(Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, 2017)
This instalment lacks innovation, but is packed with enough spectacle for the die-hard Pirates fans.
By Mia Garfield
There are few moments in blockbuster history as iconic as Captain Jack Sparrow standing proudly on the yard of his boat, the camera pans down to reveal a sinking dingy with the crow’s nest level with a jetty. Unashamed, even proud, Jack steps off and proceeds to bribe the harbour master into letting him keep what barely passes as a ship moored at Port Royale. This beautifully timed accident is characteristic of the entire Pirates franchise and what has made it so successful since the beginning.
After the resounding disappointment of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) the bar was set pretty low for Salazar’s Revenge. There had been rumours of the return of Orlando Bloom and the motley crew of The Black Pearl from Davy Jones’ Locker in the years running up to the release. There were also many mutterings that the last Pirates film should have been At World’s End (2007), but clearly there was another tale to tell.
This time the barmy escapades of Captain Jack Sparrow were framed by the young Henry Turner’s (Brenton Thwaites) search for a way to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman. Along the way he saves an ageing, losing his wits Jack (Johnny Depp) and a determined, intelligent Carina (Kaya Scodelario) from the hangman’s noose just in the nick of time. As is inevitable, they also run into Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) and run afoul of a navy admiral who wants to eradicate all pirates.
The only difference is this time; he is dead.
How Salazar (Javier Bardem) returned to his partial life is never made clear, only that his death occurred by Jack’s hand and that he is out for retribution. The plot is messy and convoluted, the mysteries it presents to an audience are never half as clever as the writer thinks. Poor Henry is almost a carbon copy of the innocent Will Turner of the first film. Yet, refreshingly, Carina who carries the weight of the female presence, is no-nonsense, witty and the only one with a brain capable of solving the riddles that will reveal the location of the trident of Poseidon. Unfortunately, there are many jokes thrown in about her preferred title of ‘Horologist’ thanks to the pirates’ illiteracy.
But no-one watches a Pirates film for the plot, what makes the franchise is the characters, the humour and those incredible sequences where Captain Sparrow escapes death by the skin of his teeth. The destruction and the chaos and yet our heroes emerge unscathed. Well almost. These films are watched for The Black Pearl somehow sailing on the ‘cliff edge’ of a chasm made of the ocean and Pirates who never seem to find any treasure.
Pirates of the Carribean: Salazar’s Revenge delivers an all of these fronts, but it lacks the innovation of the original trilogy. It is fun, enjoyable, and the way the magic worked created by 9 different Special Effects Studios is remarkable. Yet an understanding of the world is key to appreciating both the triumphs and the failures of this film, without it you will be as confused as Norrington when he proclaims Jack “without a doubt, the worst Pirate I’ve ever heard of”.