Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - Salazar's Revenge

Fifth entry in the Disney series offers lots of comic action but little else

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge
Directed by Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
With Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush

The summer blockbuster season swings into full gear with Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge, the fifth entry in the aquatic series. The film had long been promoted as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but the actual title on the film is different.

There is some plot about a breaking a curse with a magic book that has hidden map, and some more talk about a magic compass. This all leads the characters into a treasure hunt of sorts for something that most people believe doesn't exist.

But the plot is just an excuse to set up huge action scenes, and in that regard the film delivers. The Disney co-production is more of 3D roller theme park ride than a dramatic film meant to make much actual sense.

Johnny Depp is back as the pirate Jack Sparrow, who has fallen a bit down on his luck. The character appears inebriated throughout almost all of the film, and it is hard to tell if it is acting or the real thing. It is a convincing performance either way.

Depp has his by now signature character down, and he stumbles his was from one block of special effects into the next with suitable drunken aplomb, doing quite a bit of physical humor and making expressive faces. The opening set piece of a bank robbery gone wrong establishes the mood, with massive destruction and narrow escapes plus some comic touches.

The main female character this time is Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth. She starts out in the film suspected of being a witch because she has studied astronomy and other sciences. The character adds some needed balance to what would otherwise be an almost all male affair. She also helps to ground the magic in the plot with some sense of reality.

She also provides the romantic interest in the film, but the sparks don't exactly fly the way they are supposed to. The romance seems tacked onto the story because the film should have one, but it is not fully convincing.

The main villain, as the title suggests, is Captain Armando Salazar, a Spanish naval officer who along with his ship and crew have been living under a curse due to something Jack Sparrow did long ago. Javier Bardem as Salazar does the heavy lifting in the film as far as drama and acting are concerned, as Sparrow pretty much is relegated to comic relief.

Also turning up in the film to do some actual acting is Geoffrey Rush reprising his role as Captain Hector Barbossa, another pirate. He first appeared in the series in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003 and has been in several entries since, at least as a cameo.

Aside from Salazar planning his revenge, there is a parallel plot involving breaking a curse that involves characters from previous films in the series. This sort of gets put a bit in the background for most of the film, but is still an important driver of the thin storyline.

The action scenes, set design and costumes are quite good, as they should be considering the film had a $230 million budget. And several of the set pieces including the opening and the finale are spectacular.

But the script offers too little. The film is aimed at an audience who wants to escape into a nonsensical fantasy for two-plus hours and think about absolutely nothing, not even a plot. But the film has too much action and effects, and not enough of the human element to draw people in enough for them to be adequately concerned with the outcome. Scenes near the end that were supposed to be very moving fall flat because none of the key characters were made real enough for the audience to care.

Fans of 1960s British pop music will want to look for a famous musician in brief scene as a pirate telling a bad joke.

Stay through the credits for hint at what might happen in the next sequel.

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