Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Certificate 12A, 129 minutes

Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg

Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (which is also known as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) is the fifth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It begins with a young boy (Lewis McGowan) in a room filled with drawings of sea monsters and other such, as well as wanted notices for Captain Jack Sparrow. He grabs a map and then leaves his home, a lighthouse, heading out to sea in a rowboat. Once he reaches a certain point on his map, the boy ties a rope around his leg. The other end is connected to a bag of rocks and he jumps into the water.

The boy isn’t committing suicide; the rocks and then he himself land on a ship underwater, a ship. This isn’t a shipwreck either, for the ship returns to the surface of the ocean. It is the Flying Dutchman, commanded by Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who became the ship’s captain at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. The boy, Henry, is his son, and he says that he has found a way to free Will from his curse, using the power of the Trident of Poseidon. Will says that there is no such things (as do a lot of people in the film) and that Henry needs to forget about him.

Nine years later and Henry is serving on a Royal Navy warship (the film is full of Evil Brits as minor foes – none of them are really memorable in any way – during a period in time when a large percentage of pirates were actually British and working for the Royal Navy as privateers at least at some point during their careers) which is chasing down a pirate. The ship is going to go into an area called the Devil’s Triangle – which looks like a cave. An older Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is serving on board the ship in some form or other – a minor officer it would appear – and he tries to dissuade the captain from following the pirate. This results in Henry being locked up for treason; a rather odd definition of it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's RevengeAnother prisoner notices Henry’s picture of Jack Sparrow and states that he is dead. When the warship enters the cave, they spy another ship, one in such poor shape it appears to be a shipwreck. Only it’s moving towards them, and is crewed by undead, most of whom are missing parts of their bodies. The ship is quickly overrun and the captain, Salazar (Javier Bardem), sees the same picture of Jack. He spares the life of Henry – he always allows one person to live from every ship he attacks – because they both have an interest in Jack Sparrow. Salazar gives Henry a message to take to Jack, and says he wants the latter’s compass, which will allow he and his crew to be freed. Salazar had been, in life, a Spanish captain commanding a powerful ship, one who had made it his mission to cleanse the seas of pirates. It appears that Jack is responsible for his current undead state, and is the one who can free him.

In St. Martin, a young woman, Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), is being locked up as she is going to be executed as a witch (which seems a tad unlikely). She states that she instead actually a scientist and, given that she doesn’t believe in the supernatural, probably regards being called a witch as a huge insult. Her beliefs regarding the supernatural get massively shaken later on and she, too, is looking for the Trident of Poseidon, using a book that is the only thing she got from her father, whoever he was. She manages to escape from the cell and bumps into Henry as well, who is being held for execution, helping him escape.

Also in St, Martin, a new bank is being opened with a very secure vault. When the vault is opened, inside it is Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) himself, rather drunk and he can’t remember what he is supposed to be doing. This is actually robbing the bank, and the attempt does not go to plan when, instead of he and his diminished crew stealing the vault, they actually steal the entire bank. Jack only has a pitiful ship now – the Black Pearl is still inside the glass bottle in which it was entrapped by Blackbeard – and his crew are not happy about how the robbery turned out. As a result, Jack ends up swapping his compass for a drink, freeing Salazar, and getting arrested.

Henry bargains with both Carina and Jack, helping them escape execution, as all are looking for the Trident. This is not an alliance though. Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is meanwhile doing rather well for himself as a pirate, but the freed Salazar is hunting down his ships. So he decides to make a bargain with Salazar, offering to help him find Jack Sparrow, as both have issues with him – which really doesn’t seem like the smartest move for a supposedly intelligent pirate. Both of those want the Trident as well, so there are many people searching for a mysterious island where it supposedly can be found.

The film is available in 2D and 3D, with the 2D version being the one watched. This worked fine in 2D, and it’s unclear as to whether there would have been much improvement if it had been in 3D. It’s worth noting that de-aging actors to play themselves at a younger age (Anthony De La Torre in a flashback scene to a young Jack Sparrow) seems rather more effective than aging them tends to be, which has a tendency to simply look like people wearing too much makeup.

The action scenes are the best, and there are some nice set pieces, especially the chase scene with the bank through St. Martin. There is a plot to the film, even if it seems rather incoherent at times; Salazar wants revenge on Jack Sparrow and many want the Trident of Poseidon, for different reasons. However, because of how the film is put together – a series of action sequences that don’t seem to be very well connected at times – it is not surprising that working out what the plot actually is can seem a little tricky.

Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow is even more over the top and incoherent than usual. Given that Sparrow is, by this time, a down at his luck pirate who is almost constantly drunk, this is a fairly accurate portrayal. Regarding the other characters; well, neither Henry nor Carina are particularly memorable, although Carina’s constant insistence that she is a scientist not a witch is a bit amusing even if the inability of men to consider her as such seems to be pushing it a little.. There is naturally a burgeoning romance between the two that of course starts off reluctantly. With the other characters; there are, if anything, far too many with reasonably significant roles. Barbarossa and Salazar naturally enough but there are people on both Jack and Barbarossa’s crews who also have fairly significant roles and the most important Evil Brit, Lieutenant John Scarfield (David Wenham). There is also the odd character who appears significant but doesn’t have much screen time. Overall, the film suffers a bit from having too many characters to accommodate in its length. There is a subplot regarding Carina’s father which isn’t a huge surprise when it comes to light. There is also a post-credits scene to watch for, suggesting another sequel.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is not a bad film – it’s certainly not the worst in the series and an improvement over the previous entry – but it’s not a great one either. Although it’s not a short film, it’s the shortest in the series, and it does on occasion give the impression that there should have been more to it, perhaps so that the various scenes were a bit more connected. What violence there is – and it is actually quite violent – tends to be either utterly bloodless, off camera or slapstick in nature. Otherwise it would have a higher certification. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is, despite its flaws, a fairly entertaining piece of action.


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