Review: For the fifth installment (a.k.a. another comeback), Pirates of the Caribbean franchise decided to use a more narrative-friendly Salazar’s Revenge title over the more occult (and, still, US title) Dead Men Tell No Tales purposively. After all, giving away an obscure name in the title might help convincing audiences that this is a new series, not just a hasty recycle of the original trilogy… or a too-early Force Awakens in the ocean.
In case you forget, ‘original’ Pirates series progressed upon an electric narrative involving an unholy trinity – Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). In surviving a trilogy, the last two names were retired from the narrative in the disjointed fourth installment, which marked Sparrow’s solo-career. And, yet, Salazar’s Revenge, learning from the last lambasted tenure, decides to create a small reunion, assemble a rejuvenated trinity, add some family issue there, and starts a new been-there-done-that voyage. Now you know why I called it a nautical Force Awakens rip-off, don’t you?
As the title might suggest, there’s another grudge-laden villain – the titular Capitan Salazar (Javier Bardem) – seeking another revenge to Jack Sparrow for bringing woe to him and his undead crew. Meanwhile, Sparrow encounters both Henry (Brenton Thwaites), son of a familiarly cursed father, and Carina (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer and horologist daughter of none, whose quest are finding Poseidon’s Trident – a mystical item that can break any nautical spells/curses. Their existences adding up to the franchise’s next-gen trinity against a mythical foe in the seas where there’s some familiar parties – from another pirate crews led by series regular, Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), to British Navy (now led by David Wenham). Now that’s a reunion.
Modeled after the original formula, Salazar’s Revenge hits all the notes rather correctly, making some beats which only work for new audiences, but not inventively. But, as the story progresses, the same formula begins to feel like an overlong and overdue remake of the first movie, only with some familiar twists, which fortunately might please fans of the series. On another note, Jack Sparrow as the story’s most-winning ingredients seems a little worn-off here and there as his presence begins to feel like an attachment to make this film a Pirates film and his quirkiness begins to feel staged and routine, rather than creating spontaneous beats.
Undoubtedly, there’s trouble with the narrative at macro level, which deals with originality. Yet, narrative trouble happens even at micro levels, especially with details. There’s barely explanation about how the curse on Salazar’s crews works, but it seems that those undeads know exactly what they’re doing (including being vanished as soon as they touch the ground). That seems off at first thought, but there’s nothing as annoying as our introduction to Carina, where she unlocks her prison cell during a confession. That’s a thing she could’ve done earlier and any time, but she didn’t. The most annoying thing, by the way: the return of Black Pearl.
Despite all those flaws, though, Salazar’s Revenge has its moment when talking about nautical myth, especially of Poseidon’s Trident and its secret location. How astronomy connects to treasure hunt on the ocean and the reenactment Dead Sea miracle welcome awe. To make it more interesting, Kon-Tiki directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, show their prowess in sea-centered return; but, they’ve done it better on the ground, beyond sea level. The guillotine scene is dead-inventive and the bank-dragging pursuit is among blockbuster’s top-notch over-the-top frenzy. However, when they return to the sea, there’s nothing as engaging as the dry tenure.
While it moves forward in time, it also jumps back in time further, giving Sparrow a defining backstory, which adds nothing but small information. Therefore, it’s safe to say that it serves as a too-soon reunion for the franchise. While the nautical myth is still enchanting as ever, the reunion in Salazar’s Revenge a.k.a. Dead Men Tell No Tale goes nowhere fascinating with its overlong and overdue sails.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017)
Action, Adventure, Fantasy Directed by: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg Written by: Jeff Nathanson Starred by: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario Runtime: 129 mins Rated PG-13