I have an odd relationship with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I loved the first one, but I’ve struggled with the sequels. However, if someone asks me to watch one with them I’m always up for it, only to regret it later. I honestly do not think they’ve got it right since the first one, and I think that’s a shame.
We now have Salazar’s Revenge, and Captain Jack Sparrow is thrust into a new adventure; this time he must survive killer ghost sailors led by the very ruthless Captain Salazar, who has just so happened to escape the Devil’s Triangle. Into that mix are characters that Jack must forge an alliance with; Carina Smyth, an astronomer who is accused of being a witch, and the young British sailor Henry. Together they must explore the seas to find the legendary Trident of Poseidon, which is their only hope for survival. The premise sounds like another Sparrow-led narrative as before, but the movie does try to use its strengths by grouping a trio of characters trying to achieve a sole goal.
The film is okay. There is nothing much to shout about, but there is not too much to grumble about either, and that is the most obvious way to summarise it. My first praise of it is something that really bugged me in the previous four – length. Salazar’s Revenge is only two hours and nine minutes in length, which is still a decent time, but for what its premise is worth that is acceptable. I’ve recently watched At World’s End and that is 2 hours and forty-eight minutes in length. I was losing my mind. Despite the shorter length I still suffered from bouts of boredom that are always inflicted on me in this franchise. You are introduced to Captain Jack Sparrow whilst he is carrying out a bank robbery, and the sequences of scenes for this part of the story went on for so long that I nodded off briefly. To my dismay, the bank robbery was still happening when I fully woke up again.
The shorter film length does not prevent it from being messy either. The plot at times is all over the place, which does not help the development of the new characters. They are trying to introduce a new Will and Elizabeth for all intents and purposes. Henry and Carina are not exactly the same but it is quite obvious that there is a set-up here for future movies in the franchise. The problem with this is that it’s difficult to pass on the torch when the bigger characters are trying to take ownership of the screen. Elizabeth and Will worked because there were clear boundaries that prevented them from being together in the first film, and it was a crucial plot device to the narrative. Carina and Henry do not have the same impact, especially when you have Barbossa and Sparrow, who have been major characters from the start, and have similar goals to the new characters. Although the screen time is quite balanced I do not feel the film sold the new ‘leads’ of Pirates of the Caribbean as much as I would have liked.
The story itself is interesting. The stakes have been raised in this, where even the deadly (and dead) sailors seem very ruthless compared to the villains in its predecessors. My issue since the first film is that they’ve never really managed to provide a villain (or opposition) that is as effective as Hector Barbossa. I felt they placed efforts in CGI and the fantasy pirates look than trying to sell a villain to the audience. They follow a similar path in this, but Captain Salazar is actually okay. You are not as invested in him at first, but when you learn his back story you actually understand the motive and it isn’t just one big onslaught for no reason. There is also the usual pirate feeling too it which gushes over you with the theme music which I’ve always liked. The only problem which I’ve kind of touched upon before is that the story does not really piece together well. It is a bit clunky with the many elements thrown together and in the end, it felt a little average.
That said, Kaya Scodelario’s performance as Carina is quite impressive and surprised me the most. Geoffrey Rush always impresses me as Barbossa, but Kaya really played Carina to her advantage. I’ve always been a fan of her since her days in Skins (UK series) and I’ve always believed she will get the big lead roles eventually. I understand she was in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials too, so she really is starting to make her mark.
Unfortunately, I have to discuss Johnny Depp. I have no idea what is going on but he literally goes on set in this film, picks up his pay cheque and then walks off. Sparrow slurs way more than usual in this movie, such that I was actually convinced that Depp is drunk whilst acting. If the narrative is that Sparrow is drinking more than in previous stories then at least explain it, but the fact his voice is just way more slurred and different to the others does not make sense in the slightest.
Overall, I think Disney are really trying to continue dragging this on as much as possible. It’s money, I get it, but let’s not kid ourselves. This is Pirates of the Caribbean 5. They are still continuing a story that started way back in The Curse of the Black Pearl and the gaps between the releases of each film are getting longer and longer. It’s better than the terrible On Stranger Tides, but good cameos and funny jokes do not stop the fact that this franchise needs to end and they need to start again. Maybe that opportunity will happen on the next one, but I highly doubt it. The overuse and obsession of Captain Jack Sparrow and the money they roll in means we will continue to keep getting fed a continuation of the same adventure that started so long ago. I was 12 when they sold us this story. I’m now 26 and I cannot believe I’m still talking about Johnny Depp in this franchise.
It’s still worth the watch which is frustrating.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.