that’s about all we can expect from the Pirates movies at this point. But is that all there is? More bland romance, more campy villains and more of the simple comedy of Johnny Depp slurring his words? That doesn’t exactly make for a franchise with a healthy life considering how this film digs more into the past of familiar characters and unearths nothing all that interesting. If there truly is some hidden treasure left in the series, it hasn’t been uncovered here. Onto the next sequel, I suppose.