I must admit after On Stranger Tides I was more than finished with the Pirates franchise. I didn’t like the film. So when news broke that Disney were in the process of developing a fifth instalment, I wasn’t interested at all. Once the trailers were released I did find them to be quite intriguing, the film looked far better than I had expected. So did it impress me, or did it let me down? Let’s find out.
This film follows Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) who has spent all his life trying to break the curse that is keeping his father stuck at sea. He crosses paths with Carina (Kaya Scodelario) an astronomer who is searching for the Trident of Poseidon, an item that can reverse all curses of the sea. Meanwhile due to their troubled past, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) is seeking revenge against Jack Sparrow (Johnny Deep), who also needs the Trident in order to escape him.
The narrative structure of this film turned out to be a pleasant surprise. One issue the Pirates sequels all have in common, is that they get bogged down by a convoluted and over complicated story. They are quite dialogue and exposition heavy and at times it grinds the films pacing to a halt. I’m happy to report that this sequel doesn’t share that common issue. Whilst there are still moments of exposition, the film does well not to dwell on those scenes for too long. The script is filled with action and adventure which keeps the pace reletively quick, and prevents the film from losing momentum. The opening of the film was great, but what followed it in the first act, mainly a chase sequence (clearly inspired by Fast & Furious 5) was quite weak. It actually had me worried for what was to come but luckily after that sequence, the film began to get much better.
One of the key reasons why the first act was rather weak was because Johnny Deep’s performance was too. During that first key sequence in the film he was rather unfunny and quite cringeworthy, it felt like he was forcing his humour. As the film progressed he eased back into the role and retained his comedic charm and became more enjoyable to watch. By the end of the film I was pleased with how Deep’s portrayal turned out. Despite his motivations being rather thin, Javier Bardem commanded the screen whenever he was on it as Captian Salazar, with a mixture of menace and subtle comedy with some of his lines and delivery. This is the best performance I’ve seen from Brenton Thwaites thus far in his career, he was very likeable in the role and brought a very adventurous sensibility to his character, that falls in line with how his father acted. Kaya Scodelario was also good, I felt she had one of the best character arc’s throughout the film. Lastly Geoffrey Rush is great as usual. He spouts out his dialogue in that thick pirate accent that we are used to from him, proving that he is still having a lot of fun portraying Barbosa.
Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg handled to jump to such a big budget production really well, I was impressed with their direction. Gore Verbinski’s original trilogy had its own visual identity, this film takes it to the next level. The visual effects on display are stunningly vivid and the cinematography is immaculate. The sequences at sea were grand in scale and looked photo realistic and believable. The visual effects were also suitably dark and grim when they needed to be. Salazar and his crew are very well realised with a ghoulish quality that makes them very interesting to look at. Also I love the design of his ship, I found what it was capable of doing to destroy other ships very unique and different. There’s a particular flashback sequence (shown in the trailers) showcasing a younger Jack Sparrow, created using the now commonly used deaging CGI effect. For the most part that looked great too.
The film itself works as almost a soft reboot for the entire franchise. In the trailer they label it as the “final chapter” and whist the film does have a satisfying end, which I’d be happy with ending the franchise with. It features a post credit scene that alludes to another instalment potentially coming. This film does the same in terms of mirroring the first Pirates film, as The Force Awakens did with mirroring A New Hope. With new and returning characters.
The other main thing aside from the weaker first act, that let the film down a little was the comedy. It was a bit hit or miss. Some of the humour landed, whilst some of the humour was met with pure silence from the audience.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge was a pleasant surprise, I really enjoyed it. It’s filled with constant action and adventure, as well stunning visuals. It’s the best instalment since the first.
(4 Stars out of 5)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge; Starring Johnny Deep, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario.
Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. Now showing in UK Cinemas. Opening in US Cinemas May 26th.