Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017)

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017)

Imagine, if you will, that you are chewing on a piece of gum, and have been doing so for the thick end of an hour. All trace of flavour has long since departed your mouth but you continue to work the gum between your teeth in a monotonous and mechanical fashion. You do this possibly out of a sense of obligation, or perhaps blind optimism that eventually some tiny burst of excitement will flood your mouth and justify the long minutes of endless chewing.

But as much as you chew and chew, no welcome burst of mint (or cinnamon if you’re that way inclined) is to be found. It is simply a dreary, limp, lifeless, rubbery exercise in monotony without any recognisable benefit beyond filling your mouth with dribble.

This is the same experience as watching the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in markets other than the UK. The change in name, one can only assume, was brought about by an embarrassing moment of self-awareness on the part of the producers when they realised that at no point over the course of its two-plus hours does this movie tell any tale, or part of any tale, worth telling.

If you have seen five minutes of any of the preceding four Pirates of the Caribbean movies then you have already seen this lacklustre sail down memory lane. The premise, set-up, crux, denouement and indeed entire shebang of the movie can be summed up by the phrase: “ghost pirates chase listless, inebriated man.” The franchise that began life as a relatively enjoyable, sporadically amusing and surprisingly successful movie interpretation of a theme park scenic river ride has now evolved into its final form resembling the cast off, deleted scenes from a middling Scooby-Doo cartoon.

Johnny Depp, who presumably supplied his own costume and wrote his own lines for the role, returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, an emotionally drained, lethargic and directionless soak, who wanders around the Caribbean without purpose and now seemingly without any followers.

He finds himself being chased by a Spanish ghost pirate, named Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a man who takes an entire minute to say the word “Sparrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrow” and who wants Sparrow’s compass to point him in the direction of the Trident of Poseidon, a magical MacGuffin that can cure Salazar and his crew of their ghostliness.

This is a doubly tricky situation for Sparrow as it turns out he is the man responsible for Bardem’s cadaverous existence in the first place and is not likely to be greeted warmly by the many dozens of see-through Spaniards marauding their way across the sea.

There are other trifling plot points and inclusions that mean next to nothing. Such as the appearance of Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner, Will’s son looking for a way to break his father’s curse, and the reappearance of Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa, in a pair of largely irrelevant diversions that act as balsa wood-thin attempts to create something of narrative link to the previous Pirates outings.

Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth, a woman whose independent thought and knowledge of science baffles and amuses every male character, is about the best thing in it. But even her inclusion feels like a poor facsimile of Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swan.

Depp looks like a crestfallen shell of his former self, dipping in and out of a now lethargic Keith Richards impression as and when he can be bothered.

The vast and vastly forgettable action sequences look messy, flabby, confused and, amazingly, cheap. The entire experience is a tragically calculated and weakly executed attempt to wring any sense of life and joy out of a product that has long ceased to feel enjoyable.

It’s marginally worse than sitting for two and half hours in a doctor’s waiting room while a knackered VHS copy of Cutthroat Island plays on a dusty monitor to the amusement of none.

Actually, no, it’s much worse.

| Chris Banks

Fantasy, Adventure | USA, 2017 | 12A | 2D, 3D, 3D IMAX |Walt Disney Pictures | Dir. Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg | Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Kaya Scodelario, Brenton Thwaites

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