We return to the seas of Pirates Of The Caribbean for a fifth outing. Salazar’s Revenge or Dead Men Tell No Tales according to your region. The Pirates films can be quite divisive but I generally like them. Yes, the Bruckheimer bombast can overwhelm the characters, the comedy, the script, the point, but I’d argue the fifth film finds the right balance a lot quicker. Maybe they’ve had practice.
The third film was described as the sequel that needs no sequel to it. Well, in that case, the fifth film is picking at the scab and happy to open it out, dig around, take out what it can for a closer look and stand there having a squint at the end of your finger. For those who saw the third film to the end credits, time may have dulled the pain, and it’s time for an inquisitive delve.
And that’s where the film begins, the young Harry Turner visiting his father, who has taken over the role of Davy Jones, and is not looking his best. But before you know it, you are in the present day, as Captain Jack and his pirate crew, reunited, are robbing the bank. And the very literal interpretation of that makes for a massive action scene, with a great joke at its heart. And that’s all this film needs, as everything explodes around you, a deep hearted chuckle at the ridiculousness of it all. Along the way, it draws in characters, new and old. It may be my favourite bit of any Pirates film to date and thoroughly sets the scene for what’s to come. I challenge you not to smile.
So yes, while we do have action packed scenes, they don’t overwhelm the film. At its most, we get a scene from Salazar’s ship that seems like a shot across the bow from Bruckheimer to Michael Bay‘s Transformers, any transformation he can do, Bruckheimer can do as well, but on water. But throughout it doesn’t lose the character thread that keeps us coming back for more.
We have new folk to care about too, a Carina as witch who isn’t a witch but a scientist, we have an actual witch who is perfect at exposing the hypocrisy of the misogyny on display, we have Harry holding the legacy of the child with a hopeless quest, there is the emerging Salazar and his crew, there is the Royal Navy and there is Jack, who has his own motivation. With antagonists and protagonists together heading to the same destination. It’s a beautiful structure, enlivened by the banter on the way. Flirty, fun, dangerous and quick-witted, this is a step up.
There is familiar form here. Salazar, portrayed as if he were still underwater, hair floating in mid-air, is revenge taken form, with his crew in tow as supernatural wraiths, some of them not even a half – or a fifth there. A mix between the skeletal crew of the Black Pearl in the first film and Davy Jones crew from subsequent movies, this is treading old ground – especially with the skeletal seagull replacing the monkey. But the undead sharks used as torpedo replacements work a treat and provide one of the most genuine scary moments of the film, even if one swiped straight from Jaws. Go with the classics.
This was also the first not just-for-kiddies film I took my nine-year-old daughter and she didn’t need any previous film knowledge to enjoy this one. She found it funny more than scary and laughed at my own shock reactions, holding my hand in case I felt scared.
It kinda worked.
She loved the film and, of course, she loved the monkey. Kids love the monkey. This kind of lighter feel affects other aspects of the film, the sixties pop star relative of Jack this time around, Paul McCartney, doesn’t have the poignancy or pathos of Keith Richards, it’s all about a knowing appearance. Could we get Ray Davies in the next as a great aunt?
The biggest downside for the film was Young Jack Sparrow. Rather than recast the role to show the early tale that informs Salazar’s revenge, and shows how Sparrow gained his name and reputation so fast and so young, they go for the CGI. Which works fine from a distance but close-up it pales in comparison to Robert Downey Jr in Civil War. Maybe it’s the action needed, but it closer resembles a dodgy face-switching app on your Android. The technology really wasn’t ready and it spoils what would otherwise be a franchise-setting scene and a decent origin for the Captain Jack Sparrow we have today.
Get over that however, and you should be home free. And yes, do stay for the mid-credits, you third-film watchers. But no worries, you don’t have to stay to the very end.
You can if you want though. Go bring yourself that horizon. Ho ho.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is on general release in the UK on 25th May. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is release in the US on theb 26th May.
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