Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (or dead men tell no tales if you’re from across the pond) is a film predominantly made from the tried and tested tropes of the franchise. As a result it is the least entertaining of the five.

As to be expected with a Pirates film, the setup is as follows; a bad man with magic powers is hunting Jack Sparrow for some age-old grudge and in the end, there is a race to a magical artifact which will solve all problems. This is not a dig at the story that is being told in Salazar’s Revenge but the way in which it is executed. Joining Jack for his newest adventure are newcomers Henry and Carina.

Henry, played by Brenton Thwaites, is the son of Will and Elizabeth Turner, on a crusade to save his father from his fate of crewing the flying Dutchman for all eternity. Kaya Scodelario, who you might recognise as Effy from Skins or Teresa in the Maze Runner is mostly just along for the ride. She is a budding astronomer and horologist, the latter being the butt of a joke that gets run into the ground the second it’s said. To break the curse Henry must find the Trident of Poseidon and as luck would have it Carina just so happens to be destined to find it.

Saving Will turner from his fate would have been a far more interesting story to tell but it’s not the one that is chosen for the main focus and as such Will bookends the film with two short dialogue exchanges at either end.

Pursuing the trio on their quest is Captain Salazar and his undead crew. Javier Bardem is mostly CGI as his body is in a suspended state of decomposition, as is the rest of his crew. He sets out to wipe out all of pirate-kind once and for all and take control of the seas with the Trident. Salazar is the blandest villain in a Pirates film yet. There isn’t that one moment where we get to see him relish in an act of true villainy, nor do we share any sort of connection with him whatsoever. He was bad before he died and was bad after he came back; there is no backstory to humanise him whatsoever. His reason for doing all of this is that Jack sent him to his doom as a young man. Salazar is Jack’s ultimate nemesis and yet we’ve never heard of him before, and the stakes are never high enough for it to be of any consequence.

Picking a central character is also an issue. Jack, Henry and Carina all take turns in steering the plot and it is difficult to work out which story the film is trying to tell. To muddle things even further Geoffrey Rush is back as Captain Barbosa and he too takes centre stage at times. Barbosa has the most emotional arc of the film, but is side-lined by all the other stories, so it never really makes the impact it ought to.

Jack Sparrow hasn’t been spoken about much in this review yet, the reason for this is that he is not all that present in the film. He’s in a lot of the scenes yes but does not take an active part in driving much of the story. This is not the Jack Sparrow we rooted for in the previous films. As the last four films in the franchise went on, the pervading criticism was that Jack became more and more Keith Richards. But no matter how kooky he became he always retained that cool onscreen presence, a man who was always one step ahead with some mad genius scheme. Jack Sparrow is a completely different character here and has, unfortunately, finally been reduced to a drunken, boorish, lecherous buffoon. There is no master plan just gag after gag of slapstick comedy, and really not very funny at that.

There is also a romantic subplot between Henry and Carina that feels shoehorned in. We don’t have the affinity for them in the way we did for Will and Elizabeth. That’s perhaps the biggest sin in Salazar’s Revenge, the watering down of every aspect that made the original such an entertaining film from plot to character. Finally sending the series credibility down to Davy Jones’ locker.

– Dan P