Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally
Director: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
In the fifth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (somewhere out there Douglas Adams is laughing) there are two openings. One promises the return and salvation of a character from the previous films and the other introduces the latest villain in the franchise. By the time the title appeared, neither of these openings was able to inspire the slightest bit of curiosity or enthusiasm on my part. I was not at all interested in seeing the return of a character who had no business remaining a part of this franchise after the first film nor was I terribly excited to see yet another enormously talented actor put their talent to waste in this shipwreck of a movie series. The overblown plots, the ridiculous action, Johnny Depp’s silliness, these have all become staples of Pirates and all these opening scenes did was assure me that this movie would be more of the same.
Nine years after his last meeting with his cursed father Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), whom he has promised to free from by locating Poseidon’s Trident, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is serving on a vessel that gets attacked by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his undead crew. Henry alone survives and, upon learning that he is searching for Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Salazar leaves him with a message for Jack: that death is coming. Over in Saint Martin Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) has been accused of witchcraft, due to her knowledge of astronomy and horology, and is sentenced to death. She escapes and gets mixed up in a bank robbery orchestrated by Jack and his crew. When the robbery proves a failure Jack is abandoned by his crew and, in a moment of despair, he surrenders his magic compass for a drink, unwittingly releasing Salazar from his confinement in the Devil’s Triangle. Henry arrives in Saint Martin and becomes entangled with both Jack and Carina, teaming up with them to search for the Trident. Hot on their trail is Salazar who seeks to find Jack Sparrow with the aid of his new prisoner, Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
There are several different plots been tackled all at once and the movie jumbles them to the point of incoherence. As always in this franchise there is a plot device the characters are all trying to reach, Poseidon’s Trident, which one would think might allow the film some focus. The plot however is completely lost in the tangled web of stories and sub-plots the movie wants to chuck in to try and convince us that there is a larger, more epic story being told. Henry of course must be the son of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, since it’s apparently not enough for him to be his own character, so the film must allocate time towards the Turner family drama. Then there’s Carina and the mystery surrounding the diary she possesses which she received from a father she’s never met (because of course she hasn’t). Then there’s Captain Salazar and the history he shares with Jack Sparrow. Then there’s the matter of recovering the Black Pearl which is still trapped in a bottle from the last film. Then there are a series of obstacles along the way like Jack Sparrow’s death sentence and impromptu wedding which only exist to pad the runtime. That the movie lacks any kind of consistency or focus means that each and every aspect of this story, whether promising, unnecessary or just plain stupid, receives the equal amount of inattention and neglect.
The Pirates movies have always been silly and over the top, but in Curse of the Black Pearl it was fresh and toned down enough and coupled with enough entertaining characters and thrilling action to make for a great popcorn movie. While Dead Man’s Chest may mark the point where the movies got out of control, On Stranger Tides was when this series became unbearably boring. Even after the movies finally dispensed of its two least interesting characters, the continued adventures of Jack Sparrow carried a weary sense of ‘been there, done that’. This film feels the same. Johnny Depp’s performance has lost all of the wit and charm it once had and has been pitifully reduced to a 54-year-old man flailing his arms about and making weird expressions while slurring his words. The adventure meanwhile has lost all of its thrill and wonder as it repeats the same tired steps of having its main character stumble his way through a bunch of implausible and impossibly perilous situations with barely a scratch to show for it. It’s gotten old.
Much of this movie feels more like a blur to me (which, come to think of it, is probably how it felt to Jack Sparrow as well). The one element that felt to me like the movie was trying to do something different was with Carina’s arc as a smart, thinking woman in a backwards time. The idea of having this character whose affinity for science and astronomy makes her an outcast is one that makes Carina more than just a stand-in for Keira Knightley and one that I would have liked to see the movie develop some more. A shame then that her character also had to be used for a mysterious parentage sub-plot and as a subject for innuendoes and double entendres that wouldn’t even be worthy of a bawdy seaside postcard. I wasn’t very hopeful going in but I thought the movie might at least give me a fun memorable villain like Davy Jones to enjoy. Sadly, like Ian McShane before him, Javier Bardem is completely wasted and forgettable in his role. That’s Salazar’s Revenge in a nutshell really, a forgettable waste of time.