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Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge - DVD Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

JOHNNY Depp revives Captain Jack Sparrow for a fifth time in Disney’s lucrative Pirates of the Caribbean franchise but what once seemed magical and leftfield now seems old and tired.

Salazar’s Revenge may be technically proficient and entertaining enough in fits and starts. But it lacks any real wow factor and struggles to recapture either the ingenuity of the early movies – and that surprise first film in particular – or bring anything new to the mix.

Rather, it seems more content to play things safe. Depp plays Captain Jack as pantomime-like as ever without expanding on the character, while the plot structure conforms rigidly to this franchise’s convention in that the love interest roles once inhabited by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are now filled by Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario with the same diminishing returns.

It’s actually Thwaites’ character who sets the story in motion. As Henry Turner, the son of the cursed Will Turner (Bloom), it is he who first comes across Javier Bardem’s vengeful Captain Salazar, a similarly cursed and decomposing sea captain and pirate hunter, who gives Henry the task of delivering Captain Jack a message – that Salazar is coming for him.

The only means that Jack has of saving himself from a watery grave, and reviving Will Turner into the bargain, is to retrieve the legendary Trident of Poseidon. And so the stage is set for a race against Salazar, and the British Armada, to find the Trident, which Jack sets sail for with the help of young Turner, former enemy turned ally Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), his beleaguered crew and a sassy young woman (Scodelario), who has a secret connection of her own to one of the principal players.

Incoming directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, of Oscar nominated Kon-Tiki fame, do their bit to ensure the pace is decent, while attempting to find the right balance between the outlandish action and the emotional stuff. But they feel constrained by the confines of the risk averse script and the recycled nature of a lot of the material, whether borrowing from Pirates films of old or other action franchises. An opening heist involving a stolen safe and the bank that contains it feels lifted from Fast & Furious 5, albeit delivered with horses rather than cars.

A belated attempt to deliver a strong emotional pay-off also feels forced and rushed (as well as reminiscent of this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2), while affording a supposedly crowd-pleasing cameo from another of the franchise’s former favourites.

En route, characters come and go with little or no meaningful interaction or future potential. Bardem’s Salazar offers a driven but under-developed villain, Thwaites is a bland new hero, Scodelario can’t translate outward feistiness into anything really compelling, and David Wenham’s snarling British Admiral (filling the Jack Davenport role) is inconsequential and gotten rid of in underwhelming fashion.

Of the set pieces, only a much heralded sequence involving zombie sharks sets the pulses racing. But even that is brought to a premature end without anything really memorable attached to it – another case of unfulfilled potential.

So, the success of this fifth instalment ultimately comes down to just how much love remains for Captain Jack and Johnny Depp. But if there was a decent amount before, then it may find itself wavering afterwards.

Depp stumbles through the movie without freshening up the format and even occasionally looking out of sorts. But it’s hard to tell, given the nature of the character, how much of this is an extension of the performance or a consequence of his much documented off-set troubles. No matter what the answer, though, this incarnation of Captain Jack is far less interesting than previous ones. Indeed, there are times when the performance becomes tiring.

It’s actually left to Rush to salvage the film’s worth. His Barbossa, while still remaining larger than life, enjoys the most satisfying story arc of the film and the Australian veteran doesn’t waste a single moment of his screen-time. If you’ve been a fan previously, Rush continues to deliver the goods.

Hence, while suffering from a clear case of franchise fatigue and over-familiarity, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge isn’t quite the wreck it could have been. It does have its moments.

But it’s definitely time to lay Captain Jack to rest.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 33mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: October 2, 2017