(Also released in various territories as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales)
It’s still a little hard to believe, isn’t it? A movie franchise based on a ride? Who in their right mind thought that was a good idea?
Well, with $3.7 billion in the bank so far, all that can be said is: “Good Call.” But in the newest instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) franchise, it’s hard not to feel that the ride is starting to get a little nauseous.
Picking up roughly 20 years after the events of At World’s End, Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is trying to release his father, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) from the curse of captaining The Flying Dutchman.
He teams up with Carina Smyth (Kayo Scodelario), a woman of the sciences who’s about to be hanged for the crime of being a witch; and of course, the dastardly drunk Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).
Together they must search for a powerful artifact known as the Trident of Poseidon. But on his own mission of revenge, and threatening to stand in their way, is the ghostly Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).
In the 14 years since the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; it’s safe to say that the blockbuster landscape has vastly changed.
After all, the first POTC came out before Marvel’s superhero explosion, The Dark Knight, Avatar and the Disney live-action renaissance. Even technology giants like Youtube and Facebook didn’t exist! (Jesus, what did we do back then?)
But these comparisons are not randomly chosen, as the reason such franchises/technologies have had such long lasting effects is due to their constant innovation. A word that, regretfully, cannot be applied to the new POTC. In fact, if you were to break down the film, the phrase “carbon copy” would be a more apt description. For example:
- A young man with daddy issues decides to commit acts of piracy to save someone he loves.
- A feisty, oddly 21st century-like woman wants to join a workforce that generally doesn’t employ females.
- A supernatural villain and his crew terrorise the seven seas as they suffer from an eternal curse.
- A member of the British Royal Navy takes his job and his hatred of pirates waaaay too seriously.
- And there’s a monkey.
With the shortest running time of saga, it nonetheless feels like quite the slog from the Disney logo to the end credits. But to be fair, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki), are clearly attempting to breathe a sense of epicness into what is otherwise an incredibly weak script. With an opening heist scene on the same level as the finale of Fast Five, Salazar’s Revenge is at least trying to reproduce the same larger than life attitude and swashbuckling action of the previous films.
But the reliance on Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow shtick for the 5th time in a row destroys any progress they might have made. It’s hard to remember that this was an Oscar-nominated role, but Depp’s character has become borderline caricaturish in its portrayal. Forget phoning it in, this performance is more like a telegram delivered by an exceptionally asthmatic snail.
Supporting him are yet another pair of young lovers. Thwaites and Scodelario are immediately comparable to Bloom and Knightly in the original; but do not fare well in said comparison, bringing nothing that wasn’t already done a solid decade ago.
The one saving grace is the film’s VFX. Though nowhere near the groundbreaking step forward in Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones; there’s still an abundance of ghostly specters, decaying foes and Moses-like miracles to keep a 2017 audience’s appetite for action sated.
With a solid six years since the last POTC, this would have been a great chance for Disney to truly do something new with this valuable franchise. Alas, the decision to merely repeat the steps of the 2003 original means that, with the exception of one quite funny sexual innuendo, Salazar’s Revenge has nothing to elevate it out of Davy Jones’ Locker.