Dead Franchises Still Tell Tales
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is no stranger to rough waters. Though its first instalment, Curse of the Black Pearl, is highly acclaimed, subsequent films have suffered critically due to their length and needlessly complex, drawn-out plotlines. The franchise has remained successful through this with audiences but its actual quality has been brought into question many a time by critics. However, now with Salazar’s Revenge (also known by the superior name of ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’) acting to be a big relaunch for the franchise, will Captain Jack Sparrow and his hearty crew set sail for a thrilling adventure? Or will they hit the same rocks as before and go down with the review scores?
The long running saying to fix the problems with the franchise’s plots has been over stated by this point, “Why can’t it just be about Jack Sparrow looking for treasure?”. Well, while it’s not exactly that simple here, that is what it boils down to. Jack learns of the existence of the fabled trident of Poseidon which can grant its wilder control of the sea. But it also comes with the handy side ability of lifting any curse set on open waters. So, this leaves us with Jack searching for the trident to control the sea to aid in his swashbuckling shenanigans, while newcomer Henry Turner, son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), teams with Jack to save his father from the Flying Dutchmen’s curse he was struck with in the third instalment, At World’s End, damning him to captain the ghost ship forever. On the other side is Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) an undead pirate killer who was bested and seemingly killed by Jack in his youth, seeking the trident to revive him and his crew and get his revenge on Jack while he’s at it. This leaves us with a straightforward story of two pirate crews racing to hunt down the mystical trident. It’s accessible, and keeping with the best elements of the series, is wholeheartedly fun.
Salazar’s Revenge has a lot going for it. Let the introduction of Captain Jack Sparrow in the bank robbery scene be the tell for the rest of the film. It’s over-the-top and ridiculously stupid, but exuberant and entertaining from start to finish. Of course the usual praises of the magnificent musical score and lively performances are still here, Johnny Depp is as captivating as he is perverted, and newcomers Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario are well done editions as ‘chip off the old block’ Henry Turner and empowering intellectual Carina Smith respectively. This cannot be said to the same extent for Javier Bardem as Salazar. He tends to flip flop between being the right level of threatening and coming off as too goofy. Mostly due to his voice and accent being played up in what seems like a mix of Bardem and the direction he was given. Though in those scenes where he’s just right, he’s great. Take the swordfights and encounters with returning Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) as examples of this. This isn’t to say him being goofy in a Pirates of the Caribbean film is bad necessarily, he just goes overboard to the point where it can become jarring. His design is cool, appearing to always be underwater, and the special effects for his decaying crew look stellar as well. Even if one of them is just a hat with a hand.
Unfortunately, there’s more off elements to the film than just Salazar’s weaker moments. While the comedy can sometimes stick it more often than not fails its landing and awkwardly fumbles to the ground. Usually either too juvenile for the older audience but still mature enough to pass over the younger audience’s heads.
Despite being the shortest film of the lot, it still feels like it’s dragging. While it’s tightly put together it still feels like it takes longer than it really does. The ending as well has a very pointless character moment that on the whole does nothing for their character or the film and is something the writers will probably regret in later entries. And the post credits scene seems cool until you take one second to think about it and realise it doesn’t make any sense.
With all that said though, there are far too many upsides to let these anchor the film down in shallow waters. Captain Jack is back to being his ingenuitive and funny self. He may seem like a drunken buffoon but is actually quite deceptively clever here and isn’t as reliant on slapstick and being rescued/winning via coincidence or more slapstick as before. The slapstick is still present but doesn’t bog down his character or his appeal. The flashback scene of how he originally defeated Salazar may be his best character moment to date as it perfectly captures his inventiveness and cocky/trickster nature. When you leave this film you’re not thinking of the failed jokes, you’re thinking of the boisterous action and fun set pieces.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Salazar Tells No Tales of Revenge or whatever you want to call it, is a fun film. It does stick to the usual pirate formula and therefore won’t please those who’ve grown tired of that over the years. But at this point it’s more about pleasing fans than critics and as a fan I can say that I was very happy with Captain Jack Sparrow’s latest adventure. To those who were never to big on the franchise to begin with, you landlubbers can skip this one, but to those who enjoy the pirating antics of the series, hoist the sails and let the anchor up as this one’s worth setting sail for. Savvy.