The Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise reaches number five with Salazar’s Revenge. But is it time for the ol’ heave-ho, me hearties?
Hang on! Wasn’t this supposed to be called Dead Men Tell No Tales? Yes, it was, and it still is in the States – and the line’s included in the film – but, in their infinite wisdom, Disney has given British audiences a different title. And a tamer one.
There’s also new directors at the helm, Norwegian duo Ronning and Sandberg. Neither have a track record with Disney or have even made a film of this style or scale, so the hope was that they would breathe some new life into what was becoming a seriously tired franchise. The fact that Sandberg has already signed up to direct number six as a solo gig, regardless of the title, gives you some idea of how the Mouse House reacted to their efforts.
This episode starts with Depp’s anti-hero Jack Sparrow decidedly down on his luck, robbing a bank, dicing with death – the usual. Even bigger trouble is looming on the horizon, in the see-through shape of Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghost pirates, who are hell bent on killing anybody who gets in their way. Number one on their list is Sparrow. His only hope is to track down the Trident Of Poseidon but to do that he has to work with headstrong sailor Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). But he’ll do anything to save his neck.
Much is made out of the fact that Jack is down on his luck – so much so that you start to wonder if the film is going to be more about Depp than he would like it to be. It’s something of a red herring but, in his fifth turn in the role, Depp looks like he’s run out of steam – or perhaps good old fashioned interest. He’s never been subtle but this time round he’s hammy and by now we’re so used to him as Jack that it’s like a bucket of cold water over most of the laughs. Sadly the new directors couldn’t extend their fresh perspective to him because this is one very tired looking Sparrow.
His main adversary, Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar, is intent on making sure you pronounce his name properly, by overdoing his Spanish accent. As a role, it’s no great stretch, but the way he’s been CGI’d, with most of the back of his head missing and his hair constantly blowing around like the Medusa’s snakes, is very effective. His followers also have various parts missing although, strangely enough, their swords are all completely intact. But the ghosts do have one weakness: they can’t survive on land, disappearing into puffs of ash if their feet so much as touch the ground. Something we only discover when they pursue Sparrow onto a desert island and all looks to be lost. Convenient or what?
Yet again, we’re presented with another celebrity cameo. After David Beckham’s risible addition to Guy Ritchie’s King Arfer last week, this time we’re treated to Paul McCartney – not that you won’t recognise him, even if he does look like he’s borrowed a spare set of Depp’s costume and his personal make-up artist. He does his best with his handful of lines and doesn’t take his moment too seriously. It’s probably just as well.
The film has some good set pieces – the attempt to execute Sparrow for one is well choreographed, clever and funny. But, like so many other blockbusters at the moment, this one is over-reliant on CGI and doesn’t need to be. Some good old fashioned action would have been just as good, if not better. It’s also way too long – by half an hour at least. The climax is drawn out and, even if you’ve enjoyed what’s gone before, you’re just waiting for it to be over.
Disney is probably on to yet another winner at the box office, especially as this is released in time for the Bank Holiday. Ultimately, it’s just another pirates romp and, given that we’ve reached number five, it’s fresher than you might have expected. But time is running out. Fast.